Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Betcha Didn't Know...?

Some of the most notable names from the dawn of film and television are of Latino descent. Here are some of them.

In this edition, some Latinos who have often played by and are often assumed to be strictly African Americans.

Tatyana Ali (1979- ), born Tatyana Marisol Ali, is an American actress and R&B singer, best known for her role as Ashley Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Born in North Bellmore, Long Island, New York, U.S.A. to an Afro-Panamanian mother and an Indo-Trinidadian father, she began her acting career at the age of six, where she was a regular child performer on "Sesame Street" and a recurring character in "The Cosby Show." She joined "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" at the age of 11. After the run of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" concluded six years later, she released her first album, Kiss The Sky. The album spawned the hit songs "Daydreamin'," "Boy You Knock Me Out" (featuring Will Smith) and "Everytime." She was also featured (along with MC Lyte) on Will Smith's song Who Am I?" for Smith's album Willennium. She also graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in political science and African American studies. Along with her musical career, she kept acting in many films. In film, she has worked with directors such as Takeshi Kitano, Rodrigo García, among others. She is currently preparing to release her second album, entitled The Light. She is currently a recurring character on the CBS soap opera "The Young and the Restless" and can be seen in "Love That Girl!" on TV One as the lead character.

Stacey Dash (1966- ), born Stacey Lauretta Dash in the Bronx, New York, U.S.A., is a film and television actor of Mexican and African American descent. Her first major film role was in the Richard Pryor comedy Moving in 1988. She also had sizable roles in Mo' Money and Renaissance Man during this time. She received her big break with the 1995 film Clueless, which starred Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy. The following year, the film spawned a television spinoff, also called "Clueless," in which she reprised her film role; the series ran from 1996–1999. After the television series ended, she appeared in several films such as View from the Top, Gang Of Roses and Getting Played (2005). She also has appeared in small guest roles on television shows such as "Eve," "The Game" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

André Royo (1968- ), is an actor best known for his role as Bubbles in the critically acclaimed television series "The Wire." Born in the Bronx, New York, U.S.A. to African American and Cuban parents, his career took off when John Singleton gave him a role in the 2000 remake of the film Shaft. He later had starring appearances in the television series "Fringe," "Party Down," "Heroes" and "Kenan and Kel." Film credits include Remnants, Red Tails, G, Movie Money and The Miracle of Spanish Harlem. His portrayal as heroin addict/police informant Bubbles on the television series was so convincing that during filming, he was once approached by a real life addict and given heroin, with the compassionate addict declaring that the in-character actor "needed a fix more than" him. He has called this his "street Oscar." He currently several films in various stages of film and post-production.

Merlin Santana (1976–2002), born Merlin Thomas Santana in New York, New York, U.S.A. to Dominican parents, was an actor, best known for his roles on "The Cosby Show" and "The Steve Harvey Show." He began his career at the age of three as an advertising model for a fast food chain. His first screen appearance was as an extra in the Woody Allen film, The Purple Rose of Cairo. In 1991, he landed a recurring role on "The Cosby Show" as Stanley, the faithful admirer of the young Rudy Huxtable (played by Keshia Knight Pulliam). Other television credits include "Getting By," "Under One Roof," "Half and Half" and "Moesha." In 1996, he landed the role of Romeo Santana on "The Steve Harvey Show" (he asked producers to give his character, Romeo, a Latino surname, hence Santana). Film credits include Flossin', Play'd: A Hip Hop Story, Showtime (with Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro). On November 9, 2002, he was shot six times in the head while sitting in a parked car in South Los Angeles. He was 26 years old. Q.E.P.D.

Shar Jackson (1976- ), born Sharisse Jackson in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., to an African American/Native American mother and a Puerto Rican and Mexican father, is a television and film actor and rapper/singer best known for her portrayal of Niecy Jackson, the title character's best friend, on the UPN television series "Moesha." She co-starred in the films Good Burger, I Do... I Did! and Steppin': The Movie. She also appeared on "The Bernie Mac Show," "South Central," "My So-Called Life," "The Parkers," "Girlfriends" and "Everyone Hates Chris," among other television series. She was a singer in the pop group Mpulz and was included on The Princess Diaries soundtrack. The group released one album before disbanding. She was in a relationship with dancer Kevin Federline, with whom she has two children-- a daughter, Kori, and a son, Kaleb. In 2005, she started the S.H.A.R. Foundation, acronym for "Sharing, Helping And Reconciling lives." Its aim is to inspire others with her sense of strength and zest for life that turns life's unfortunate situations into empowering experiences.

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