By AUSTIN HOPKINS For The News-Letter
Long-time actor and director Tony Plana came to Hopkins to discuss his experiences as a person of color in the film industry last Thursday, Oct. 15. The event was held at in the Charles Commons Ballroom and sponsored by the Organization of Latina Estudiantil (OLE). Though the ballroom sits as many as 135, only about 20 students were in attendance.
Tony Plana, a classically-trained actor, attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Though he is recently well-known for his role as Ignacio Suarez in Ugly Betty, he has had a wide variety of roles in films ranging from the 1986 comedy ¡Three Amigos! to the 2013 action movie Pain and Gain. He has also appeared on television shows like 24 and The West Wing. He is truly a character actor, one who is able to play a wide variety of roles convincingly.
During the talk, Plana discussed the acting roles he has portrayed throughout his career and the limited, stereotypical parts that are available for minorities in the industry.
“I have played, as an actor, every Latino stereotype except the pregnant teenager,” he said.
His words speak both to his ability as a character actor and to the state of the film industry. While he noted that many of his more stereotypical roles presented themselves earlier in his career, he does contend that there has not been much change since that time.
Plana also spoke about the need for everyone to find what they are truly passionate about and who they truly are, even if the process is difficult and requires a certain amount of selfishness. He used his own experiences as a Cuban immigrant as an example and described his journey coming from a position where neither he nor his family believed that acting would be a viable career.
He talked about the difference between his and his wife’s socioeconomic status and that of his children and how important education was for this advancement.
Plana gives back to the community through a program called Language in Play, which draws from his experiences as an actor and emphasizes the integration of play into the classroom.
The goal of the program is to assist students with language learning, especially kinesthetic learners who struggle with more traditional techniques of learning. He focuses on language as the center of education because of the importance of knowing languages in all types of careers and in life in general.
Plana hopes to pave the way for young people who want to follow in his footsteps and to make the process easier for them.
He challenged everyone who attended the talk to focus on where they had come from and to try to better the world by contributing to their own communities.
Though the talk dealt almost exclusively with serious and heavy topics, he kept the nature of the talk lighter with jokes, anecdotes and a light demeanor. The intimacy of the presentation both in the size of the audience and in the personal nature of the subject matter also helped Plana to get his points across and connect with those in the audience.
Latino Heritage Month events are scheduled throughout the rest of October.
The remaining events include a Medical Game Night, a Soccer Tournament, Empanadas and Networking and a closing ceremony. A full list of event times, places and descriptions is available in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.