Latinos and Latinas are still under-represented on the major networks, but over the years a number of memorable, iconic, talented, and just plain hot Latino actors have made their mark on television. So here’s a highlight reel of swoon-worthy actors for every generation.
Desi Arnez as Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy
Looking back, Ricky and Lucy Ricardo—played by real-life husband and wife Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball—weren’t far removed from the scripted “reality” fare on TV today. Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo was the straight man foil for Lucy’s madcap antics and Desi played him with perfectly suave, exasperation.
Freddie Prinze as Chico Rodriguez on Chico and the Man
Sadly, the success of Chico and the Man was cut short after only three years when comedian Freddie Prinze succumbed to his battle with drugs and depression at only 22 years old. In its short run, Chico showed American audiences that you can’t judge a book by its cover. A small step in the right direction for the TV industry!
Erik Estrada as Ponch Poncherello on CHiPs
Erik Estrada’s role as a California Highway Patrol Officer on CHiPs, catapulted him to heartthrob status—in 1979 People magazine included him on their list of ‘10 Sexiest Bachelors in the World.’ Take that George Clooney! Estrada grew up in Spanish Harlem and revived his flagging acting career in the 90s starring in the hugely popular telenovela Dos Mujeres, Un Camino.
Read Related: 10 Memorable Latina TV Characters
Jimmy Smits as Victor Sifuentes on L.A. Law
As distinguished, high-powered attorney Victor Cifuentes, Jimmy Smits earned an Emmy for his star-making portrayal of a Latino television character who wasn’t from the barrio and wasn’t a janitor, gardener, or undocumented immigrant. What a groundbreaking breath of fresh air! We fell in love with him again as Detective Bobby Simone on N.Y.P.D. Blue, and we loved to hate him as sadistic A.D.A. Miguel Prado on the third season of Dexter.
Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell
Those dimples! Those abs! That bubbly personality! By now Mario Lopez is a TV staple, hosting a diverse variety of shows including Extra and America’s Best Dance Crew. He first became the object of teenage crushes as loveable jock A.C. Slater on the classic Saturday morning teen comedy Saved by the Bell. Some of you may also remember how charmingly he handled the many animal mishaps and nervous guests on Pet Star.
Benjamin Bratt as Rey Curtis on Law & Order
Benjamin Bratt smoldered as detective Rey Curtis on the epically long running series Law & Order. He melted our hearts as he solved murders, spurned the advances of sultry suspects (including then real-life girlfriend Julia Roberts) as he struggled to care for his three children and keep his marriage together as his wife battles MS.
Danny Pino as Scotty Valens on Cold Case
Another smoldering, determinedly loyal detective (hey, they’re irresistible!), Scotty Valens also has to fend off the ladies as he struggles to care for his mentally ill girlfriend. We always secretly wanted Scotty to get together with his partner Lily.
Adam Rodriguez as Eric Delko on CSI: Miami
Collecting evidence and working in a lab never looked so good! Of course the sizzling Miami backdrop doesn’t hurt. Earnest, hard-working, crime scene analyst Eric Delko had viewers rooting for him throughout his decade-long run on CSI: Miami. With a role in the hunky man-candy extravaganza Magic Mike and more upcoming projects in the works, Adam Rodriguez’s star is definitely on the rise.
Michael Trevino as Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries
On TV’s response to the Twilight Saga, Michael Trevino battles his inner beast (and some vampires) as high school football hero, and werewolf, Tyler Lockwood. We can’t wait to see more of him!