Jaime Camil on the Power of Comedy and Highlighting Diverse Voices in Hollywood (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
“Comedy is a great tool to get serious subjects across,” Jaime Camil tells ET about the power of humor and laughter. “There are so many examples of how to use comedy to get a message across.”
The Jane the Virgin actor, who portrays the lovable and charming Rogelio de la Vega on the CW series, has always been a fan of using humor to touch on important topics and spread awareness. Throughout his career, he's chosen roles that not only showcase his comedic chops but bring light to sensitive subjects.
"I think comedy is a very powerful tool to get important messages across and to get your voice heard,” Camil, 45, expresses. "That’s why Jane the Virgin is so successful in touching subjects like immigration, illegal immigration, DREAMers, abortion and cancer. These are very serious topics that we talk about on the show. [Showrunner] Jennie Urman and her amazing team of writers approach these subjects very respectfully, but within the craziness of the Jane the Virgin universe, which is super crazy and comedic -- but we have opened the space to talk about these very sensitive subjects."
Camil, who's created a respectable career in his native Mexico, explains that he’s been "very fortunate enough" to work on projects that have "some kind of beautiful message." He credits a handful of those roles to working alongside showrunner and producer Rosy Ocampo.
"I have done three projects with her and I have been fortunate enough that every single project I do with her has some kind of beautiful message to it," he shares. “Like Por Ella Soy Eva, my character dressed as a woman and it [taught others to] to respect women. La Fea Mas Bella was about how beauty is within and to not focus on superficial appearances."
“We try to [send positive messages], but we are entertaining nevertheless,” he stresses. “We want to give people a good time. We want people to enjoy themselves, but at the same time, we’re using comedy as a very powerful tool to get across these sensitive subjects. It’s always good to leave some kind of message or leave some kind of ‘aprendizaje,’ like lesson. Sometimes you are going to be able to do it, and sometimes you’re just meant to entertain. And that’s fine.”
Part of his ongoing mission to spread awareness and give back is to also bring more Latinx characters to the screen and depict them in a respectable manner.
“There’s still a lot to do and a huge road to pave [in Hollywood for Latinx actors],” Camil details. “But I think it helps to have greater organizations like the National Hispanic Media Coalition, [among others]. You have so many organizations trying to depict Latinos in a more truthful way. They don’t have to be depicted as caricatures all the time. Sometimes, for some Hollywood studios or Hollywood producers, it is OK to have a minority in their films or in their projects as long as you make fun of them or as long as they’re a caricature, which is not OK. Which is why I love Jane the Virgin because it’s one of the first times that you see a Latino family as a normal, middle-class family in this country."
"They don’t need to have piñatas hanging from the ceiling as decoration, they don’t need to have shocking pink walls or be screaming 'tacos, fiesta, ra ra ra, ay,'" Camil explains. "So kudos to my showrunner, Jennie Urman, and The CW for allowing that and depicting a normal Latino family on television without it being a caricature. That’s amazing.”
In April, it was announced that Jane the Virgin was renewed for its fifth and final season.
As Camil wraps up the final episodes of the CW comedy and his movie, My Boyfriend's Meds, he still feels like there is a long way to go to change Latinx stereotypes and bring more diverse stories to the screen.
"We still have a lot to do,” he says. “We still have a long way to go. I think that we’re not even close to getting there, but definitely, we are doing the work that's needed to get there." But, the actor stresses that if you want to see change, you can't just talk about it, you must be proactive.
For example, Camil was recently invited to be part of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Class of 2018 and is doing everything he can within the program to give back to others. In the coming weeks, he will be working with the Academy’s Gold Program, which aims to boost inclusion in the film industry by exposing young people from underrepresented communities to various aspects of the business and letting them work with established figures in the industry.
“I’m going to start working in the next couple of weeks with an intern. I believe he or she will have a Latino background,” Camil excitedly shares.”He or she has been invited to the Academy internship program and for the next eight months, I will be their mentor. I’m doing my part. I check the box and I’m not the guy who will [sign up] and say, ‘Yeah, I [volunteered] because I was kind of excited but I don't think I’m going to have the time to do it.’ Oh, no! The hell with that! If you want to help inclusion, and you want to be a part of it, you have to do your part. And I think my part, among many other things that I do, was to get into the Academy Gold Member Program and help mentor an intern to help them.”
"To send the message that there's a lot of wonderful and positive things going on in our community -- that's what we should focus on," she explained. "At first, I was definitely trying to give information to the Latino communities. I think that the more that I do this, the more information and education will be given out [about] our power, and what we can do as a community when we unite together and start using our power for good. Obviously, I always think that's the best way to use it."