UT alum Isaac Gómez highlights authentic Latinx experiences through playwriting, screenwriting

Kiernan McCormick, Life & Arts Reporter

When Isaac Gómez returned to UT’s F.L. Winship Drama Building to accept the E. William Doty Distinguished Young Alumnus Award, he did so proudly carrying a bright pink and black program — a copy of his first published play, “La Ruta.” 

Gómez, a playwright and screenwriter known for his work on Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico,” graduated from UT in 2013 with a BA in theater and dance. Though he first began writing plays his freshman year as a way to help cope with the loss of a close friend, Gómez said he now strives to use his talent to accurately represent Latinx stories.

“Writing plays became something I just felt,” Gómez said. “(I) felt more of who I am, what I want to do and my purpose in this world as an artist.”

According to the College of Fine Arts website, the E. William Doty Distinguished Young Alumnus Award is given to alumni “who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary professional achievement and/or have demonstrated dedication to the College of Fine Arts.”

Gómez said his playwriting and screenwriting work is largely influenced by his identity as a Latinx individual who grew up on the Mexico-US border in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. This is reflected in his play “La Ruta”, his short film “Six Feet Apart” and his adaptation of “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.” Aside from drawing influence from his identity, Gómez said he found that his stories provide an environment the audience can see themselves in.

“The thing that really stuck with me during those shows were mostly Latina women who came up to me, (saying they) felt seen,” Gómez said. “There’s no other way of describing it, aside from, ‘Thank you for sharing parts of us that people don’t get to see.’” 

Kirk Lynn, associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance, said Gómez is the ideal recipient of the award because he embodies a sense of leadership and community, and he wants Latinx UT students to create impactful work in the arts. 

“(Gómez) wants UT to live up to its greatest promise, that one young man from theater, dance and television is not enough,” Lynn said. “He embodies that side of not just the hard work and the talent, but (also) community building and leadership.” 

Cassidy Browning, one of Gómez’s mentors during his time at UT, said Gómez’s hunger and drive helps make his work both special and powerful. 

“There is something radical in the making of self and the remaking of self that Isaac continues to do,” Browning said. “There’s a thirst for improvement (and) a never-ending hunger to keep producing.”

Gómez said he wants his work to reflect the true stories and experiences of Latinx people who live on the Mexico-US border, rather than the common narratives assigned to them in plays, television and films. 

“Just because something is set in El Paso doesn’t mean there’s gonna be this massive immigration raid or the cartels coming in and doing XYZ,” Gómez said. “These people are funny, ambitious, cruel, mean, cold, warm and complicated. I want to show the world the (Latinx community) that I see.”