“I was so hooked,” says America Ferrera of reading the script for Gentefied, the web series turned 10-episode dramedy she co–executive-produced for Netflix. “It was so funny, so touching, and stylistic in a way that really resonated with me and my experience. It felt like something I had never seen before.”
Set against the backdrop of L.A.’s rapidly gentrifying Boyle Heights neighborhood, the series arrives at a time when Latinx voices and faces have been noticeably absent from major Hollywood productions (a 2019 study found that a mere 3 percent of the top-grossing films of the previous 12 years featured a Latinx star or co-lead).
Gentefied follows three Mexican American cousins as they navigate the complicated realities of first-generation life: Ana, a queer artist living at home, is forever defending her lifestyle to her traditional mother; aspiring chef Chris, who left the barrio as a child, is mocked for barely speaking Spanish upon his return; and Erik, whose dedication to the family’s taco shop cost him the love of his life, is regularly underestimated by the entire family.
In January, Freeform rebooted Party of Five with a Mexican American family at its center. In the new version, five siblings are forced to raise one another due to the sudden deportation of their parents. “An American family doesn’t look the way [people] thought it looked 25 years ago,” says Party of Five showrunner Amy Lippman, who also co-created the original series. “An American family doesn’t [only] mean a Caucasian family.”
When Netflix canceled its popular One Day at a Time remake featuring a Cuban American family last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda took to Twitter, tagging networks and tweeting selfies with the show’s matriarch, Rita Moreno. The series was ultimately picked up by cable network Pop, which premieres the fourth season in March.
Latinx stories have become more prevalent on the small screen largely due to the overwhelming demand for new content, which invariably creates more opportunities for a greater variety of talents on an increasingly global platform. But what of the disheartening big-screen statistics? Fear not—Miranda will don his metaphorical cape once again this June when the film adaptation of his hit Broadway musical In the Heights arrives in theaters, chock-full of Latinx voices, according to Anthony Ramos, one of the film’s stars. “Latinos, man, nobody wanted to write us roles. No one was trying to tell our story,” he says of the industry. “So for us to come together [here] as one—Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican, Colombian, Cuban—I couldn’t hold it in. I was just so emotional.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of ELLE.