Five Favorite Films

America Ferrera: Five Hispanic Movies That Inspire Her

Gentefied executive producer and director America Ferrera — known for her lead roles in series like Superstore and films including Real Women Have Curves — shares her love for Selena, Y tu mamá también, and more.

by | November 11, 2021 | Comments

America Ferrera

(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix)

America Ferrera’s resume is full of statement-making work.

Her breakthrough film, Real Women Have Curves, which is directed by Patricia Cardoso and written by George LaVoo and Josefina López, was a Sundance hit that appealed to audiences for its unique portrayal of complicated mother-daughter relationships. As the star of the ABC telenovela Ugly Betty, she made history as the first Latina to win the lead actress in a comedy Emmy. Superstore, the NBC comedy she appeared in for six seasons, covered everything from paid maternity leave to COVID-19.


(Photo by Kevin Estrada)

Gentefied, the Netflix series she executive produces and is created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, is a family comedy that also tackles social issues. Focusing on three cousins and their grandfather, who runs a restaurant in South Los Angeles, the show addresses a community’s loss of cultural identity through gentrification, but also discusses divides between generations, be it views on LGBTQ awareness, heritage, or immigration.

These relatable, but personal, concepts of storytelling are also things Ferrera is drawn to as a fan of cinema. In honor of Gentefied’s second season, Rotten Tomatoes asked Ferrera which Hispanic films inspire her.


I think the very first time I ever saw Latino American faces and creators as part of a movie that I was watching — but also that my friends watched, and that people watched in school and was a topic of conversation — was Stand and Deliver. Funnily enough, it was written and directed by Ramon Menendez, who directed the very first job I ever had, which was a Disney Channel movie called Gotta Kick It Up!. I was probably in middle school [the first time I saw it] and that was such a moment for me. I had never seen American Latinos in an American classroom speaking English and being American in that way before.


Selena was a really big one for me for the same reasons [as Stand and Deliver]. Yes, she was Latina, but she sang in Spanish and she was truly an American. That was the first time I felt — as a young person who knew that I wanted to be a storyteller, that I wanted to be an actress, that I wanted to be involved in the media world — to see not only her story being treated with enough value to be in the mainstream media, but then having it make Jennifer Lopez a star and being an example of success. There was — however unlikely for many — a path to our contributions, our artistic presence in mainstream culture.


The year that Real Women Have Curves came out, we were doing the festival circuit at the same time that Y tu mamá también was doing the festival circuit. I remember being so blown away by the film for so many reasons: that Mexican filmmakers were thought of as auteurs, that [it had a] performance and story that was not about identity. It was about friendship and love and lust and a million other things, but it wasn’t about proving that you were American; that was very much the stories I had been exposed to when it comes to Latinx stories. It just brought in, for a lot of obvious reasons, my idea of Latinx filmmakers and storytellers and what was possible.


I’m at a loss of whether or not Brazil is considered Hispanic … I’m not sure. But City of God [is] obviously such an impactful film. Watching such a social topic be depicted in a narrative film, that was another really crucial [moment]. Seeing how the medium could accomplish another level of storytelling and social commentary, that was an incredibly inspiring film moment for me.


I was just so moved and so inspired by that film — all the technical filmmaking, how gorgeous it was, how beautifully it was shot, how skilled the storytelling was — but also just the specificity of that story. It was so stunning and such a beautiful example of how many small, tiny worlds we have yet to see on film; this small, tiny community that does dance and music in this specific way. It was just gorgeous and really just breathtaking.


(Photo by Netflix)

Whitney Friedlander for Rotten Tomatoes: At the end of the first season, it was revealed that grandfather Casimiro “Pop” Morales (Joaquín Cosío) was undocumented and he was arrested. During the premiere episode of season 2, he is reunited with his family. His grandchildren want to tell the world his story. He doesn’t. Why was that important to show?

America Ferrera: One of the things Marvin and Linda and I talked about really early on was this difference between the way this new generation of young people in this country — first-generation or undocumented themselves — are fighters. They started Dreamers and they pushed for legislation and they’re undocumented and unafraid. But that’s very different from generations past have dealt with the issue of being undocumented.

Right at the top [of the first episode] there’s a joke where Pops says, “Soy illegal,” [his grandson, J.J. Soria’s] Erik’s like “You can’t say that. You have to say ‘undocumented’; ‘illegal’ isn’t the word.” And he’s like, “Whatever with your PC words.” And that’s is very much at the core of the difference between how this younger generation feels entitled to show up and fight and to be undocumented and unafraid, but how someone in Pop’s generation wouldn’t think of showing up for the fight in this way.

