It is hard to believe that we are still fighting against archaic and stereotypical portrayals of minority characters in film and television.
Veteran Latinx actress Ada Maris, known for her roles in shows like Nurses, Star Trek: Enterprise, and The Brothers Garcia, was set to play a maid named Carmen in Netflix forthcoming comedy series Uncoupled. Starring Neil Patrick Harris as a successful forty-something professional in New York who has to navigate single life after his husband of 17 years abruptly walks out on him, Uncoupled was created and executive produced by Darren Star (Younger and Emily in Paris).
However, Maris will no longer be playing the role, and it was removed from the script altogether after she voiced some concerns.
After receiving and reading the script in September, she says she was shocked by how stereotypical and one-dimensional the role was, particularly because of the talent associated with the project.
“When I opened it and saw that it wasn’t even funny – it was hurtful and derogatory – I was shocked because I walked in expecting something very different given the way things are nowadays and the progress we’ve made,” she told Variety.
The Netflix show 'Uncoupled' dropped a Latina housekeeper role that had been criticized by veteran Mexican American actor Ada Maris. https://t.co/GS6hDUK2DD
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 12, 2021
According to Maris, Carmen has two scenes in the first episode. She is introduced as being “nearly hysterical on the phone” with Harris’ character, Michael Lawson, because she thinks there has been a burglary in the apartment.
“Mister, I just get here and they stole!”
The broken English continued in Carmen’s next line: “They stole! They rob you! I don’t know how they get in.”
In the scene, Carmen takes a glass that Michael just washed and says, “No, I do that. You don’t clean good, you always leave a ring.”
Maris told Variety that she was both outraged by Carmen’s characterization and disappointed that something so stereotypical would come from gay men who she assumed would be more sensitive to caricatural portrayals of people from marginalized communities.
“You are modern gay men,” she says. “How would you like to watch or play an outdated, offensively stereotypical gay part?
ACTRESS SPEAKS OUT ON HURTFUL LATINA STEREOTYPE: A Netflix sitcom has dropped a Latina character from the cast and apologized after actress Ada Maris was sent the script and was horrified at how offensive of a stereotype the role was — the co-hosts react. https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA pic.twitter.com/bTjUDLqVAO
— The View (@TheView) November 12, 2021
As an established entertainer, Maris felt an obligation to make an example of what she read in Uncoupled to sensitize writers and producers to the damage that is done by one-dimensional portrayals that cross a line into demeaning.
“I’m just fed up,” she says. “If I’m not going to say anything now, when am I going to say something? I just want (writers) to think the next time they write a character like that. I’m speaking out for the younger actors coming up so they face even less of that than my generation has. Young people are impressionable. These media images shape our ideas of ourselves. That’s why it’s really important that the portrayals be more realistic, not hurtful. We need to see ourselves more like we really are.”
In addition to removing the character, Netflix issued an apology.
“We’re sorry that Ms. Maris had a negative experience, and this character will not appear in the series,” a Netflix spokesperson said.