NPH Accused of Cultural Insensitivity in Portrayal of Latina Character

Saturday November 13, 2021

Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris  (Source:Associated Press)

When Neil Patrick Harris's new Netflix series premieres next year, don't expect to see the Latina housekeeper found in the show's pilot script. According to a report in Variety, the character of a housekeeper in the upcoming "Uncoupled," in which NPH plays a suddenly single, middle-aged gay man, has been cut after a Latin actress communicated to the show's creative cast that she found the character offensive.

Ada Maris, who has worked in television and films since the 1980s, came across the script for the show's pilot in late September and was shocked by a small role of a housekeeper that she found to be well over the line into offensive.

"When I opened it and saw that it wasn't even funny — it was hurtful and derogatory — I was shocked because I walked in expecting something very different given the way things are nowadays and the progress we've made," Maris told Variety.

In a statement to Variety, Netflix apologized to Maris and said the character was no longer part of the series.

"We're sorry that Ms. Maris had a negative experience, and this character will not appear in the series," a Netflix spokesman said.

In the episode, written by created by the show's creators Darren Star and Jeffrey Richman, the housekeeper character, Carmen, has two scenes. In the first, she is "introduced as being 'nearly hysterical on the phone' with Michael because she thinks there's been a burglary in the apartment when she sees that Colin's possessions are missing," writes Variety.

"Mister, I just get here and they stole!" she says.

The broken English continued in Carmen's following line: "They stole! They rob you! I don't know how they get in."

In the second scene, Carmen takes a glass that Michael has just washed at a sink and says, "No, I do that. You don't clean good, you always leave a ring."

Maris was so disturbed she ranted at her agent for sending it to her. She also said she was "surprised that prominent gay men such as Star and Harris would not be more sensitive to caricatural portrayals of people from marginalized communities.

"You are modern gay men. How would you like to watch or play an outdated, offensively stereotypical gay part?" Maris said.

She penned her outrage to Star and Harris that she shared with Variety.

"Sometimes people have to sit with the discomfort," Maris said. "I would hope they would rethink this. I would hope they would recognize the harm that it does to everyone. Both to people who are Latino and people who are not."

"Representatives for Harris, Star and Richman declined to comment, as did MTV Studios. It's unclear if the backlash from Maris influenced the decision to drop the character. "Uncoupled" announced five supporting cast members on Oct. 25, but the Carmen character was not among the roles."