‘This is also a face of Latinidad’: How Gina Torres made producers rethink their ideas of American beauty

Editor’s Note: “This feature is part of a series highlighting some of the inspiring changemakers working to showcase a broader spectrum of Latinx artists and experiences in film and television.”

(CNN) For decades, Gina Torres has carved out a career in Hollywood feeling like she couldn’t fully express herself. Now, the Afro-Latina actor is using her power to change that.

The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Torres said there was a time when she had to audition for a role multiple times early in her career because she didn’t fit producers’ ideas of American beauty.

“You’re too exotic and they didn’t want to confuse the audience,” Torres recalled being told.

Afro-Latino performers like Torres have been “hiding in plain sight,” she said, as Hollywood tends to cast them for Black roles because they “don’t look Latino.”

Over the past three decades, Torres has brought her artistry to roles in “Suits,” “Firefly,” “24,” “Hannibal” and numerous other series.

But only recently, when Torres said she stopped sacrificing one part of her identity over the other, has she felt like she’s had significant wins when it comes to representation on screen.

After Torres got a call from Tim Minear, the co-creator and showrunner of Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” to take on the show’s female lead, she asked if her role could be an Afro-Latina. Minear agreed to it, she said, but he wasn’t sure what it would entail.

“I need to speak my language (Spanish) whenever possible. I need to let the audience know that this is also a face of Latinidad,” Torres recalled telling the showrunner.

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