'One Day at a Time' Producer Gloria Calderón Kellett Talks Latinx Representation on TV
The producer talks to People CHICA about the show's exciting new season and the boom of Latinx-centered shows.
One Day at a Time producer Gloria Calderón Kellett is one of People en Español's 25 Most Powerful Women of 2020. "Latinos are 18 percent of this country and we are still so starkly underrepresented on television. Three percent of all roles are Latinos and largely those are stereotyped roles," she tells People CHICA. "When I was growing up the only Calderón I saw on TV was on Miami Vice and he was a drug dealer. I couldn’t believe that there was nobody that was representative of my family that existed on television. To be able to work myself up the system and have someone like Norman Lear really tell people to listen to me, and to give me complete freedom to make this show and to talk about things that I think are important to our community — sometimes difficult subject matter in a way that is funny and sparks conversation, through humor — has been the most rewarding part of my career so far."
Calderón Kellett, who is Cuban American, says her own family inspired many scenes of One Day at a Time. “A lot of that is really personal, I see it in my own family. My abuela was born in Cuba and came here when she was in her 40s, and she was the real Lydia," she says about the woman who inspired the character played by the iconic Rita Moreno. "She was an incredible, loving, charming Catholic woman that still was so open and always led with love," she adds about her grandma. "She was such a beacon in my life, and when my parents would work I had the great fortune of being with my abuela every day — she would pick me up from school. I was so grateful to have my abuela living either right next door or with us, that’s how close we were."
She is excited about the new season of the show, premiering March 24 on Pop Tv. "We are so thrilled that Pop has been so loving to us. The episodes are turning out so great," she says. "Justina Machado and I are really like sisters and we talk about it all the time. We were always so grateful because we never saw so many Latinos on a set before, and now it’s great to know that it was our fans that resurrected us, it was the love of the community, of the people that we were making this show for, that brought us back. We feel a renewed sense to keep making this show for them."
The producer, who will also be creating new Latinx-centered movies and TV shows for Amazon, talked about the recent boom of Latinx shows. "We have tremendous buying power and potential, but right now what Hollywood is seeing is that if Hispanics show up for white content, why should we make stuff for [Hispanics]? When we make stuff for [Hispanics], they’re like: ‘That’s not Mexican enough or Cuban enough or Dominican enough.’ When we do make specific things our community is very quick to point out they’re not specific enough, it tells Hollywood: ‘Let’s just stick with dominant-culture stories because when we try to tell specific stories it’s too hard.' That’s the feeling I get when I’m talking about Latinx content."
Representing Latinidad is complex, she explains. "For me with this show I told Norman: 'This is going to be really hard. There are 19 countries under the umbrella of Latinidad — that’s a lot of very different communities. Yes, we have a common language and there are a lot of commonalities in how we were brought up, with Catholicism as a signpost, but there is a lot that makes us different as well. And people, when they are starved for representation, when something does exist that is for them, they need it to exist as 100 percent them, which is just not possible. It’s an impossible standard," she says. "What happens is Hollywood will do one, and if it’s not successful it’s three years before they make another one. If Latinos want more content for Latinos, they need to come out and support Latino content, period. Right now there is a lot. It’s not just Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin — ahorawe have One Day at a Time, Gentefied ... I try to raise the banner of, 'Let’s show up for everybody.' Gentefied is done beautifully, Divas is done beautifully. This year is a pretty banner year for Latinx content. If we can show up for those shows, they will make more."