Most of Hollywood star Michael Peña’s roles have seen him either play a latino character or take on a Latino name – a choice the star says he took in order to inspire the younger generation and help them see “people like them on screen”.
Michael plays the role of DEA agent Kiki Camarena on Netflix drama series Narcos: Mexico and told TshisaLIVE that in staying close to his heritage, he is hoping to teach young kids that they can really be whatever they want.
“When I was younger I remember seeing people on screens that were from my neighbourhood, someone like me. Even if it is just the name, a Mr Martinez. I think all people are equal anyways, but I have a Spanish last name and young kids can maybe see me and think, ‘that’s cool. Maybe I can be an actor.’ That is what is inspiring.”
It is an impact similar to that felt with the release of Black Panther in January. Finally, Africans had a superhero that looked and acted like them. It was not lost on audiences who packed cinemas and made it the most successful film ever released on the continent.
The actor said it spoke to the spirit of inclusion.
“Everyone wants to see themselves represented. You want to see yourself up there, in a way. You want to be able to relate to someone. If you see an African leading a film and they look like you and speak like you, there is a sense of pride. There is also a sense of inclusion. It is a great feeling.”