Having previously starred in one of the most beloved comedies of the past 25 years, That '70s Show, Wilmer Valderrama is currently a major part of the biggest drama on TV with CBS' NCIS. As such, he's obviously quite used to spending a lot of time in the public eye, and understands how significant that widespread attention can be in terms of inspiring others. Now, Valderrama is reflecting on the importance of being a person of color on television.
Having been a major part of the NCIS ensemble since 2016 with Season 14, Wilmer Valderrama has won over millions of fans as Special Agent Nick Torres. Speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Valderrama gave a big reason why he and others have an important function in the world of entertainment. In his words:
[People of color] have a major responsibility in this moment in time to continue to create images that our younger generation can look up and say, 'Hey, that's me or that looks like me.' Now, more than ever, we need to inspire these roles.
Of course, Wilmer Valderrama is no stranger to doing behind-the-scenes work for a good cause. Back in 2016, the actor co-created the organization Harness with Superstore's America Ferrera and her husband, director Ryan Piers Williams. Harness' purpose is largely to connect the voices of activists and artists to share stories and inspire collaborative efforts to bring about social changes and developments.
Not that Wilmer Valderrama can promote his own organization within the narrative context of NCIS. When it comes to that show and others, though, the actor spoke more about the importance of using on-screen roles and the TV medium to keep reminding people of color about the opportunities out there in the world.
We have to inspire and create awareness for other alternatives for young people. I'm excited that we're part of that small contribution…As people of color, we can represent and be proud and move forward hand in hand, because this is gonna take all of us to really be on the same page.
As the most-watched network on TV, CBS in particular has constant opportunities to prop up people of color and put them in the spotlight. Granted, there are currently only three people of color in lead roles on NCIS – with Diana Reasonover and Rocky Carroll alongside Wilmer Valderrama – and there weren't exactly a ton that came before.
Plus, CBS hasn't had the best reputation in recent years for unbiased diversity, and it was only this week that MacGyver and Magnum P.I. boss Peter Lenkov got fired from both shows due to problematic behavior allegedly taking place behind the scenes. All that said, Valderrama could very well head up a new era where people of color are as prevalent on CBS series as ever.
Wilmer Valderrama's role on That '70s Show has been the subject of its own mini-backlash recently, with many making renewed efforts to call out the character's stereotypes as a foreign exchange student. However, Fez's nationality and accent were never given an origin, which was one of the show's biggest recurring jokes.
NCIS Season 18 is currently still set to debut in September on CBS, but with production lockdowns still in place across much of the country, it will be interesting to see if that plan still goes forward. For now, you can check out everything that is currently confirmed for later this year via our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule.