NALIP and CBS Engage in Diversity Dialogue with Adam Rodriguez and Wilmer Valderrama
In a conversation tackling the diversity problem in Hollywood, Wilmer Valderrama and Adam Rodriguez dove deep into their own careers to give a more personal point of view and insight on what it means to be Latino in the industry. In an intimate setting on Thursday night, hosted by CBS and moderated by NALIP’s Projects Director Ben Lopez, the two talented actors came together to talk about their roles in CBS’s leading drama series, NCIS, and Criminal Minds. They provided anecdotes, advice and hardships they encountered throughout their careers and the place of Latino content creators and artist in the future.
When it comes to rejection, Valderrama, who co-stars with Ashton Kutcher on Netflix's "The Ranch," finds the positive in it and “keep[s] it moving” something he credits to being Latino. He came to the U.S. at a young age without knowing to speak english but he worked, was persistent and patient. Both men grew up without having someone to relate to on TV “no one that looked like me” mentions Rodriguez, which made it more difficult to consider acting but “you just don’t quit” he says. Change is happening now, with actors out there on different TV series and in film, it has taken over 20 years but “these conversations use to happen outside of auditions for gangster #1” jokes Rodriguez and now they happen in studios and the hope is there “won’t be a need for these diversity discussion in the future”. It takes patience, but the work is being done, and as things are changing what we need to do is keep these conversations going, and “support one another” as both of these men do, Wilmer considers himself to be Rodriguez’s biggest fan. When asked by Ben Lopez about roles or characters writers should create both agree it should be about the story and Rodriguez looks for “characters [he] can root for”, irregardless of the ethnicity. Wilmer argues that Latinos live in the same world as everyone else therefore there is no need to make those characters so different, “it’s a lot more simple than what they make it”.
The themes of the night were inclusion, persistence, patience, community and support. Wrapping up the night with an insightful Q&A where the audience, touched on the issue of diversity including a 12 year old boy, who asked why studios always cast Anglo actors, to which both Rodriguez and Valderrama responded “we’re working on that”. Ben Lopez concluded the night by thanking the networks that are opening these doors and giving equal opportunities and reminding everyone that it is about the mentoring and promoting CBS’s #eachoneteachone. The important take away of the night for Valderrama was, “we are not alone”, both actors expressed how proud they were to be present in the dialogue and to represent Latinos.