×

‘One Day at a Time’ Team Talks Exploring Immigration and Racism

In its first two seasons, “One Day at a Time” told stories about immigration, but in its upcoming third year, it won’t lean into that issue as heavily.

“By existing, we are political in this landscape,” executive producer Gloria Calderon-Kellett said at Netflix’s Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show on Sunday. “We don’t tackle that specific thing this year, but in real life I’m trying to tackle it.”

However, Calderon-Kellett is more concerned with telling stories about the genuine Latinx community’s experience than intentionally headline-ripping. She pointed out that in the show’s first season, when they revealed the character of Carmen (Ariela Barer) to be undocumented, “there was none of this going on” in the news.

However, both she and star Justina Machado noted that “it was something that had been going on in our community.” It wasn’t news to them, but “then this administration happened and now more people are aware,” Machado said.

In the second season of the show, family matriarch Lydia (Rita Moreno) was revealed to also not be a citizen and the show followed her journey to become one. The goal was to “humanize the Latinx experience in this country,” Calderon-Kellett said.

Another way the show wanted to do this in the second season, Calderon-Kellett recalled, was with a story that saw Alex (Marcel Ruiz) hitting a kid who had called him a “wetback,” among other names. Calderon-Kellett said the story was born from a similar experience her own brother had.

“My brother is very dark…and I’m very white-passing, so a lot of times people will say things about Latinos in my presence,” she admitted.

But recently her brother called her and told her he was at the beach in San Diego, Calif. with his kids and “someone told him to go back to Mexico.”

Calderon-Kellett said they were both very surprised because they had lived in the area for a long time and it was a diverse area. But having the show open up a discussion not only about the use of a racial slur against a marginalized person, but also about the misconception that all brown people are from the same place “felt important.”

It was a story poignant for its young cast, as well. Ruiz, who moved to the United States six years ago from Puerto Rico, said that he would often “spend like five hours” trying to explain to the kids at school that there are differences between Greek, Mexican, Dominican cultures.

“[We have a character who’s] brown in a community that’s telling him maybe he doesn’t belong here [so] we will continue to tell those stories, for sure,” Calderon-Kellett said.

Isabella Gomez, who plays Elena, said she and Barer used to have conversations about the industry and how they faced racism, and Gomez’s answer was that she’d hadn’t — “but when I read that script, I was like ‘Oh, I’m white passing. My entire life makes sense.'”

“It was at teaching moment,” she said.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    Sean Penn Drama 'The First' Was 'Unrelatable' to British Audiences, Channel 4 Exec Says

    Channel 4’s director of programs Ian Katz says the British broadcaster has learned a good lesson from the failure last year of its big-budget Hulu co-production “The First” to resonate with U.K. audiences. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Katz described the Sean Penn-starring drama about a mission to Mars as a “really classy piece [...]

  • Hugh Laurie

    Hugh Laurie to Star in New BBC Thriller 'Roadkill' by David Hare

    Hugh Laurie, the Golden Globe-winning star of “House” and “The Night Manager,” will play a beleaguered politician in a new four-part thriller for the BBC, “Roadkill,” from acclaimed playwright and screenwriter David Hare. The series is being produced by The Forge (“Collateral”). Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a charismatic Conservative Party government minister who remains [...]

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content