Congressman Working with Emmys Head to Fix 'Glaring Issue of Latino Marginalization'

Sofia Vergara arrives at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, 2017, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Al Powers/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

WASHINGTON — A co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus for Advancement of Studio, Talent and Film Diversity said September’s Emmy awards highlighted a “glaring issue of Latino marginalization.”

“I understand that the Emmys occur after all the casting choices have been made, but because the Emmys represent represent the best in television, we need to join together and address the front end problem,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) wrote late last month to Maury McIntyre, president and COO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Co-chairs Johnson, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) founded the caucus in June with an aim “to focus on increasing further opportunities for representation of minorities in the film and television industries.”

Last year, Johnson and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) asked the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to follow through on a pledge to diversify membership after the 2016 Oscars featured all white nominees in the acting categories.

In the letter to McIntyre, Johnson congratulated the academy head on “the work that has been done to acknowledge television achievement by minorities,” but “there is still more to be done, particularly with regard to Latino actors.”

The congressman listed nine Latinos who have 13 Emmys in the awards ceremony’s 69-year history, including Ricardo Montalban in 1978 for guesting on How the West Was Won and Jimmy Smits in 1990 for his supporting role on L.A. Law. There were no Latino winners in September’s acting awards.

“Diversity and inclusion are not just about race, gender, or sexual orientation, but also about ethnicity,” Johnson wrote. “Undervalued performances by individuals like Gina Rodriguez in Jane the Virgin, Benito Martinez in American Crime, Sofia Vergara in Modern Family, Wilmer Valderrama in NCIS, Gael Garcia Bernal in Mozart in the Jungle and Miguel Angel Silvestre in Sense8 are a small example of unrecognized Emmy worthy roles.”

After asking McIntyre to open ongoing “dialogue” with the caucus and Latino groups, and civil-rights organizations about the matter, Johnson said in a statement that the academy head “called me immediately after reading my letter and acknowledged the problem.”

“Because the Emmys represent the best in television, myself and Mr. McIntyre are looking at ways to address this problem head on,” the congressman added. “I appreciate our call and look forward to continued, open dialogue to achieve diversity for everyone, no matter their sex, race or national origin.”