“Radar2021,” Telemundo’s English-language news and commentary YouTube series hosted and executive produced by Gabriela Fresquez and Grace González respectively, is back for a new season with an episode dropping on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET and every Thursday thereafter.
Launched last October as part of Telemundo’s “Decision 2020” initiative, a nonpartisan civic engagement effort aimed at providing Latinos with comprehensive information and resources on the 2020 election, and supported by the Google News Initiative, “Radar2021” explores politics and culture for a bicultural and bilingual Latinx audience. The show, which labels itself as “not your abuela’s show” on its Twitter profile, has thus far delved into the use of the term Latinx, queer Latinx identity, racism and colorism in the Latino community, among other issues — usually with a conversational and sometimes irreverent tone in a blend of reporting and documentary-style stories. Though still small in subscribership, the digital show is hot on the heels of two Imagen Awards nominations (which were announced last week). It is also a recently announced finalist in the streaming social justice category of the New York Festivals TV & Film Awards.
González, the executive producer, has had a career that spans more than 18 years in audiovisual production and documentary filmmaking, covering in-depth stories for Noticias Telemundo and CCTV. As an investigative reporter for Telemundo, she directed the Emmy-winning documentary “Los Niños Perdidos de Guatemala.” She also founded and operated her own production banner, Lupe Lupe Productions, based in Nicaragua. Fresquez previously hosted Inspira, an Imagen-nominated web docu-series that profiled influential Latino leaders in the United States, and has co-starred and guest-starred in more than 40 network TV shows and commercials.
Here, Fresquez and González discuss with Variety what they’re most proud of about “Radar2020,” and what their hopes are for “Radar2021”:
How did “Radar2020” come to be, and why did you both sign onto the project? What have you learned thus far working on it? What have been some of the more memorable segments?
González: We started “Radar” in the middle of a pandemic, so you can imagine that it’s always been a challenge. To see the content being well-received and that the conversations we’ve been having and bringing up with the community are being well-received is great, honestly.
Fresquez: The executives at Telemundo have been extremely supportive the entire way, so to see some outside recognition has been wonderful. Of the segments that people found the most memorable or that shocked and delighted our audiences, well, we tend to get a lot of feedback about our usage of the word Latinx on our show. Recently, we did an episode completely focused on this and we had a nuanced conversation about the term and the terminology, in general, that we use to describe our community, and that ended up being nominated for an Imagen Award. It was kind of cool to see that episode, in particular, get that type of attention. I think obviously whenever you’re dealing with anything that’s new and controversial and a little bit provocative, you’re going to get attention from both sides, but I think that having the conversation was something we had all wanted to do and we wanted to get to why it was making people uncomfortable to use the term. We’re talking about language in a community that so many of us have had taken away, and the experience of cultural race and ethnicity when touching on language is such a precious topic. I think it fires and lights up something in people so that episode was fun and I am happy with the outcome.
González: I have to say that every single episode has something that stands out. The amount that we have learned on the show is unquantifiable; we have learned so much creating. I think that once you have the opportunity to do a deeper dive on any of these topics that we’ve done, you end up learning so much because you see different perspectives on whatever the topic is, be it mental health or cultural appropriation or colorism within the Latino community. I think one of the topics that jumped out at me was having a conversation about mental health within the Latino community because it is something extremely taboo for us. We have some subjects coming up, where we will have the opportunity to talk about things that aren’t traditionally had with our community, especially with the LGBTQ+ Latino community.
How do you want the show to evolve from 2020’s installment to 2021?
González: I think it is important to look at from where we started to where we are now, and what we’ve gotten from the last season and now moving forward in the future is that we’ll have a series of contributors because the idea behind “Radar” is that we have full representation of the community on screen. So we’ve brought in a series of contributors, which will help show the wide array of our community. And, also the format is going to change in the sense that some of these content creators that we’re bringing in as contributors are also bringing in their style — whether they’re on TikTok or on YouTube or on some other platform — they’re bringing that status and that style to the show. I think that’s one big way that we’ve definitely evolved and now the show is made up of 100% original content with these content creators being a part of it.
Fresquez: One of the things that I’m looking forward to is being able to push the envelope in terms of what we’re able to talk about. I think that, as we have developed a relationship of trust within Telemundo, they’ve given us the liberty to do that. I kind of joke that my life’s mission is to provoke my Catholic Mexican parents with uncomfortable conversations and “Radar” has given us the platform to do just that to a much broader audience on a great set. It’s excited to incorporate these contributors because the whole point of the show was to be inclusive and to show the wide array of perspectives and different types of Latinx people from different cultures and backgrounds. So now to be able to build partnerships with other voices and to have recurring contributors, that’s what the DNA of the show is.
What do you hope audiences, both Latinx and not, take away from the series?
Fresquez: We have tried our best to keep these conversations sort of fun, although it is a lot easier with certain topics to keep that conversational tone and that fun and that energy in the show because we are geared toward a younger audience and toward people who can get their news anywhere, but I feel that ‘Radar’ doesn’t just inject levity into the conversation, we also try to do our best to keep it balanced. I think that’s something that has made our show stand out and be a little more unique in terms of the space we’re in. There’s nothing like ‘Radar’ right now, and I know I’ve been excited to be the pioneer in terms of Telemundo’s English-language content, and it’s been so much fun in the process, just being able to truly create something from the ground up. And for anyone that thinks this content is niche and isn’t nuanced, there are 60 million Latinos in the U.S. So you know, how nuanced is it really if you’re going to be talking to such a broad audience, not just in the United States but also abroad and throughout Latin America. So I challenge anyone who calls us niche because I think that ‘Radar’ has something for everyone. In fact, the majority of the topics we confront are truly universal, like mental health, financial literacy and climate change. I always encourage people to check out the show whether they are Latinx or not, because there’s something to be learned by anybody who watches our show.