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:
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:
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.
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