Superstore, Ferrera’s first full-time commitment to a TV series since Ugly Betty, appealed to her because of creator Justin Spitzer’s point of view. He wrote the characters without a specific ethnicity in mind; “He was just casting the best actors for the roles,” Ferrera says. “That awareness was already there.”
And as a producer on the series, Ferrera is constantly having conversations with her team about diversity. “How do we defy expectations? How do defy stereotypes? Where are the opportunities to undercut what people expect?” she says. “Those are questions we're asking all the time and that's very important to me.”
In recent months, Ferrera has become even more outspoken about diversity and, in particular, tokenism on TV. “Tokenism is about inserting diverse characters because you feel you have to; true diversity means writing characters that aren’t just defined by the color of their skin, and casting the right actor for the role,” she wrote in a guest column for Deadline. “Diversity is on everyone’s agenda today, but it’s something I’ve had to think about my entire career, because, in a way, it’s like the tax you pay for being a person of color in this industry.”
MORE: America Ferrera Talks 'Powerless' Feeling as an Actor of Color in Hollywood
“As an audience member, I find myself wanting roles that are female or roles that are women of color to represent a certain thing," Ferrera explains to ET. "But as an actor, an unequal burden falls upon actors of color to have every role say something and represent something.”
That pressure, it seems, isn’t only on Ferrera. Aziz Ansari, star and co-creator of Netflix’s Master of None, says that “when you're a minority and have a voice, it can be a little daunting sometimes because there are so few voices of your kind because you're a minority.”
His critically acclaimed series tackled issues of diversity, calling out Hollywood for its ignorance in using brown face and examining what it means to be Indian-American.
“Your voice is amplified in the community and there's this pressure to handle that in a certain way,” Ansari says. “You know, what can you do? You're not going to please everybody.”