America Ferrera on Gente-Fied and Latino representation in Hollywood
The Sundance Film Festival, which took place last month, got a real taste of bi-cultural talent when it included a digital series titled Gente-Fied, which features an all Latino cast with a majority of Latino crew members.
One of those Latino crew members includes award-winning actress and producer America Ferrera, who provided her talent off and on the screen on the web series as one of the characters and as an executive producer. We caught up with Ferrera who gave us the rundown on the show and her opinion on gentrification.
What is Gente-Fied about?
Gente-Fied is a web series about the gentrification of Boyle Heights, a predominately Latino community in Los Angeles. The term “Gente-Fied” was coined by the people of Boyle Heights and it means the gentrification of a community from within. The series explores a cast of characters all who live and work in Boyle Heights and explores all different kinds of characters generationally.
As a Latina-American, do you feel that you relate to the series?
When I read the scripts, I felt as a Latina-American that I was always sort of torn between identities as an American, someone who adapted and was pushed to adapt to American culture but also I had roots engrained in a culture that was at home. I think that will appeal to a lot of people, not just Latinos but anyone from families where there is conflict of identity.
What do you want people to take from the show?
Our writer and director Marvin Lemus is a young, Mexican-Guatemalan American and his cowriter is a young Mexican-American, Linda Yvette Chavez. It shifts the world from the perspective of young American Latino millennials and that's not perspective that I've seen represented in our main stream media so I think that millions of people will feel represented.
With the complexities of gentrification, do you see any positives outcomes from these changes?
One of the things that this series is exploring [is] how much of a certain culture gets buried and ignored in gentrification. An early sign of gentrification is when the coffee shops and art studios start opening up, a sort of sanitizing of culture instead of seeing and appreciating the culture that is already there, especially in a place like Boyle Heights, where this is a neighborhood that historically is an immigrant neighborhood, that has had waves of different kinds of immigrants. While it's wonderful to see community revitalized economically and to see people discover new places, that often comes a brushing aside of the culture that already exists.
The trailer plays with lines like “No drugs. No guns. No drugs… maybe some drugs.” Do you feel that Latinos are misrepresented in the media?
There is so few representation. The same stereotypes get played over and over again. I think what we're used to seeing is Latinos as gangsters, drug dealers or people trying to cross the border, and while all those things may be true and real to an extent, we as Latinos are so much more than that and there is so many representations of our experience and who we are that completely goes unseen. We're engrained the gay community. We're engrained in the artists community. We're engrained in the culinary community. We're so rarely represented for all of the things that we are. Having this series written and directed by Latinos, there is an authenticity to the way we're represented. To me, whenever there is one door open for one Latino artist, it creates an opportunity for so many more and that's another piece that's so exciting to me about this web series.
How was the reaction at Sundance?
It was amazing! We screened alongside two web series' that were fantastic. It just really felt like there was raw and unknown talent that's emerging and to me that feels like that's what Sundance was founded upon: to discover voices that otherwise wouldn't get seen or wouldn't get supported.