The U.S. Latinx population was strongly hit by COVID-19. But you chose to set Gentefied in a COVID-free world. What was behind that decision?

Ferrera: There were conversations about whether or not to include COVID. Marvin and Linda didn’t want to go there from the beginning. And, ultimately, I think that that was the right choice to make … there’s something nice about diving into something for entertainment value and for some level of escapism — even if it deals with real-life issues — to see a world in which that wasn’t a concern.


(Photo by Netflix)

You directed the second season season premiere of Gentefied as well as two other episodes this season. What did it mean to direct the premiere? Especially since it has that emotional family reunion in the opening?

Ferrera: Everything about this project has been such a dream. As an executive producer, to get to champion the voices of Marvin and Linda — and then to have a crew that has Latinx people in every department, heading many of the departments, it’s so rewarding on so many levels. And in addition to that, I’ve gotten to direct and grow as a director and be courageous and brave and take risks and tell stories that really resonate with me.

We left season 1 a real cliffhanger with Pops being arrested and us revealing his undocumented status. So we come right in in season two and pick up where we left off and really let everyone know where Pops at and what’s going on and setting up his arc for the whole season, which is that he’s going to be in this process of not knowing whether he’s going or whether he’s staying. It’s a lot of expectation to fill. But it was exciting. And it was challenging.

You’ve given us a list of five films that inspire you. You’ve worked in a lot of disciplines. Do you watch films now from a specific perspective, be it from the point of view of an actor, director, etc.?

Ferrera: At the beginning, I definitely have my student hat on. I’m like ‘What’s their opening shot?’ And then, there’s those amazing, transcendent moments when all of that goes away because the storytelling is so phenomenal or because you get pulled in by a character or you get pulled in by a sequence of images. Then I come out of that and go ‘Wait a second! Oh my gosh! I have to go back and rewatch that and understand what just happened.’ I think it’s fun to watch with the part of the brain that’s trying to understand it and then to see at what points that part gets completely overtaken by just being moved by a story. But I’m definitely an active watcher. I’m definitely actively looking to see how is this making me feel and why. And then I’m always pleasantly awed when when I’m swept away and taken out of that active viewing mindset.

