Gina Torres Takes a Stand on Latinidad, Representation, and Hispanic Heritage

Gina Torres BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of cnn.com

One of my personal crushes has always been Cas, the widow of the Nebuchadnezzar pilot Dozer in Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions (2003). Cas lived in Sion with her two young children, and she was a badass warrior.

Little did my 11-year-old self know that the actress who played Cas was an Afro-Latina named Gina Torres and that she was also married to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in real life.

When I discovered this a few years later, Gina Torres became one of my favorite actresses. 

Torres has played other amazing women in movies like “I Think I Love My Wife” (2007), and in series like Serenity (2005), USA Network Suits (2011-2018), and most recently “9-1-1: Lone Star,” where she plays Tommy Vega, the main character.

However, for those of us who are fans of The Matrix, the announcement of The Matrix 4 left us a bit disappointed to see that Cas would not be cast in the highly anticipated film.

Gina Torres herself admitted her surprise in an interview with Indiwire:

“Not to be bitter or anything, but the people that are actually in the movie, I believe, died,” Torres said. “And the people that aren’t didn’t. So that’s all I have to say about that. I’m so curious about where they’re going with this. And what’s their jumping-off point and what story they want because it just felt like they told it.”

And with the results of the 2021 Emmys awards, we can’t help but think of a serious problem of representation and persistent whitewashing in film and television.

For Gina Torres, this is a real problem, even though we seem to be on the right track.

In a conversation with Marianna Sotomayor, a congressional reporter with The Washington Post, Torres reflected on the representation of Latinos in movies and series, as well as the need to keep fighting for a place at the table, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.

“What is so special and really essential about Hispanic Heritage Month is, more than ever, I will say, we are really in a place to experience and do a deep dive into what Latinidad is, what Hispanic heritage means, and what it encompasses,” Torres said. “We are so very diverse, and we are seeing the Afro-Latino community really come out and express their beauty for the first time in my lifetime, where we have such a voice, and we are being recognized in such a different way. And that, for me, in particular, is exciting.”

For Gina Torres, the entertainment industry is “an equal opportunity soul-crusher.”

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you look like. It is really sanctioned, prejudiced, and sanctioned othering in service to creating and perpetuating certain images and ideas and narratives, right? So when you don’t fit that mold, then you have to–well, you can either let yourself be crushed, or you can really just root yourself in what you know you have to give and choose each moment to make it a learning experience, a teaching moment, which is what I had to do.”

Torres said how the industry perpetuates stereotypes that suit the sale of stories rather than allowing individuals to represent the true identity of their communities.

However, in the face of a new generation with tools and opportunities we could only dream of, the authenticity of those coming behind us is nothing but a powerful halo of hope.

We just need to help them a little before passing the baton.

“I think it is incumbent upon those of us who have reached this place to really shine the light and really let those in power understand and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we exist, that we have buying power, that we have aspirational power, that we’re here, and we’re doing the world and our country and other countries a brave disservice by not showing us in every hue that we come in, in every state of socioeconomic level,” Torres said.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, in this industry, hiding in plain sight. And it’s exhausting. It is exhausting to continue to explain who and why I am. We shouldn’t have to do that at this stage in our evolution, in our history.”

While Torres acknowledged that making a way in the industry is not easy and that artists often accept roles out of a need to pay bills and survive, change starts with personal choices and advocating for a place at the table.

“The problem with that is that you keep putting the same stuff out there because it’s going to sell. And my point, or what I have always hoped to do with the work that I put out there, is that humanity sells, and that truth is what–the truth of our being is what people want to see because we’re mirrors. We are mirrors of ourselves, and who better to be mirrors of us, of Latinos, than other Latinos?”

“I often said the height of any person of color’s acting career is to be able to play a pimp, a hooker, a maid, a drug dealer, an addict with relish and authenticity, without feeling like you’ve let your entire people down, your entire culture down, because you need and want to put those stories and bring a kind of majesty to those characters,” she concluded. “And the only way that you can do that is by including the why, is by including the multidimensional story of how one gets there.”