Saturday Night Live Vows to Work on Its Latino Problem
Remember that dustup over Donald Trump's hosting of NBC's Saturday Night Live Nov. 7?
Latino groups were incensed. And, while you might have forgotten about the whole episode, they did not.
These organizations remained patient, particularly with an SNL leadership that wouldn't give them the time of day, and ultimately got a few of the show's executives to a table, where a vow to hire more Latinos was harvested, L.A. Weekly has learned.
Last week SNL producer Lindsay Shookus and co–head writer Rob Klein met with a number of Latino leaders at National Council of La Raza headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to Alex Nogales, CEO of the Pasadena-based National Hispanic Media Coalition.
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We learned that those present included Nogales; Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza; Lisa Navarrete. adviser to the NCLR president; Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts; Axel Caballero, executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers; Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); and Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center.
Four lobbyists from NBC's parent corporation, Comcast, also attended the meeting, Nogales said. They were ostensibly concerned after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus raked the network over the coals because of the Trump appearance.
Caucus members at the time reminded Comcast that they gave their blessing to the Comcast corporate takeover.
"They screwed up royally with the Latino Caucus," Nogales said. "Every member is furious. They showed they had no respect or consideration for the Latino community."
Though Trump's appearance on such a prominent national stage was an insult for some Latinos following his June remarks that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, it was especially stinging because SNL has been nearly Latino-free for 41 years.
Plus, NBC said it had cut ties with Trump following those comments.
Those Latino groups planned from the get-go to use the appearance to get SNL to take another look at its cast diversity. It has had only two Latino cast members, and neither was Mexican-American, the most predominant ethnicity of the nation's largest minority, since 1975.
In that time the show has had only about a dozen or fewer Latino guest hosts as well.
While there was no promise to hire specific numbers of Latinos, the SNL representatives gave assurances that the show's virtual brownout would end in the next year to year and a half, Nogales told the Weekly.
He said he wouldn't be surprised to see one or two Latino cast members and another one or two Latino writers within a year or two.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition has its own Television Writers Program, where hopefuls are trained in the format and style of writing for network TV. Nogales said he'll be able to recommend graduates to SNL executives.
One of the problems that was made clear in the meeting was that SNL's writers were often found through recommendations made by current staffers, who are mostly white, with many from Ivy League schools, he said.
"Many times they'll recommend a friend they get along with to write for them," Nogales said of cast members and staff writers. "If that's the case, and [almost] everyone is white, guess who their friends are going to be? It perpetuates white guys. That's their workforce."
The groups at the table last week were scheduled to meet again with SNL executives in six months to measure the show's progress, he said.
"All these organizations are holding them accountable, and it's going to happen," Nogales said. "It doesn't make up for what has occurred, but it breaks barriers we had in the past."
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