When ABC’s hit show Scandal debuted six years ago, Black women across the country celebrated the casting of Kerry Washington as the lead. The actress stirred excitement in her role as Olivia Pope, the first Black female character to lead an hour-long drama television series in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Teresa Graves had been the first African-American woman to take on such a role in 1974, when she stared in “Get Christie Love!” For white and Brown Latinas, access to big roles on the little screen have been almost as dry. Jackie Guerra became the first Latina to star in her own show on “First Time Out,” a series that debuted in 1995 and lasted for one season. More than ten years later, in 2006, ABC gave us “Ugly Betty,” starring America Ferrera, which lasted for four seasons. In recent years, we’ve been able to enjoy Gina Rodriguez on “Jane The Virgin,” which the CW will end next year but will replace with a Latina reboots of “Roswell, New Mexico” and “Charmed.”
More appalling than the scant tally of African-American and white and brown Latina starring shows, however, is how absent Afro-Latina leads have been on screen. Because there haven’t been any — until now.
Thursday, USA Networks announced the title for its Suits spinoff series starring Cuban-American Gina Torres.
CREDIT: Suits / USA Network
In the new show, called “Second City,” Torres will continue in her rolw as the well-respected and brilliant attorney Jessica Pearson. Her new journey will take her away from the New York City-based law firm Specter Litt to the Windy City, where she will navigate the world of underhanded Chicago politics.
Torres will be the first Afro-Latina to take on the leading role of an hour-long drama television series ever.
CREDIT: “Firefly” / Fox
There’s no doubting that Torres is Hollywood’s ultimate sleeping giant. The sci-fi television veteran has had an impactful role in television since the early ’90s, where she racked up a series of gigs on Law & Order and One Life to Live and ultimately nailed down the part of TV cult favorite Zoe Washburne on Firefly. Throughout her career, Torres has taken on over 50 different television roles and gained a large and dedicated following. Still, despite her star power and talent, Torres has had little opportunity to play a character that represents her own Latina identity. On Suits, for instance, Torres plays an African-American lawyer. It’s a matter that speaks to Hollywood’s failure of allowing Afro-Latinas the ability to portray Latinas on screen.
Whether or not the show will give Torres an opportunity to expand her character’s backstory in a way that will reintroduce her as Afro-Latina is has yet to be determined. Still, for those of us Afro-Latinas who’ve yet to see our faces on screen in this way, Torres’ new show is one to look out for.