Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played infamous Colombian drug lord for the new Lifetime movie Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story, which aired Jan. 20, is facing a serious backlash for portraying a Latina.
Latinos expressed their outrage on social media, sparking an online dialogue about why a Latina wasn’t cast in the role: “Nah, this can’t be real. They couldn’t find not one Latina to play this role?” Alex Medina asked on Twitter, offering a mocking reply to his own question: “Oh yes. Let’s let get our Welsh friend Cathrine Zeta-Jones to play a Colombian drug-lord.”
Here are a few more biting reactions:
Facing increasing heat, Zeta-Jones defended her participation in the film, telling Entertainment Weekly: “This happens to be the third Hispanic I’ve played,” she said. “I played the lead in Zorro, and I screen-tested with six Hispanic women, and I got the role. I don’t know what to say. And I was a complete unknown at this point; it wasn’t because I had a name or box-office value.”
She added: “I have to take [the roles] I believe I can embody. I can’t be the person to fight against a very big issue, and I won’t take on that role. There have been so many actors who have played against type.’ That’s sort of what we do.”
The backlash comes at a time when Latino celebs are voicing their disappointment about the scarcity of roles, especially leading ones, in Hollywood, for Latinos. On the SAG Awards red carpet Jan. 21, Jane the Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez, for example, shared her thoughts on the issue: “I mean, we do make [up] 55 million plus in the country — no big deal — you should throw us in a movie or two, it would make sense,” she said, adding: “We do buy 1 in every 4 tickets every single weekend and make sure that your movies do well. So it would do you a service. And not only service, it would be — I don’t know — integrity.”