Highly anticipated gritty action-drama is employment opportunity for Latinos as series regulars and in significant episodic roles — Premieres Thurs., May 22nd, 9/8c on Fox
By Elia Esparza
For years Latinos have complained there’s not enough work. A variety of reasons have been cited. The lack of Latino characters in TV and movies. The lack of Latino writers. The lack of producers. That’s what we’ve been hearing. And when they do write for us, there are those in the community who complain that they’re stereotypical characters. It can be argued that Benicio del Toro in Traffic was a bad guy. But what a great opportunity for him as an actor! It gave everyone in the world an opportunity to see his work. No one can deny the quality of his performance. The No Country For Old men pyscho killer portrayed by Javier Bardem certainly wasn’t a Disney character but WOW! Now thanks to the vision of writer/producer Chris Morgan from Fast and Furious franchise, Fox has a new action-drama premiering Thursday, May 22nd at 9/8c PM that is about an Latino family whose patriarch is always trying to stay one step ahead of L.A.’s elite Gang Task Force.
Gang Related is kind of like Martin Scorsese’s The Departed with some narrative hooks from The Godfather legendary saga. Oh, the drama of it all where loyalty arm wrestles betrayal. Caught between a drug cartel (the Acosta family) and the crime force trying to put them out of business are a whole lot of Latino actors—many in compelling roles, and because gangs are a reality of life, I’m not going to call these stereotype—It’s just good vs. bad. Ingredients perfect for creating delicious drama.
Ramon Rodriguez stars in Gang Related along with Terry O’Quinn, Emilio Rivera, Sung Kang, Invar Lavi, Raza, Jay Hernandez, Cliff Curtis, Reynaldo Gallegos, Luis Moncada and Carlos Gomez. Cliff Curtis is cast as the patriarch of the Godfather-type of family. He’s a New Zealander who has been cast in Latino roles in such films as Blow (01) where he played Pablo Escobar, Training Day (01) and Runaway Jury (03). I can think of several Latino actors who would have been just as great if not more authentic but we’ve had this conversation before and I’m not preaching to the choir any more. Change is slowly happening and we just have to keep on pushing through the barriers.
For now and in my opinion, it is important to point out that shows like Gang Related and The Bridge are great employment vehicles for Latino talent: Writers. Producers. Directors. Actors. I’m not going to go into the dynamics if the show is an accurate representation or not. I’m looking at GR as a show that entertains. No psycho analyzing the stereotypes. I read an interesting review that is worth citing:
According to a Forbes.com, “What we want is excitement. What we want is drama. Want it want is fun, just like we do out of our summer blockbusters… The good news? Gang Related fits that bill….”
However, Forbes reviewer doesn’t believe the pilot is as good as it should be but “once it finds its footing in episode three, Gang
Related becomes a high octane drama that will satisfy many viewers desire for the action and gunplay in a summer movie season filled with aliens, mutants, monsters and fighting robots. It’s not high-art, but it’s entertaining and exactly the kind of show broadcasts networks should be considering more of as they start rolling out more and more original series in the summer season.”
And if the power brokers at Fox give Gang Related a real honest and fair chance to grow with the audience, well this will be great news for Latino artists. For this first season, Gang Related will showcase the impressive performances from some of our best: Roberto Sanchez, Maria Canals-Barrera, Amaury Nolasco, Randy Vasquez, Julia Vera, Emiliano Diez, Crystal Santos, Sandra Santiago, Cesar Garcia, David A. Garcia and a whole bunch more. Crystal Santos gets blown up in a food truck… actress and super stuntwoman working it! And, here’s the thing, she’s not complaining!
The same goes for actor Roberto Sanchez, who said, “I really enjoyed working on two episodes. It’s a great cast and crew. I’m glad to see fellow Latinos like Ramon [Rodriguez], Jay [Hernandez], and Emilio [Rivera], getting to show their stuff on a fun and exciting show like GR. Those guys killed it! You also see several members of the Fast and Furious family on this show. I play the father role of Lucho Cruz and his son Benito [Victor Manso] puts them in a precarious situation.”
According to IMDB, the comparisons run the gamut from Breaking Bad, The Wire to the Sopranos. A hit like one of these would be a homerun for Latinos.
“I loved the production. My role is of a woman (Señora Cabrales) who owns a family
restaurant. The bad guys are threatening and pressuring them to pay protection money. To refuse causes her son and his family to be murdered. The woman is left alone with the help of a good gang.” – Julia Vera (By the way, Crystal Santos’ TV mother-in-law)
It is worth noting that among the writers there are a few of our own: Eddie Gonzalez, Carolina Paiz, Mark Valadez, and Benjamin Daniel Lobato. Series directors include Felix Enriquez Alcala and Nick Gomez. Should there be more? Yes. Let us hope that Gang Related makes the cut for a few more seasons so that the hiring net can widen for Latinos.
Fox is banking on the heavy Latino cast some who speak in Spanish, with English subtitles will attract a bilingual audience. We’ll soon find out if the Latino Spanish-speaking and bilingual viewers embrace it. But it’s a tough sell since it is a drama about a Hispanic family that is divided between good vs. bad. Is this the best representation for a Latino family show on prime time? Probably not. But like I say, it’s entertainment. There could be a balance with our own family story versions of dramas like The Waltons, Switched at Birth, Little House on the Prairie, 7th Heaven. Just saying.
“I first auditioned last year. Casting director Megan Branman brought me in and I auditioned for the role of the L.A. mayor. I didn’t get it. But a couple of weeks later, she called me in again to read for the same episode but this time as an assistant director of the FBI, who happens to be Greek. Both times, Megan and her assistants really worked with me on how they wanted me to do it. It helps when casting people like her work with actors—they pull the best out of you—and make you feel like you have a real chance of getting cast. I landed the job the second time around. And, here’s the thing, I’m not a Latino character. I’m more European whose name happens to be Arlo Glakokis. Goes to show that as actors we’re capable of portraying multi ethnicity characters.” — Randy Vasquez
Yeah, I guess we can still argue that a great many of the characters portrayed in television and movies are negative characters. And, yeah we’re still portrayed as bad guys and gals, but what I do know for sure is that we love working! For now, Latinowood is grateful for the jobs these shows create. I’ll be watching with an open mind, enthusiasm and corazon.
Gang Related premieres Thursday, May 22nd at 9/8c on Fox.