When Ugly Betty wrapped up its four season-run in 2010, it was the only show on network television to have centered around a Latina woman. The cult-like popularity and critical praises for Ugly Betty (lead star America Ferrera collected an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award) could have spawned more lead roles for Latina actresses, similar to what ABC’s Scandal arguably did for black actresses. But it didn’t.
Since Scandal premiered in 2013, there has been a demand to increase the quantity as well as to improve the quality of representation for black women on network TV. Now, there’s How to Get Away with Murder, Empire and Shots Fired, an upcoming series about a police shooting starring Sanaa Lathan, to name a few. But it seems that the interest in recent years to diversify the television landscape has had a ripple effect for other actresses of color. Post-Ugly Betty, there are four Latina actresses currently playing lead roles on network TV with three of them on NBC: Ferrera on Superstore, Jennifer Lopez on Shades of Blue and Eva Longoria on Telenovela. Each show is on its freshman season. The fourth actress is Gina Rodriguez on Jane the Virgin airing its second season on the CW.