EXCLUSIVE: Fox has signed talent holding deals with Mexican actors Martha Higareda and Adan Canto as part of an initiative to find untapped Latin American talent for its series. It was launched last year when Fox’s new head of casting Tess Sanchez, herself of Latino descent, met Mexican casting director Yolanda Guillen at a Latin filmmakers convention. Guillen was retained to conduct a four-week search for Fox in November and December. The network received tapes of a number of actors, many of them established TV performers south of the border, and flew in several that it felt had potential to cross over to U.S. television. Two of them, Higareda and Canto, were signed in talent deals and will be exposed to producers and directors of Fox’s current crop of pilots.

While Canto is an up-and-comer in Mexico and new to Hollywood, Higareda is established in her native country, where she is dubbed “the Mexican Sandra Bullock” and has had a presence in the U.S. for the past few years. She is repped by ICM and Untitled and has had roles in the films Smokin’ Aces 2 and Street Kings, the CBS pilot Skip Tracer and most recently a guest stint on CSI: Miami. She was also in the miniseries Carlos and the Lifetime movie Lies In Plain Sight and received a Mexican Academy Award nomination for her role in 2007’s Fuega Del Cielo. It is too early to tell what Fox pilot(s) Higareda and Canto will be cast in. Fox has a Latino-themed project in contention for a pickup: Silvio Horta’s Latino family dramedy centered on 3 sisters, which is executive produced by Fox’s biggest Latina star, American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez. There has been increased interest in Latin American talent among the broadcast networks. I hear Fox and ABC were both interested in Higareda, and ABC recently signed a talent deal with Gina Rodriguez, star of the Sundance movie Filly Brown. CBS has a new Latino family comedy on the air, Rob, whose cast includes top Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez in his first U.S. TV role. And Colombia-born Sofia Vergara stars in the top U.S. comedy series, ABC’s Modern Family. Canto is managed by Aida Bernal.