Gentefied season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

TBS 4/20 Disney adenture rt labs critics edition E! Comedy Central reboot superman reviews IFC Universal Pictures sag awards social media Music toronto Tomatazos kong MCU stop motion name the review Emmy Nominations Cartoon Network video on demand Amazon Studios revenge game show spider-verse Apple Toys OWN Pirates dramedy summer TV preview all-time Mary poppins richard e. Grant Cosplay Television Academy BAFTA Sci-Fi Tumblr Mindy Kaling Paramount Network composers Britbox wonder woman BBC One Spectrum Originals Marathons Best and Worst teaser Warner Bros. Set visit natural history Star Trek Fantasy FX Pop Peacock Best Actor The Walking Dead Sneak Peek Nat Geo renewed TV shows prank Mystery free movies technology MTV FXX TruTV international 93rd Oscars cats elevated horror hist debate Dark Horse Comics rt archives laika festivals anime Watching Series ESPN talk show obituary 24 frames 2015 Countdown cults venice Awards Comedy sequels Premiere Dates crossover hispanic heritage month based on movie marvel cinematic universe franchise GIFs Heroines scene in color comic books godzilla See It Skip It genre rt labs Certified Fresh Endgame psychological thriller true crime saw game of thrones olympics Star Wars A24 Calendar singing competition Comics on TV king arthur feel good Hallmark strong female leads Television Critics Association Alien twilight Lifetime Christmas movies President Film Festival diversity blaxploitation 21st Century Fox Black Mirror ViacomCBS Polls and Games IFC Films war Paramount dark streaming superhero documentaries festival 007 justice league Trailer RT21 mutant New York Comic Con Crunchyroll gangster First Reviews 94th Oscars Oscars Interview australia 2020 DC streaming service crime drama criterion Opinion Vudu christmas movies Best Picture live event crime thriller black comedy 90s Country Year in Review king kong Mary Tyler Moore cooking indiana jones spider-man Superheroe Pixar VH1 vampires documentary docudrama stand-up comedy CBS All Access HBO Max Lucasfilm comic high school dexter werewolf Writers Guild of America binge 79th Golden Globes Awards History Classic Film critics trophy Character Guide Academy Awards pirates of the caribbean dragons jurassic park 72 Emmy Awards police drama adventure SDCC new york rotten movies we love Amazon Fargo witnail canceled Drama Teen X-Men Epix legend facebook VOD football Captain marvel Infographic Winners Legendary Amazon Prime Video Pop TV supernatural Turner Classic Movies know your critic Instagram Live San Diego Comic-Con quibi TV One disaster FOX Walt Disney Pictures asian-american Tubi comics First Look The Arrangement versus spy thriller YA Wes Anderson Rock unscripted popular screen actors guild animated slasher book adaptation Martial Arts FX on Hulu hidden camera films Ellie Kemper Avengers classics docuseries green book 73rd Emmy Awards anthology dc Biopics new zealand Travel Channel video Red Carpet Starz TNT best PlayStation Brie Larson American Society of Cinematographers vs. indie biography political drama Horror Action discovery DirecTV BET Awards Lionsgate South by Southwest Film Festival Image Comics science fiction Tags: Comedy Funimation comedies BBC America Pride Month Stephen King streaming movies ABC Family TCA emmy awards movies Valentine's Day news Adult Swim Pet Sematary PaleyFest remakes posters aliens E3 leaderboard Grammys The Walt Disney Company royal family USA Network Fall TV Women's History Month Spring TV mission: impossible Marvel Studios serial killer GLAAD zero dark thirty Acorn TV art house CW Seed YouTube Premium kids NBA 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2017 french DC Universe japan trailers Schedule Holidays Lifetime chucky nbcuniversal Sony Pictures Hollywood Foreign Press Association Election scary Tarantino Hallmark Christmas movies fast and furious action-comedy Esquire doctor who award winner Nominations Universal independent heist movie Baby Yoda The Purge Sundance TV golden globes ghosts golden globe awards satire ABC Signature SXSW lord of the rings young adult Song of Ice and Fire foreign politics Neflix parents Netflix stoner El Rey women Best Director mob BBC National Geographic Animation Paramount Plus Family aapi concert child's play Rocketman thriller 2018 romantic comedy cancelled TV shows The CW boxoffice Video Games medical drama jamie lee curtis DC Comics comic book movies TV VICE hollywood target RT History comiccon Reality universal monsters directors blockbuster slashers Trophy Talk Emmys YouTube Red adaptation Holiday Syfy Awards Tour MSNBC TV Land psycho WGN 45 Elton John latino The Witch MGM Summer space nfl spinoff die hard period drama finale PBS Winter TV robots Comic-Con@Home 2021 travel sitcom Disney streaming service Mudbound tv talk Hear Us Out Marvel Television Spike hispanic TCM IMDb TV zombies TIFF television TV movies rom-coms live action fresh blockbusters dogs Shondaland Disney Plus theme song japanese series WarnerMedia spanish language Black History Month south america Crackle cancelled ABC Comic Book Mary Poppins Returns basketball Best Actress Kids & Family HBO Bravo archives Super Bowl boxing ratings Western nature biopic Sundance crime NBC Columbia Pictures Discovery Channel 2016 miniseries harry potter Chilling Adventures of Sabrina HFPA Ovation toy story Food Network worst historical drama Nickelodeon worst movies a nightmare on elm street TCA 2017 Cannes Arrowverse Exclusive Video Hulu scary movies NYCC Musicals black Disney+ Disney Plus deadpool sopranos Ghostbusters what to watch Pacific Islander halloween Photos mockumentary kaiju critic resources Amazon Prime canceled TV shows casting transformers dceu Binge Guide spanish Sundance Now Quiz breaking bad Disney Channel LGBTQ Apple TV+ Focus Features halloween tv cancelled TV series CMT cancelled television marvel comics suspense TCA Winter 2020 mcc Netflix Christmas movies scorecard zombie romance Thanksgiving BET ITV Tokyo Olympics Superheroes cinemax CBS children's TV joker james bond Turner Creative Arts Emmys Shudder Freeform Film Extras 71st Emmy Awards Fox Searchlight SXSW 2022 streamig OneApp screenings new star wars movies 1990s sequel SundanceTV Masterpiece HBO Go summer TV dreamworks Marvel Oscar Prime Video Broadway italian ID LGBT DGA Apple TV Plus Showtime 2021 obi wan YouTube AMC Plus Podcast TCA Awards Trivia comic book movie Musical summer preview 20th Century Fox Chernobyl razzies batman Anna Paquin USA telelvision Rom-Com Logo TLC Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt CNN cars sports spain 99% Reality Competition Rocky rotten monster movies Box Office 2019 APB The Academy A&E Christmas book cartoon Fox News GoT cops movie AMC TV renewals