Nowadays, the impugning fight for fair representation of Latinos on the small and big screen often makes us forget the pioneers who made those industries what they are today.
One of them was Desi Arnaz, a Cuban-American actor, musician, bandleader, comedian, film, and television producer credited with creating modern television.
Yes, we are talking about the husband of Lucille Ball, star of the hit show “I Love Lucy.”
Like so many other Cubans, Arnaz came to the United States as a child with his family, who had been stripped of all their property and fortune after the Cuban Revolution of 1933.
Arnaz’s youth coincided with one of the most fruitful periods in the consolidation of American popular culture, witnessing and participating in the New York club scene. Along with so many other Latin artists, he introduced the concept of conga line dancing the city.
Hence his iconic bit in the “I Love Lucy” show where a conga and a howl of “Babalu” would immortalize him forever.
And there is no American music without Latin music.
Now, Spanish actor Javier Bardem will step into the shoes of the complicated Desi Arnaz in the new Amazon Studios production “Being the Ricardos.”
As reported by NBC Latino, Bardem pursued the role of Arnaz for years and will finally star alongside Nicole Kidman in a dramatic story centered on one of America’s most famous TV couples facing a series of crises that threaten their personal and professional lives.
In an interview with the media outlet, Bardem said he was interested in exploring the many layers involved in playing such a multi-faceted actor and businessman, who revolutionized American television while embracing his Cuban roots at a time when the word “Hispanic” had not even emerged.
“There are many colors and layers into what he represented as an entertainer, as a musician, as a producer, as a husband and also the origin of a Latin personality that was coming to Hollywood back in the day,” Bardem said. “He was able to really make room to present himself and his skills and make sure everybody would respect that.”
With their hit show “I Love Lucy,” Arnaz and Lucille Ball pioneered changes in the entertainment industry that paved the way for the Golden Age of television. The pair played Ricky and Lucy Ricardo, characters who were essentially exaggerated versions of themselves.
Directed by Aaron Sorkin, “Being the Ricardos” is on Amazon Prime now.