Freddie Prinze Jr. says his latest project, a Netflix holiday rom-com co-starring Aimee Garcia, is one of the few times he’s gotten to play a character written explicitly as Latino.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment published Thursday, the Punky Brewster actor and Star Wars: Rebels voice star opened up about how limited his opportunities to play culturally specific characters in Hollywood have been across his nearly three-decade career.
His latest role in Christmas With You, he says, was one of a handful of roles that defied that. “I’ve never gotten to do it before unless I wrote the damn thing,” Prinze said. “So when [director] Gabriela [Tagliavini] brought this to me, all I wanted was the opportunity to earn her respect.”
Despite his struggle to get culturally explicit roles, Prinze does note that in his career he’s received a lot of positive feedback from audiences and fans about his portrayals, as they’ve defied Hollywood’s Latin stereotypes.
“I’ve received nothing but love from Latino taxi drivers to business owners talking about being inspired by seeing a Latino who’s not running from the cops or dealing drugs,” he said. “But within the industry, I’ve always been met with a ton of resistance by directors wanting to check my Latino heritage and see just how much I know.”
The actor went on to note that in the rare cases where he has gotten a chance to play Latino, including his stint on Fox’s 24, the character’s identity was changed after the fact. By and large, Prinze says, the cultural specificity was an afterthought and one used to retroactively create a sense of diversity.
“Every Latino you’ve seen me play was always an after-the-fact thing. The role would be named ‘Mike Smith’ and they’d say, ‘Oh, we hired Freddie, so we can show people how diverse we are,’” he recalled. “And all of a sudden his name is ‘Miguel Ramirez.'”
For the actor, “that does not count,” with Prinze adding his character being written explicitly as Latino was behind his decision to star in Christmas With You. “This was something that was very important to me, and a big reason why I signed onto this movie.”
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