In 2019, Jharrel Jerome won an Emmy for his role in the When They See Us mini-series. In addition to being the youngest actor to win the award, the Moonlight star also became the first Dominican and Afro-Latino actor to achieve this momentous feat.
After bagging the highly coveted award, Jharrel had something to say about inclusivity and diversity in Hollywood. Addressing the media, he stated, “I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos,” adding that it was about time these groups received recognition.
His sentiment echoed the general belief that even though Hollywood has made huge strides when it comes to diversity, a lot more needs to be done to achieve meaningful representation of traditionally underrepresented groups.
Who Is ‘Moonlight’ Star Jharrel Jerome?
Jerome was born to Latino and African-American parents. The Bronx native says that he felt like an outsider when he was growing up, because as he states in an interview with Vibe.com, “I was that Latino kid in school.” According to him, the people in Manhattan weren’t used to hearing his Spanish dialect.
The recurring identity motif in his life carried through to his career in entertainment. In Hollywood, the Moonlight star represents one of the more underrepresented groups in the industry – Afro-Latinos.
In the past, Jharrel has also talked about the issue of representation for LGBTQ+ and people of color. The actor spoke about these issues after winning the award (together with Ashton Sanders his fellow actor in Moonlight) for Best Kiss at the MTV Movie and TV Awards. While speaking to Pride on the red carpet before winning the award, Jharrel said, “I think it's incredible they took down the "man" and "woman" categories, and I think it's a step in the right direction.”
To nab the 2017 award, Jharrel and Ashton beat the male-female pairs of Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast and Emma Watson and Ryan Goslin in La La Land.
In the interview, Jharrel acknowledged the steps that the entertainment industry has made in furtherance of diversity and inclusivity. On this, he stated, “It's incredible. It's about time.”
What the Numbers Say
2018 saw Hollywood make the biggest strides when it comes to enhancing inclusivity and diversity, according to a recent report by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
Movies like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther demonstrate a move towards inclusivity in the entertainment industry. The same report goes on to say that underrepresented groups accounted for 36.8% (up from 29.3% in 2017) of the percentage of characters involved in all the projects within the period under consideration.
The report also stated that only 3% of the top 100 grossing movies between 2007 and 2018 had Latino co-leads or leads. The percentage of Afro-Latinos is even lower.
However, with Jharrel and other like-minded stars pushing for diversity and inclusivity, more opportunities are expected to open up. This is especially so, considering the push by top names in the entertainment world for more recognition of Afro-Latinos in the media.