Rosie Perez on Latino representation — or lack of it — in Hollywood: 'Just not enough'

Woman, Rosie Perez, posing in black with slight smile at Sundance Film Festival with long brown hair with bangs
Rosie Perez at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

As a Latina whose critically acclaimed acting career has spanned more than three decades, Rosie Perez knows she is in rare company.

And to her, that's the problem.

“A few of us have come through, and I’m very grateful for that,” she said in a Variety profile published Wednesday. “But it’s just not enough."

Nominated for an Emmy in 2021 for her performance as Megan Briscoe in the HBO Max series "Flight Attendant," Perez said the stories Latinos do get to tell in Hollywood are often stifled by "some executive who knows nothing about who we are as a people."

"And then they’re like, ‘Can you spice it up a little bit?’" she added. "You want to punch these people in the face. And then if it’s too real, they’re, ‘Could you pull it back, ’cause we don’t want the audience to feel offended.’ And people are getting sick of it."

Perez's career took off after she starred in Spike Lee's influential 1989 film, "Do the Right Thing." She gave another memorable performance in 1992's "White Men Can't Jump," alongside Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson.

The Variety article touched on Perez's departure from ABC's "The View" after a brief stint on the show in 2015, which some questioned as racist. A report from the time of her exit suggested that among the reasons for her departure was her alleged trouble reading the teleprompter, a detail that drew sharp criticism from Latina leaders.

“Questioning a woman’s intelligence is an old stereotype that is sexist and in this case, also racist,” dozens of Latina leaders "from a wide range of professions" said in a joint letter calling on ABC to apologize. “When you disparage the only Latina on 'The View' you disparage all Latinas."

Perez, who received a daytime Emmy nomination for her turn as a co-host on the daytime talk show, did not call for an apology amid the controversy. In the profile, she declined to comment on it.

Perez went on to praise the success of "Everything Everywhere All at Once," a comedy sci-fi film with a majority-Asian cast, which nabbed seven Academy Awards, including best picture and three of four top acting honors.

"I think that’s the reason why ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ was such a big winner," she said, referring to the disparity of roles and stories that speak to one's culture. Perez was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for her performance in the 1993 film "Fearless."

And even though she was happy Brendan Fraser won the top male acting award, she would have supported a win for Colin Farrell, who was nominated for the Irish film "The Banshees of Inisherin."

Why? Because "he did something specific to his culture ... How many other movies has he done that were specific to his culture?”

“That’s what we’re asking for as Latinos," she continued. "We want to do things that are specific to our culture, to our story.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.