Imagen Awards: Stephanie Beatriz, Gina Torres Talk Change for Hollywood's Latinx Community

JC Olivera/Getty Images
Stephanie Beatriz

The cast and crew of 'Coco' came out as big winners at the Imagen Awards on Saturday night at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles.

Inside the platinum room of the JW Marriott at LA Live on Saturday night, the 33rd annual Imagen Awards honored Latinos in the entertainment industry who have positively impacted the way Latinos are portrayed onscreen. The event, which featured Anaheim's Savanna High School students showing off their traditional Mexican wardrobe and a performance by America's Got Talent's Amanda Mena, saw Brooklyn 99’s Stephanie Beatriz, Suits’ Gina Torres and Stuck in the Middle’s Jenna Ortega all accepting awards for their performances, giving impassioned speeches about the changing of the guard in film and TV for Latinx representation.

“I want to thank my producers at Brooklyn 99 for trusting me with this character who was originally not written for a Latina at all,” Beatriz told the audience while accepting the honor for best supporting actress in a TV series.

She was not alone. Torres, who tied with Beatriz for best supporting actress, and Ortega also told stories about their characters not originally being written for a Latinx character. Torres, who will soon star in her own Suits spinoff, told the audience filled with such stars as Superstore's Colton Dunn and veteran Rita Moreno that her character was originally written as a 60-year-old white man. But USA Network, with show creator Aaron Korsh, decided that “there is a 60-year-old white man that lives inside me,” Torres said.

David T. Friendly, executive producer of USA Network’s Queen of the South, told The Hollywood Reporter on the Imagen Awards' red carpet that more series focused on diverse characters for a nationwide audience are a way of the future, where TV shows about Latinos no longer have to be just for a Latin audience.

“Our show is for Latinos, but it’s for everybody,” Friendly said. “That’s really what you want. Everybody has to work together.”

Pixar's Coco, which had an almost all-Latino voice acting cast and was written and animated by Latinos, was celebrated with a performance of the Academy Award-winning song "Remember Me," sung by the film's very own Anthony Gonzalez, who voiced the lead character of Miguel. Gonzalez was backed up by Latin-American group Trio Ellas. Coco would go on to receive the awards for creative achievement and for best film.

Other honorees on the night included Wizards of Waverly Place producer Peter Murrieta and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yuliz Cruz, who helped bring the city back from ruin after the destruction of 2017's Hurricane Maria, which claimed the lives of more than 4,000 and left the island of Puerto Rico without full power for almost a year. 

The night concluded with members of Netflix's One Day at a Time and Starz's Vida going up on stage and urging all to keep on supporting the #OneVidaAtATime movement. Earlier this year, more than 90 writers rooms participated on social media by posting photos of themselves supporting the families who were separated at the border by ICE. In a night filled with laughter and joy, the finale put into perspective the real-life implications of President Donald Trump's immigration policy.

"So we invited Donald Trump to the awards show tonight," the event's host, comedian Aida Rodriguez, told the audience. "He declined the invitation. He said if he wanted to hang out with criminals, he can just hang out with his cabinet."