Working in Hollywood in the 21st century is an odd and unexpected experience for everyone, and no less for Latinos. The opportunities presented by 'small projects' have never been greater – hosting, independent films made on shoestrings, Kickstarter projects…and professionally produced programs that appear only (or primarily) on the internet.
Romina Peniche's work on "The Booth at the End" is a case in point. Romina, a beautiful young woman born and raised in Mexico City, came to Hollywood six years ago, and she's had some small success, with roles in "From Prada to Nada" and Felix Marti' award-winning indie, "Santiago." And now she's been seen by literally hundreds of thousands of viewers in an unexpected place: as part of the ensemble in Season Two of Xander Berkeley's understated oddity, "The Booth at the End," seen (and promoted heavily) by the online program aggregator/supplier, hulu.com.
You'd recognize Xander: he's a well-known character actor, an older man with a lined face and startling blue eyes, probably best-known for his stint on "24." He's co-producer as well as star of this strange 20-minute-at-a-time episodic, where various people – each with a fascinating story – comes to visit him to get "the thing they want the most."
And they'll get it…if only they perform a seemingly random task that The Man (Berkeley) requires of them. Some of the tasks, read from a mysterious, dog-eared book that never leaves The Man's hands, are innocuous (it seems); others are violent, even dangerous. And what each visitor doesn't know is that many of the stories are connected to each other – "dependent" on each other, in fact.
The Man's 'clients' have been old and young, Asian and Anglo, cocky and terrified…but none of them have been Latino until Season Two, when Romina showed up with her own heart's desire and her own task: To make six people cry.
She's very sweet in the series, and brings a much-needed dash of humor and warmth to an otherwise very spooky, even upsetting, series. You can see the first season (without Romina) and the first few episodes of Season Two (with Romina front and center), right here, on hulu.com. New episodes will be appearing every Monday, at least until this new cycle is complete, and then left for later viewing thereafter.
Experts say that more than "27 million" users log onto hulu.com regularly, though the actual stats are a closely guarded secret. How many of them actually watch the few hours of (heavily promoted) original programming is also unknown…but if as few as 1 in 10 are sampling "Booth at the End," Romina and her costars are enjoying a viewership that rivals most cable programming.
Still, along with other Hulu-original programming like "Battleground," a political drama, "Leap Year" a tale of corporate intrigue and infighting, and the romantic comedy "Dating Rules From my Future Self," none of whom have regular Latino cast members, "Booth at the End" represents a new and largely unnoticed opportunity – one that Romina Peniche has already discovered.