Last month, Eva Mendes shared that Exit Wounds director Andrzej Bartkowiak dubbed over her voice -- in ENGLISH! -- because he felt that she didn't sound "intelligent enough." Though absolutely cringe-worthy, Mendes' experience is nothing new. A recent study released by the Writers Guild of America, West reveals that of the 1722 writers working on 190 broadcast and cable television shows during the 2011-12 season, only 4 percent of them are Latino, proving that Mendes is far from the first, only or last Latino actor to have words put in her mouth by non-Latino content creators!
According to Alex Nogales, President and CEO of National Hispanic Media Coalition, the lack of diversity behind the scenes of mainstream media makes it unlikely that authentic Latino voices and experiences will be shared with the growing number of American Latino media consumers, essentially continuing the practice of muting Latinos in media. Nogales' solution: "To remedy this we need and deserve a multi-ethnic perspective. As the demographics of this country continue to change, the television industry must keep up."
Enter, East WillyB.
Created by Julia Ahumada Grob and Yamin Segal, East WillyB "chronicles the journey of Willie Jr. and his best friend and bartender, Ceci Rivera, as they organize their friends and neighbors to save 'Willie Jr.'s Sports Bar'" from rising rents and gentrification. With a predominantly Latino cast and crew, East WillyB provides the multi-ethnic perspective that Nogales asks for -- and quite frankly, the representation that acculturated Latino audiences yearn for.
Much like its namesake neighborhood, East WillyB's unique style offers a little something for everyone. Latino or not, audiences can relate to the characters in East WillyB as they fight to keep their culture, their community, their livelihood, their relationships and their sanity. Brilliantly written, East WillyB is "an American story told through Latino voices," says creator and star, Julia Ahumada Grob. East WillyB, the neighborhood and the show, represent the changing faces of the Latino community, giving voice to a community and generation in transition, who are "ni de aqui, ni de aya."
East WillyB is part of a growing trend of American Latino writers, producers and actors banning together to create content that reflects their lives, their experiences and their voices. Whereas Hollywood has offered some media crumbs to the English-speaking, acculturated Latino masses, very few of them have truly captured the acculturated Latino voice. In fact, the few attempts made by Hollywood to represent the American Latino voice have failed miserably. CBS's Rob flopped harder than an untrained celebrity diver, the movie Our Family Wedding (2010) opened at number six in box offices across the country and now NBC's new single-camera show Welcome to the Family about "what happens when cultures collide" is looking like another failure of epic proportions. Though all three of these projects share a general premise with East WillyB, East WillyB is the only one of these concepts executed by Latino creators, writers and producers.
So far, East WillyB and like-minded media content exist almost exclusively online. However, the WGAW currently offers the Writer Access Project (WAP) in the hopes of increase employment opportunities for diverse writers in television. As the Latino population continues to grow and the Latino spending power (estimated to be $1.2 trillion) continues to strengthen, it would do television networks and movie studios some good to take note of the talent culled through these mediums. If Hollywood execs were "intelligent enough," perhaps they'd see that hiring Latino writers, producers and content creators makes dollars and cents!