Just a few days ago, actor Shia LaBeouf’s Pachuco role in The Tax Collector stirred the pot regarding the ongoing controversy of actors playing ethnicities that aren’t necessarily their own.
However, there’s a Latina who’s stepping up to the plate to bring authentic Latinx stories to Hollywood productions, and her name is Berenice Molina. Molina is a Los Angeles native whose goal is to create roles besides the typical Latinx stereotypes (inmate, maid, prisoner, janitor) for talented individuals and former inmates.
Molina’s post-incarceration story is one to look out for. Her own raw life experiences from being a teenage mom to being incarcerated have catapulted her into training real gang members to become actors and create roles in television’s biggest productions such as Mayans, Goliath, 9-1-1 and S.W.A.T. through her own agency, URA Casting (Under-Represented Artists).
After being released from prison, she started working as a case manager in a gang intervention program, which led her to help formerly incarcerated peers. She left her 9-5 to become a full-time casting director in the entertainment world.
“I had no clue what I was getting into. I started booking more and more guys (authentic street individuals) and as I observed the many lives that were impacted with an opportunity like this, I felt the need and desire to want to do this every day, so I began looking into how to open up my casting agency but an agency that provided an opportunity for those who have not been seen or heard due to stereotypes and judgments,” she told Voyage LA.
Her journey working with the new talent started after one of her connections in the community told her they needed some “homies” for a show, and her goal was to provide employment for these individuals. “Two years later we have expanded from 7 guys to 250 on our roster,” she said.
Having experienced a lot of the issues of reinsertion to society herself – no training, no skills or rehabilitation, plus a criminal record – Molina is on a mission to make sure other lives have a different outlook.