Writing for TV’s Devious Maids marked a big step for this seasoned playwright—and for Latina visibility in Hollywood.
As an actor, director and dramatist, Tanya Saracho has long explored the lives of people whose voices have not been heard. The author of Kita y Fernanda, Our Lady of the Underpass and other plays, the Mexican-born Saracho, 37, cofounded and led Chicago’s acclaimed Teatro Luna, the first all-Latina theater ensemble. Then it was off to Hollywood to become a writer for Devious Maids and an upcoming HBO series. Through it all, the self-described “border girl” says she was inspired by the laughter, the sharing and the dreams of her Latina friends.
Lifetime’s Devious Maids is the first show ever to feature five Latinas in leading roles. As a Latina, how did that make you feel?
That’s why I did it! Because five Latinas had leading roles. I saw the pilot when I was being interviewed and I said, “I want in. I want to write for those women.”
The show received a lot of criticism for what many considered to be stereotypical portrayals of Latinas—maids cleaning up after rich people. What did you make of the backlash?
I understood it. Look at our history—we have not been treated well in the media. We’re still the gangbangers, the prostitutes and the maids. I just wanted our community to watch and see that what we were doing, we were going to do right. We’re telling the lives of five women who happen to be Latinas who happen to be maids—not so much that these are Latina maids. They have their own dreams and their own flaws. But take it for what it is—this is from the same creator as Desperate Housewives. The genre is sexy soap. It’s not The Wire.
Do you think a non-Latino writer could capture the essence of a Latina character?
Throughout history people have been writing about other people and cultures they haven’t experienced themselves. The imagination is a great thing, so it’s possible. There are mostly white writers at Devious Maids, and they do a great job. But there is something that happens when you let us speak for ourselves!
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