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Latino Trailblazer

Melissa Fumero

  • Gender: Female
  • University: New York University
  • Undergraduate Degree: Drama
  • Hometown: New York City
  • Position Title: Actress

Actor Melissa Fumero is most well-known for her role as Latina police officer Amy Santiago, in the award-winning American TV show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Now in its seventh season, the police procedural sitcom became noteworthy for casting two Latinas in starring roles. “At the time, that never happened,” Melissa said in an interview with US Magazine. In an interview with Latin Times, she stated, “I'm so proud to be on such a diverse show, but I'm also proud that our producers just cast people they liked regardless of what they looked like. It is groundbreaking, but they just shrug their shoulders and say, "’These are the people we wanted.’"

She first fell in love with the stage as a young child, taking dance classes and doing recitals. But it was seeing her first Broadway musical at the age of 10, she told Latin Times that “hooked” her, and prompted her to begin theatre and acting lessons, and to audition for roles in local plays and musicals. Her steady practice and perseverance earned her a spot at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in an acting-based musical theater program. There, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Drama.

Fresh out of college, she landed her first television role on the soap opera, One Life to Live, where she portrayed the character of Adriana for several years, before moving on to play a leading character in the independent film, Tiny Dancer. That was followed by guest spots on shows like The Mentalist, Gossip Girl, and CSI: NY. She eventually decided to pack her things and move cross-country, from New York to Los Angeles, in search of new opportunities, which ultimately led to her current role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. More recently, she and her Brooklyn Nine-Nine fellow-Latina co-star, Stephanie Beatriz, were featured in the Netflix reboot of One Day at a Time, alongside Latina superstars Rita Moreno and Gloria Estefan.

She recognizes the importance of her role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a means of adding texture to the representation of Latinos in mass media. In an interview with Latino USA, she said that the response she has received from young Latinas, particularly those who identify with the personality traits of her character has been a reminder of just how important it is to portray a variety of nuanced Latino characters on screen.

Her work on television has earned her professional recognition for her craft. Variety included her on its 10 Latinos to Watch list in 2016, and she won the 2015 National Hispanic Media Coalition Impact Award for Outstanding Performance in a Television Series. She was also a 2015, 2016, and 2019 Imagen Awards nominee for Best Supporting Actress in Television.