Freddie Prinze Jr. Opens Up About Not Getting Many Opportunities To Represent His Latino Heritage During His Career

Miguel (Freddie Prinze Jr.) in Christmas with You
(Image credit: Netflix)

Freddie Prinze Jr. spent most of his career playing the traditional All-American boy (or man) next door. Those roles appeared to subvert a key part of Prinze Jr.’s background – his Latino heritage. Despite his cultural background, the I Know What You Did Last Summer star rarely ever got the chance to tap into that side of himself. The Netflix Christmas movie Christmas with You marked the first time his and his character’s backgrounds matched from the beginning. He plays single dad and teacher Miguel in the holiday film. After the movie dropped, FPJ spoke about not getting many opportunities to represent his Latino heritage onscreen.

Playing roles like Scooby-Doo’s Fred Jones and She’s All That’s Zack Siler didn’t tap into Prinze Jr.’s Latino background. He’s only played Latinos in two prior roles, including the Punky Brewster revival, before the Christmas film premiered, which Netflix subscribers can check out. Despite this disadvantage in his career, FPJ got props from the Latino community for playing against stereotypes. While his culture was proud of him, the IKWYDLS star felt Hollywood questioned his background before scoring the Netflix movie. In his words:

I've received nothing but love from Latino taxi drivers to business owners talking about being inspired by seeing a Latino who’s not running from the cops or dealing drugs. But within the industry, I've always met with a ton of resistance by directors wanting to check my Latino heritage and see just how much I know, which has always been crazy to me. … So, when Gabriela brought this to me, all I wanted was the opportunity to earn her respect. … So, all I wanted was the opportunity to earn that respect, she gave it to me. And brotha, I’ve been ready[for] 25 years for that opportunity.

While viewers loved him in 1990s teen classics like She’s All That and Summer Catch, Prinze Jr. felt cheated out of portraying characters who showed his culture in a positive light. Hollywood basically told the actor he wasn’t Latino enough to play those roles. He didn’t look or sound the part, so directors couldn’t see him playing into his heritage. They only saw him as Freddie, Zack or Ray Bronson, i.e. more traditional white roles instead. So playing a single Latino dad in a Netflix movie was a win for him.

FPJ felt he had to fight throughout his career to push for his Latino heritage to be front and center, not an afterthought. While he faced pushback from the film industry, irony came into play as his heritage wouldn’t be a factor until he was cast in a role. The Scooby-Doo star said this to Yahoo! about projects including his heritage as a tick on the diversity checklist:

Every Latino you've seen me play was always an after-the-fact thing. The role would be named 'Mike Smith' and they'd say, 'Oh, we hired Freddie, so we can show people how diverse we are.' And all of a sudden, his name is 'Miguel Ramirez.' And that doesn't count man! That does not count. This was something that was very important to me, and a big reason of why I signed onto this movie.

Compared to previous stunt casting, the voice actor felt playing Miguel in Christmas with You was more genuine as the cultural hallmarks and traditions were already in place. They didn’t get added after he was cast as the role was written with him in mind. That appears to be why the Christmas movie is his first major live-action movie  appearance in years. He has hinted at returning to the genre that made him famous – horror, so maybe fans will get to see more of FPJ where he taps into his Latino heritage.

You can catch Freddie Prinze Jr. in another live-action appearance with his cameo in the positively-received Clerk III, which is currently available through an Amazon Prime Video subscription. While you’re there, check out his classic films like She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer on the streamer. Check out what other Christmas movies are premiering this holiday season.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).