Define American Releases Comprehensive Resource Guide for Best Practices on Immigrant Representation in TV and Film

Define American, a media advocacy and culture change organization that uses the power of narrative to humanize conversations about immigrants, has released today the 2021 edition of Telling Authentic Immigrant Stories: A Reference Guide for The Entertainment Industry, a comprehensive reference tool written for content creators, studios and production companies within Hollywood. With a focus on television and film, the guide is meant to inform and encourage best practices in telling immigrant stories and includes detailed descriptions, definitions, historical timelines, data and resources about specific communities, as well as insight into evolving topics such as DACA and climate displacement.

Define American, which has consulted on over 100 television and film projects including such popular TV shows as Grey’s Anatomy and Superstore, first released its entertainment media guide in 2017. The newly updated edition incorporates data and key findings from the organization’s 2020 television impact study published with USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center in which it revealed that only 12% of immigrant characters on TV consisted of AAPI immigrants – a community that represents 26% of the U.S. The resource also spotlights the Black immigrant population, revealing there were no depictions of Black undocumented characters on TV in 2019, according to the same study. The updated guide’s spotlight on AAPI and Black immigrants were produced in partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and The UndocuBlack Network, respectively.

Providing further critical insight into a timely global issue, Define American, in partnership with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the International Refugee Assistance Project, also illustrates in the guide the current realities of climate displacement facing immigrant communities across the globe.

“Our research shows that immigrants continue to be underrepresented on screen. As such, Hollywood has a unique opportunity, a unique power, and a unique responsibility to meet the moment and make meaningful cultural change by authentically and accurately telling the disparate stories of our country,” said Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Tony-nominated producer Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of Define American. “We are making great strides forward with more diverse and equitable hiring in front of and behind the camera, more inclusive stories, more immigrant writers, but we still have much work to do. We encourage content creators at every level to use this guide as a starting point in that journey.”

Commenting on the news, Nico Santos, star of Superstore and Crazy Rich Asians, stated: “The Define American team did amazing work with us at NBC’s Superstore over the years and helped me and the writers bring so much nuance to my character, Mateo. Even though I share so much of my personal journey with him – we’re both Filipino queer immigrants – the immigrant experience is not a monolith, and Define American is an incredible resource for those in the industry who want to tell our stories authentically.”

While immigrant experiences are broad and multi-faceted, narratives around immigration and the stories of undocumented people often play a key role in having enriched our nation and society. In addition to its entertainment media guide, Define American has released several other research studies and resource guides, including its report titled American Dreaming: The Roadmap to Resilience for Undocumented Storytellers, which highlights the mental health of undocumented storytellers in the movement. Define American is also one of the only organizations to provide grants that prioritizes undocumented and formerly undocumented artists.

To download “Telling Authentic Immigrant Stories: A Reference Guide for the Industry,” visit: