Natalie Morales and Stephanie Beatriz are two women that have been making waves on television in recent years. Beatriz, who plays Detective Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, recently came out as bisexual in her personal life, opened up about her struggles with an eating disorder, and is now playing Rosa as a bi character as well. Meanwhile, Morales (the actress, not the journalist) has appeared in 90210, Girls, Parks and Recreation, Grace and Frankie, and is now playing the queer and fascinating Sheriff Anne Garcia on Santa Clarita Diet.
Both women playing fierce Latinas on hit TV series is a big win. Not only are they both portraying law enforcement officers but they’re doing it in a way that’s all their own — without all of the old and boring lesbians-in-uniform stereotypes or their overly feminized “straight” cop characters who must remain in ridiculous high heels and skirts. Instead, they are neither uber-femine or overly masculine, and therefore not overcompensating. In a recent interview, the two Latinas opened up about what it is like to play queer Latinas on TV, Hollywood stereotypes, and more.
The two women are bright new faces in a Hollywood that is severely lacking Latinx representation. Not only do they both play characters that we can relate to and be proud of, but they’re also playing queer Latinas when we don’t always see accurate or positive portrayals of LGBT Latinx people on TV. The best part? Neither of them plays a stereotypical Latina on their respective shows — which is in and of itself an amazing feat since we’re still seeing far too many Latina maids and sexy vixens… and not much else. Morales counts her blessings that she is able to go after non-stereotypical roles as a Latinx actress. She said to The Advocate:
In my career, luckily, I’ve really tried to stay away from stereotypical Latina roles, and luckily I can. I can afford to, and I don’t knock anybody who would take them, because it’s a job. I think the three most stereotypical Latina characters that you always see are the maid, the sexy seductress, and the Nuyorican or chola girl. Sometimes they’re combined. And those people do exist. There are maids. There are sexy seductresses. There are cholas. But if that’s all there is about their character, it’s just a stereotype we’ve seen before. I’d rather play the role that was written for probably a white person, because people just think of that as a neutral person. My experience as a Latina is maybe slightly different than a white girl’s experience as far as my background, but my ability to be a lawyer or a superhero or anything else is the same. In my career, I’ve really tried to gear it that way, so that it is not dependent on my last name.
Playing a queer character (and identifying as queer herself) does still present itself with some unique challenges, Morales admitted. But she maintains that it’s important to acknowledge the different experiences that people have, as both Latinx and LGBT.
“I think that everybody defines their sexuality in a different way, and some people get angry about how ‘That’s not asexual. This is what it is.’,” she said of her BoJack Horseman character coming out as asexual. “But they forget that different people have different experiences, and maybe that character has a different experience than you do. The whole point is to not fit yourself into a box.”
Meanwhile, Beatriz acknowledges that coming out as a Latinx is not easy.
“I think in the Latin-American community, bisexuality is still a very misunderstood thing,” she tells The Advocate.
However, she’s happy to see that the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers aren’t shying away from Rosa coming out to her traditional, religious parents. And, in fact, it remains an ongoing issue in Rosa’s life instead of being resolved in one episode (which, let’s face it, is just TV magic and completely unrealistic for most of us).
“At this particular point in history we’re in, it is important to have those voices whose stories [are] their own,” she said.