I recently released my top-ten Latinx shows of the year and honestly it feels like an achievement to be able to do that. It wasn’t so long ago when a list like that couldn’t have existed. But even though we’re making progress, there’s still a problem – namely that too much of what’s considered the acceptable Latinx hue is white or light, erasing our community’s real diversity. Thankfully, that’s less true in solo Latinx performances – you know when we show up in mainstream shows.
It’s also worth noting, we still continue to be vastly underrepresented in TV. This underrepresentation leads to Latinx actors often having to somehow embody all of Latinidad in the universe of their shows (spoiler – it’s not possible). Still, Latinxs are nothing if not persistent and we tend to keep trying until we figure it out.
And that’s why I want to celebrate ten 2022 Latinx performances in non-Latinx shows. These folks are portraying complex characters in diverse worlds. Thankfully, most of their shows have at least one other Latinx character (but not always). And their isolation makes the actors’ ability to shine with humanity that much more impressive.
So without ranking, here are our top-ten solo-ish Latinx performances of 2022:
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata in The Expanse
Amazon’s sci-fi series concluded its six-season run this year and Dominique Tipper was a stand-out as the rebel engineer and estranged mom. She brought vulnerability to her incredibly tough character, making her acts of heroism and sacrifice that much more relatable. Now Nagata wasn’t technically a Latinx character as the show takes place well into the future and race works differently there. But as a “belter,” she’s resisting colonization and since she’s played by British and Dominica Tipper, we feel she’s one of us.
Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir in Rings of Power
Ismael Cruz Córdova is getting award nominations for his turn as the elf-in-love Arondir in Amazon’s Rings of Power. The Puerto Rican actor deserves this and more for his portrayal of stoic longing and that’s before factoring in all the backlash he had to endure for having dark skin and daring to insist he could wear the pointy ears. Now, again, Arondir is an elf so not technically Latino (it’s like Hollywood prefers us with our culture removed), but we have to celebrate Cruz Córdova regardless because the world we live in codes him as Latinx even while speaking Elvish.
Aubrey Plaza as Harper in White Lotus
HBO’s White Lotus has spawned an obsessive fandom over its two seasons with its critique of class injustice, sex, and murder. This year, we got to watch Aubrey Plaza step into the world of the rich and powerful. As Harper, she starts out as an outsider, having married someone who only recently became extremely wealthy and calling out the obnoxious, oblivious behavior of her new peers – including how her fair skin makes her acceptable in their social circles. But while Harper momentarily becomes boorish, things quickly transform, giving the Emily the Criminal actress the chance to stretch her dramatic chops – and she delivers.
Roberta Colindrez as Lupe Garcia in A League of Their Own
Roberta Colindrez has a way of stealing whatever scene she’s in with her confidence and dry humor. As pitcher Lupe Garcia in Amazon’s A League of Their Own series, Colindrez delivers a stand-out performance on the mound and off. The scenes where we learn about her character’s non-baseball life – giving up a child, how she deals with microaggressions, who she dates – round out the character, who has her antecedents in the real Latinas who played in the 1940’s All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Xolo Maridueña as Miguel Diaz in Cobra Kai
As Miguel Diaz, Xolo Maridueña is often the heart of Netflix’s Cobra Kai, challenging the adult men fighting around him to do better. In 2022’s season five, Maridueña got a strong arc as he traveled to Mexico alone to find his biological father. While Cobra Kai can verge on silly, Maridueña knows how to balance his character’s emotional complexity with his fight scenes. There’s no wonder the Mexican, Cuban, and Ecuadorian actor has been tapped for Marvel’s Latinx-led feature, Blue Beetle.
Harvey Guillen as Guillermo in What We Do in the Shadows
FX’s vampire comedy, What We Do in the Shadows, aired its fourth season this year. In this installment, we see Harvey Guillen’s Guillermo come into his power. He’s no longer the vampire’s underling but instead finding ways to resist their demands and meet his own needs. And we get to see the beautiful relationship he has with his human family whether it’s finagling a new couch for his mom, coming out, or finding and losing love.
Selena Gomez as Mabel Mora in Only Murders in the Building
In its second season on Hulu, Only Murders in the Building deepens its characters and particularly its central trio. So it makes no sense that Steve Martin and Martin Short got award nominations last year and Selena Gomez did not – she holds her own with these two legends and the whole show wouldn’t work without her! Whether she’s employing her dry humor or trying to escape trauma, Gomez’s Mabel is always captivating to watch.
Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina in The Bear
Hulu’s The Bear is a critical darling and fan favorite this year, with its telling look into working in restaurants, family businesses, and food as a love/hate language. As Tina, Nuyorican actress Liza Colón-Zayas plays the veteran chef who’s known the business and family for years. Her performance is filled with the strength of a small woman of color who’s had to fight for everything she has, but it also allows for growth. All of which makes her one of our top Latinx performances of the year.
Alexa Demie as Maddy Perez in Euphoria
HBO’s drug-filled teen drama Euphoria has positioned its young stars well for recognition. Zendaya is breaking records with her leading role and Syndey Sweeney is leveraging her part as the hapless Cassie to become Hollywood’s next it-girl. But Alexa Demie also deserves recognition for her turn as Maddy Perez. Yes, Maddy embodies a stereotype – the hypersexual, fiery Latina – but she still manages to build a compelling character whose brand of chaos goes head-to-head with the other self-destructive young people she surrounds herself with.
Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale in Westworld
I’m not going to say this season of Westworld was the best. In fact, it helped get the cult favorite canceled with the whole series removed from HBO! But Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale is a joy, an evil joy to watch. She’s a fantastic villain-badass, the kind you know you shouldn’t root for but still do. Thompson exudes power in the role and if I generally won’t miss Westworld, I will miss watching her as one of the standout Latinx performances of the small screen.