Tracee Ellis Ross and Gina Rodriguez Talk Race and Roles at Hollywood Reporter Roundtable

By Qimmah Saafir May 28, 2015

The Hollywood Reporter held its annual roundtable of Emmy-contending comedy actresses. The comedians covered a plethora of topics including sexism and self-deprecation. Tracee Ellis Ross of “Black-ish” and Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin,” who were of the six in attendance, gave their perspectives on racism and stereotypes in Hollywood. Ross and Rodriguez offered that blind spots and focus on money can often be confused for racism. Rodriguez suggests that part of the way to diversify Hollywood is simply a matter of showing them that “it’s all a good investment.”

Read the discussion excerpts below. 

The women chime in on Chris Rock’s essay in which he mentions going to the movies once a week for months and never seeing a black woman in a substantial role.

GINA RODRIGUEZ I think that also goes for Latinos as well.

TRACEE ELLIS ROSS There aren’t many [roles in film]. That’s why I say no to all the offers! (Laughs.) Working on a film is one job where you look at a casting breakdown and I’ll think, "That’s me!" But she’s not supposed to be black.

RODRIGUEZ One hundred percent.

ROSS But I go for them anyway. Gina, what’s been your experience?

RODRIGUEZ I remove myself instantly if something’s perpetuating a stereotype. But the only way to stop stereotypes is to say, "I’m going to wait for a journey that suits me."

LENA DUNHAM I got into "Jane the Virgin" after reading your early interviews. You were obviously grateful, but rather than going, "I’m so lucky to have this part!" you took back the power and said, "I waited for something that spoke to me as a Latina and didn’t feel like I was compromising."

RODRIGUEZ When you compromise, you don’t do your best work.

ROSS I can’t sleep at night.

RODRIGUEZ You’re only left with your integrity. You can’t take those Jimmy Choos with you!

AMY SCHUMER [To Ross and Rodriguez] I never thought how bad it could be for you guys until I had a TV show and we had to do auditions. Many black women who auditioned thought that we wanted them to be "sassy."

RODRIGUEZ "Get me someone more urban!"

SCHUMER We’re like, "No, just be yourself." I thought: That sucks. It meant they’d been in a lot of rooms where they were like, "Uh, can you be more like (snaps her finger)."

ROSS Hey, I don’t sound like that.

Ross and Rodriguez feel it’s more complicated than just labeling Hollywood as racist. 

RODRIGUEZ I don’t believe it’s an issue of hard-core racism [in Hollywood].

SCHUMER It’s ignorance.

RODRIGUEZ Lack of being surrounded by a culture.

ROSS We’re quick to vilify people instead of acknowledging we all have these huge blind spots. … It’s not just race. It’s socioeconomic.

RODRIGUEZ It’s also about what Hollywood finds financially beneficial. So when we show them shows like "Jane the Virgin" and "Fresh Off the Boat"

DUNHAM And Shonda Rhimes owns the entire television mainstay. (Laughter.)

RODRIGUEZ Show them it’s all a good investment. And it’s not about race. When you vilify it, people shut down.

Read the full conversation here