BROOKE GLADSTONE: So we are joined now by the actor Luis Guzman who I loved in Traffic and The Limey. Welcome to the show.
LUIS GUZMAN: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now the piece we've just heard cited some numbers from the Screen Actors Guild. SAG says that African-Americans are now pretty well represented on television while Asians and Latinos are still pretty much left out in the cold. You are of Puerto Rican descent.
LUIS GUZMAN: Yes.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And you've had a pretty extensive run on television. I have some of your resume here. On the list of your TV credits you've played criminals, thugs, drug dealers--
LUIS GUZMAN: Yeah.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you think that you've been typecast?
LUIS GUZMAN: I think that maybe early on in my career I certainly was typecast. Again we're, we're going back to like 1985, you know, when I first started out in this business.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Ratings watchers seem to suggest that the viewing audience or the largely white viewing audience just doesn't seem to have much of an appetite for minority characters with some notable exceptions like, say, Bill Cosby --that they don't identify with them.
LUIS GUZMAN: You talk about viewers. I mean Latinos watch TV in droves. I mean, come on, this country is made up now like, what, 30 percent Latino? And the industry is not going to tap into that? It's not about taking a risk. It's about saying hey, you know what - you've got a Latino audience there, and you're going to have to give them some of their own flavor --and not only just for Latinos, but for White America and Black America and Asian America -and you name it. Cause I think part of the problem is in TV Land if you have a whole bunch of white writers writing a Latin sitcom and they don't bother to employ a, a, a few Latino writers involved in that, they're never going to get it right. It's always going to be about a Cuban family in Miami. [LAUGHTER] There's nothing wrong with that, but that's not good representation of the Latin population or the Latin community in this country.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How many times have you been presented with the Cuban-Family-in-Miami scenario?
LUIS GUZMAN:Oh, I, I, I'd say like 5 or 6 times. [LAUGHTER] You know? And the thing is, when you tell them well how about doing something about a Latin family in New York, they don't get it, because a Latin family in New York - you have a Puerto Rican mother - a Dominican father - a Cuban boyfriend -- you know it could be just a Latin family. And just take it from there. You know? They have an accent, you know? The dad is a doctor; you know mom is a principal of a school -- as opposed to well mom is a seamstress and my dad is - changes-- tires at the tire shop.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:As I, as I mentioned, African-American men at least seem to be better represented on television, but the roles that are available seem to conform to type. You have the comedian, family man, prankster. Is there a stereotypical role for Latinos on television?
LUIS GUZMAN: How, how TV portrays Latinos right now -- it's not happening [LAUGHS] at all. You know? [LAUGHTER] It might be a guest spot here, a guest spot there -- but as far as showing, you know, a regular Latino in regular daily life, they still have yet to get that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Now you've been an actor for a while. Do you think that things have loosened up a bit? Do you think attitudes have changed since you've been in the profession?
LUIS GUZMAN: Oh, I, I absolutely believe attitudes have changed. You know I mean we also need to understand it's like - it's also about the opportunities that you could create for yourself and not just waiting for somebody to create an opportunity for you. You know now, more than ever, you could definitely, you know, you could get into the game!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much.
LUIS GUZMAN: Hey, I want to thank you guys for your time, you know?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Actor Luis Guzman has 8 movies coming out this year.
BOB GARFIELD: Coming up, perspective from black and white, and left and right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media from National Public Radio.