×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Bob Hearts Abishola’s’ Gina Yashere on Trump Administration Rhetoric: ‘It’s Helped With Television’

During a presidency in which ICE raids are the largest they have been in a decade (one from August resulted in almost 700 arrests), television writers are fighting back by telling more specific immigration stories in their series.

During the Television Academy’s “Immigration on Television: Stories From America” panel held Tuesday in Los Angeles, Calif., Bob Hearts Abishola” actor, producer and writer Gina Yashere expressed her feeling that the Trump administration’s polarizing stance on immigration has actually “helped with television.

Because of the horrible rhetoric that is coming out of what is supposed to be the highest office in the land, that has made people much more open to other stories now. The Trump thing has been horrible, but it has also been great in that way,” she said.

“Crazy Rich Asians” and “Superstore” actor Nico Santos agreed with Yashere’s sentiment about specificity in that storytelling, although he added that such desire goes beyond immigration to include wider stories about “people of color and LGBTQ people and the Latinx community.

“I think [if] a story like mine existed five, six, 10 years ago, it would be, ‘He’s Asian,’ and that would be it,” he said.

In NBC’s “Superstore,” Santos’ character Mateo is a gay, undocumented man of color working at the titular big box store. At the end of the fourth season of the show, the store was raided and Mateo was led away in an ICE van. Now in the fifth season, Mateo has been let out of the detention center, but the show still portrays the new struggles he faces as someone who has been outed as undocumented and is on the government’s radar.

Meanwhile, in “Bob Hearts Abishola,” the titular Abishola (played by Nigerian actor Folake Olowofoyeku) lives with her aunt and uncle, as well as young son, all of whom immigrated from Nigeria in search of a better life. The show talks about moving to America and discovering what it means to be black in America.

Racism in Nigeria is not quite the same as what African Americans have suffered over generations from slavery — of constantly being taught that they’re less than and having that subliminally injected into their brains,” Yashere said. “Nigerians that come from Nigeria might not necessarily understand that concept. Yeah, they suffered colonialism from the British coming in and all that, but the generational brainwashing has not occurred to them. There’s a kind of divide between the two cultures, which has never been seen on television before.”

Yashere said this type of story would never have happened without executive producer Chuck Lorre being open to hiring a Nigerian woman to write and staff a writers’ room.

What we got to do [is] get more people like Chuck bringing more people like us through,” Yashere said. “Then what happens is, I rise up the ranks, and I bring through more people like me. And that’s how we make change.”

More TV

  • Christmas Town Hallmark

    Hallmark Faces Holiday Controversy After Rejecting Ad With Same-Sex Couple

    Hallmark Channel this week delivered a sentiment very different from the ones found in its parent company’s greeting cards when its executives questioned an ad showing two women getting married — and barred the commercial from running on its schedule. Zola, a company that offers online wedding registries and wedding planning services, had been running [...]

  • THE BLACKLIST -- "Katarina Rostova (#3)"

    ‘The Blacklist’ Bosses on Delivering the 'Really Intense Family Drama That We've Been Promising for Seven Years'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Katarina Rostova,” the midseason seventh season finale of “The Blacklist.” Since “The Blacklist” began it has been building towards a confrontation between Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) and her biological mother, Katarina Rostova (Laila Robbins). That promised confrontation was front-and-center in the seventh season [...]

  • REEF BREAK - "Pilot" - When

    'Reef Break' Canceled After One Season at ABC

    “Reef Break” will not be back for a second season at ABC. The series debuted back in June on the broadcaster and aired 13 episodes, with the finale airing on Sept. 13. It starred Poppy Montgomery as Cat Chambers, Ray Stevenson as Jake Elliot, Desmond Chiam as Wyatt Cole, Melissa Bonne as Ana Dumont and [...]

  • Jeff Shell

    Jeff Shell: Who Is the NBCUniversal Heir Apparent?

    Analytical, decisive, loyal, fair, empowering. Those are just a few of the choice words industry insiders who have worked with incoming NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell — set to succeed current chief exec Steve Burke, as Variety exclusively reported — use to describe the longtime media exec.  On Universal’s North Hollywood lot, many insiders who work [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content