Zombies And Hollywood’s Diversity Problem: How Short-Form Films May Actually Be Helping

Written by Dana Sanchez

Moguldom got a chance to talk to Kelsey Scott and Mishel Prada, stars of the Emmy-nominated short-form web series, “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage.” We asked Prada and Scott if short-form is helping to solve Hollywood’s diversity problem. In Part 1 of this Moguldom series, we talk to Prada about zombies, diversity in Hollywood, and more.

As an actor, Mishel Prada is paid to help us think about what it might be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies crave human flesh.

“Stick the knife in the brain stem or the eye. Try not to make too make too much noise,” Prada says, and I get the feeling she’s only half joking.

A Miami native, Prada is an actor, writer and producer. She stars in AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage,” a short-form series. Short form is a relatively new Emmy Awards category.

Prada’s efforts helped earn her and the cast and crew an Emmy Award nomination for short-form in the upcoming awards ceremony on Sept. 17.

“Fear the Walking Dead” is the companion piece and prequel to post-apocalyptic drama “The Walking Dead,” which premiered in 2015, Deadline reported. Season 3 is airing through the summer. Two short-form series that gave a boost to “Fear” include “Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462,” which was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series in the first year that category was introduced in the Emmys.

“Flight 462” delivered 4.6 million-plus video streams, according to Shadow and Act.

The follow-up, “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage,” is another 16-part web series, with segments ranging from 40 seconds to a minute airing as promos during the much-watched seventh season of “The Walking Dead.” It stars Kelsey Scott and Prada as survivors making their way to Mexico through underground tunnels in a post-apocalypse world.

Prada spoke to Moguldom from Los Angeles, where she was helping a friend with an audition.

She shared her enthusiasm about short-form on the web as a way for artists from underrepresented populations to reach their audience.

Moguldom: In addition to acting, you’re writing and producing. Hollywood has a diversity problem. You talked earlier this year about being able to diversify the stories you’re telling (in a radio show with Cyrus Webb.) Talk more about that.

Mishel Prada: It’s really important with the stories (we tell) that people in Hollywood find a way to empower each other, to be part of the solution. Being in Hollywood has been a big catalyst. In writing the stories you get to be part of that solution. Very often by telling your story you give voice to someone who may not be able to. Short form is inclusive of web series. I feel that’s really where that form excels. There’s some really cool stuff happening now with giving an artist the ability to put their own work out there. There’s not as strong of a presence of a gatekeeper anymore. You can just go out and (shoot) on your cell phone. I think never in the history of the world has a single person been able to have such a wide reach and directly reach their fans. It gives you the audience, it gives you the reach — were seeing that politically with Black Lives Matter. Being able to use social media for that reach is incredibly vital. Something like the Women’s March wouldn’t have had such a reach if it hadn’t been for things like the new media. This new media is a very strong place for people who feel underrepresented to have a voice, whether it’s a short film or web series.

Moguldom: What is it like to be a woman in Hollywood in the film industry and how did you find your voice?

Mishel Prada: I feel that I am finding my voice every day. One of the most amazing things we’re capable of is changing our mind. I grew up in a very conservative Christian household and there were a lot of ideas that I have changed my mind about, like being a lot more inclusive and not believing people are going to hell because of certain ideas. I’ve grown to be really curious about other people vs deciding something is right or wrong. It’s a big shift in myself, knowing the parts of my upbringing that have served me and those that no longer serve. I sometimes think I’ve probably turned into something people shunned when I was younger. I just feel compassion and kindness and love is the religion I want to be close to. I feel stronger as a woman than I did a year ago, five years ago. With every new thing that I learn, it’s really exciting to be open to that and hearing other people and different ways of living. The show getting nominated for an Emmy was just a cool thing. You’re bringing to life the characters someone else has written. You just put it out in the world.

Moguldom: Talk about your background in Miami, and how the environment did/didn’t nurture you as an actor.

Mishel Prada: I grew up in Hialeah. A lot of people, when they think of Miami, think South Beach but the part that I grew up in was very Latin, predominantly Cuban but also Puerto Rican and Honduran. Where I grew up there were signs in some of the windows that said ‘We speak English’ and English was misspelled. I miss it a lot. It gives you a bit of identity. I think if I’d stayed there it would have been difficult to move forward. I’m happy to be experiencing living in L.A. — a global citizen. L.A. is thousands of miles away from Miami. If this was Europe it would be another country. I was just driving through Koreatown ( an L.A. neighborhood) this morning thinking it’s so cool that there’s this place where Korean culture is so mixed up with Mexican culture. You see it a lot in the food – mixing cultures. I love Korean tacos. I have a big mix (of cultures) but my main components are Dominican and Puerto Rican. I’m like a Caribbean hotpot.

Moguldom: In your acting you dwell in this post-apocolyptic world — something that’s not far from the minds of probably at least half the U.S. population, given the current political climate. Do you have any insights you can share from the experiences you’ve gained by pretending to survive in such an environment, even if it’s only make believe?

Mishel Prada: If a zombie comes, you have stick the knife in the brain stem or the eye. Try not to make too make too much noise. Going back to the (set of “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage,”) you see a lot of people’s true colors. You’re so much stronger working together than finding reasons to work apart. These ideas we have that we are so different and we have to fight each other — it doesn’t really make sense. Even on a (Hollywood) set everyone has their strengths. In order for it to work everyone has to bring their strengths to it and “Passage” expresses that in a really beautiful way. It’s about honoring each other’s strengths.

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