His View: Latinos in Entertainment

By Esai Morales

“Latino representation in the entertainment industry is getting better. We not only need more but more accurate representation of who we are in all our complexities. We are not a monolithic group,” says award-winning actor Esai Morales. “Not a fan of checking off boxes either. That feels like contrived diversity. I’d rather see a more authentic reflection of how we all co-exist as opposed to forced or imposed politically correct inclusion. I named my production company “Truversity” in that spirit.”

Following are excerpts from an interview discussing the role of Latinos in the Arts.

What motivates you to lend your voice to so many causes?

Among the many motivations I have, I truly believe that if you are not part of the solution, you may just be part of the problem. As human beings, we are here to love and help each other thrive and have meaningful lives. I’ve done my best but lately, I’ve become much more selective of that which I lend my name and efforts. There comes a point where you can only do so much for others and you need to let other folks do their part.

Why are they important to you?

Mostly because I care about a variety of issues and believe we should address as many as possible. There are so many well-meaning organizations that deserve a helping hand. At the same time one must focus on some specifically in order to not dilute and weaken those efforts.

How has your work changed since the pandemic?

It’s been a mixed blessing. On one hand, we have to deal with costly and cumbersome safety measures that may or may not achieve their intended goal, but on the other hand, the delays created a unique window of opportunity for me. A ‘mission’ that I readily accepted working on the two biggest films of my career to date.

What is next for you?

Speaking of which, I’m about to head off soon to continue my role on the next installment of Mission: Impossible. I’m presently on location shooting a Paul Schrader film, Master Gardener, with Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver.

What advice would you give to young aspiring actors?

Find the joy in your craft and expand upon it. Find out what is unique about you as well as the characters you portray. Study the human condition at work and play. Let your obstacles and failures ‘refine’ you rather than ‘define’ you and keep at it. If it’s meant to be, it will be, but if not, you give up prematurely).

Where do you see the roles of Latinos and Latinas in the next two years?

While things seem to be improving there’s so much more work to be done to familiarize ourselves and especially our children with our own heroes, those who have paved the way before us. More stories should be told about those giants upon whose shoulders we stand. People like Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez are relatively well known but there are many others who fought to improve the lives, working conditions and for a more dignified representation of our people. We must not allow their stories and struggles to continue to be overlooked and ignored. A tree disconnected from its roots can’t ever stand tall.

What is the Mantra of your success?

Learn to love and love to learn. Work hard and well. Never take yourself too seriously and always keep your word. Life’s too short otherwise.

Award-winning actor Esai Morales co-founded the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, created to advance the presence of Latinos in the media, telecommunications and entertainment industries. The NHFA has provided scholarships to hundreds of students in excess of 1 million dollars.