The Interviews: An Oral History of Television celebrates the contributions of Latinos to the news and entertainment industries with Hector Elizondo, Sonia Manzano, Jorge Ramos, Ricardo Montalban, Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, Mario Kreutzberger, and Maria Elena Salinas
CAPTURING TELEVISION HISTORY ONE VOICE AT A TIME
Since 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television has been conducting in-depth, videotaped oral history interviews with television professionals, including actors, writers, editors, and journalists. These interviews explore the lives and careers of the interviewees, and often touch on important historical moments and movements.
Gathered here are stories from interviewees about their achievements and challenges as Latinos in the news and entertainment industries, and in this country.
Actor Hector Elizondo describes his proudest career achievement, which includes the fact that he was able to succeed in the entertainment industry without changing his name.
“I guess I’ve inspired some other people … who didn’t think someone with an exotic name (back then) could be given a shot and have an opportunity.”
Watch Hector Elizondo’s full interview to hear stories from his career including his start as a child actor, his time as Dr. Phillip Watters on St. Elsewhere, and more.
Performer Sonia Manzano talks about representing the Puerto Rican community through her role as “Maria” on Sesame Street, and how a conversation with executive producer, Dulcy Singer, led to her writing for the show:
“Finally I said, ‘Well, why are these culture bits all about food and music? It’s like cultures don’t grow. It’s like all Puerto Ricans are food, a certain kind of music, and we don’t change.’ And she said, ‘Well, the only way for us to get this right is if you write it.’”
Watch Sonia Manzano’s full interview to hear the stories behind her decades on Sesame Street.
Jorge Ramos discusses the responsibility he feels as a journalist with a platform to amplify the needs and circumstances of the Latino community in the United States:
"If you use neutrality as your excuse, then many stories won’t be reported accurately. And as an immigrant, for instance, I think I have not only the right, but I have the duty, the obligation to give voice to those who don’t have a voice. I have an obligation to make sure that the presidents and the members of Congress know what they are thinking. It's very difficult to listen to undocumented immigrants on American media nowadays. And I think I’m a privileged immigrant because I have a voice and because of that I feel the responsibility that I have to speak for those who don’t have a voice. And to present that point of view whenever I’m doing an interview.”
Watch Jorge Ramos’ full interview where he discusses how his career progressed from reporting for Televisa radio to anchoring the news at Univision.
Actor Ricardo Montalban describes the stereotypical and often derogatory images of Mexicans in early film and television, and his objections to these portrayals:
"I used to talk to producers and directors at MGM and I would say, ‘Why do you do this? What a wonderful position you have to show the little kid growing up in East Los Angeles, crawling in front of the television, a decent Mexican. He doesn't have to be a great hero. I mean, portray a bandit if you want. But not at the exclusion of the honorable man. And indeed, the very educated man. Let's have a balance.’”
Watch Ricardo Montalban’s full interview to hear the stories behind his legendary career.
Actress Rita Moreno shares the challenges she faced as a Latina actress early in her career, and the stereotypes her roles often played into:
“I was in no position or felt I was in no position to say, ‘Wait a minute, if she’s wearing these big Spanish combs and the lace shawls over that, that’s Spain, that ain’t Mexico.’ But this kind of stuff went on all the time.”
Watch Rita Moreno’s full interview to hear the stories behind her groundbreaking career.
Actor Edward James Olmos talks about the significance of his role on Battlestar Galactica, exemplified by a story he heard from a Latina friend, whose young nephew called her after seeing the show:
”[She said], ‘He called up just so joyful, just busting with energy and pride and just so energetic. He said, “I saw ‘Battlestar.’ We're in the future!”’…For that child at that moment, seeing their culture, themselves in a position of being in the future was so needed. It's like a glass of water in the middle of the desert. You are so grateful that you can't even stand it.”
Watch Edward James Olmos’ full interview, which spans his career from his early days on the stage to his roles on Miami Vice, Battlestar Galactica, and more.
Host Mario Kreutzberger (“Don Francisco”) discusses the difference in the audience of his long-running show Sabado Gigante in Chile, where the program originated, and in its more recent incarnation in Miami:
"I’m working for a big minority, the biggest minority. And there, I was working for the whole country. From the most humble worker to the president. It’s different. Here I’m directed to the community, to the needs of that community. That’s very important. The content has to go with the needs of the community. With the desires of the community. What they want to have for enjoyment and for information and communication.”
Watch Mario Kreutzberger’s full interview to hear the stories behind his decades-long run as “Don Francisco.”
Journalist Maria Elena Salinas talks about the challenges and responsibilities of representing her community as a national news anchor:
”It's funny because sometimes we talk about the role of a journalist is just to tell the truth and to inform people. And it's true, and that’s what we do and that’s what we strive to do. But I think that when you work in Spanish, there is a difference, because you have an audience that has additional needs. I wouldn’t say different needs, necessarily, because just like any human being, they need to be informed of what’s going on in the world, in the country that they live in, in their community, in their countries of origin. But our community needs to understand a little bit more [about] how to get by in this country.”
Watch Maria Elena Salinas’ full interview where she discusses her career as a journalist and her role as an anchor at Univision.
This exhibit features just a few of the pioneers who led the way breaking barriers for Latinos in the entertainment industry. They fought against stereotypes and worked to make sure their experiences were being represented honestly.
Today, opportunities have expanded, but there is still a need to diversify talent in front of and behind the camera to ensure that Latino voices are being heard across the news and entertainment industries.
The Television Academy Foundation's The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Jenni Matz, Director
Adrienne Faillace, Producer
Jenna Hymes, Manager & Exhibit curator
Nora Bates, Production Coordinator
John Dalton, Cataloguer
Video editing by the Pop Culture Passionistas, sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, who have made a career based on their love of pop culture.