The New Party of Five Cast Talks Latinx Representation on TV and the Importance of Family
Brandon Larracuente, Emily Tosta, Niko Guardado, and Elle Paris Legaspi sit down with CHICA for a discussion of the new Latinx-led reboot of Party of Five.
Within the past few years, Hollywood has made an attempt at increasing diversity and inclusivity in movies and TV, but the truth is that Latinxs remain underrepresented both on- and off-camera. Last year, a study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 4.5 percent of the speaking roles in movies from the previous 10 years went to Latinx actors. This disparity happened behind the scenes, too, with only 4 percent of directing credits going to Latinxs, 3 percent of producing credits, and 3 percent of casting credits.
Obviously, major change still needs to happen, but things are getting at least a little better on TV, where Latinx-centered reboots and original series like One Day at a Time, Jane the Virgin, On My Block, Vida, East Los High, Charmed, and Los Espookys have earned praise from fans and critics alike. The latest entry in this lineup is Freeform’s Party of Five, a reboot of the 1990s family drama that starred Scott Wolf, Neve Campbell, and Lacey Chabert as siblings learning to raise themselves after the death of their parents. In this version, though, the siblings are dealing with a decidedly more of-the-moment issue: their parents are absent because they’ve been deported.
“The show educated me on things that I did not know about,” 25-year-old Brandon Larracuente, who plays oldest brother Emilio Acosta, tells People CHICA. “I had to do a lot of research. I think we all did, in order to portray these characters as accurately as possible. We would send each other articles every single day through a group chat, just to better inform ourselves on what’s happening around the world.” In the show, Emilio is a DACA recipient and aspiring musician who’s forced to set aside his dreams in order to help care for his younger siblings; that’s just one of many plot lines that shed light on some of the issues faced by real young people experiencing similar things in today’s polarized political climate.
Emily Tosta, who moved to the United States at age 12 from the Dominican Republic, sees echoes of her own story in that of the Acosta family. “We came out here and we didn’t have legal status to work,” says 21-year-old Tosta, who plays the eldest Acosta sister, Lucia. “I only had my mom, and we were struggling in this country to survive and to make money and to just find our way around. That’s what we’re all doing [on the show] — we’re all just trying to survive as siblings, and trying to take care of each other and take on these parental figure roles that we weren’t ready to take on. It was the same for me when I moved to this country as well.”
Immigration is only one issue that the show covers, though. In one episode, Lucia’s twin brother, Beto, struggles with the common, true-to-life misconception that Spanish must come easy to him as a Mexican American. Niko Guardado, who plays Beto, can definitely relate. “People automatically assume that I can speak Spanish because of my heritage,” says Guardado, 23. “But to be honest, I don’t think it makes me any less Latin than anyone else. I try to wear the culture as much as I can on my sleeve, and I am very actively trying to learn Spanish.”
The show’s themes will likely cause many viewers to get emotional, especially given that real families are going through separations like this all the time. For example, in the first episode, the Acosta children visit their parents at a detention center for the last time before their deportation. It’s a heartbreaking scene that was as hard to watch as it was to film. “It was definitely very intense,” says Tosta. “Even after they called cut, Fernanda [Urrejola, who plays the Acostas’ mother] and I would just keep crying because it was such a crazy state of mind that we were all in. Some of the extras [said] that they felt it so much, because either they were going through it or a family member was going through it, and that made everything even darker.”
“Leaving set that day definitely made me — I think I can speak for all of us — so grateful for the lives that we live,” adds Guardado. “Being able to do something that we love in terms of acting, but also being able to do something meaningful. It was super humbling.” Elle Paris Legaspi, who plays the youngest sister, Valentina, hopes that the show reminds viewers to feel similarly thankful for their own blessings. “Family is everything, and you really need to enjoy your time with them because you never know what’s going to happen,” says Legaspi, 12. “You have to enjoy life and be thankful that you are able to have parents, siblings, and family, because a lot of people are less fortunate and some don’t have that.”
As research for the show, Larracuente spoke to a DACA recipient who’d gone through an experience similar to the Acosta family’s. “I was able to meet this young lady who basically had the same exact story as Emilio,” he says. “She came to this country with her parents who were unfortunately deported, so she became solely responsible for her three younger siblings. … We exchanged contact information and we remain in touch. Hopefully I can use what I’ve learned from her going into season two if we do in fact get one.”
In the meantime, Tosta hopes that the show helps bring Latinx representation to the forefront of people’s minds. “One of the things that I love about the show is that it established these incredible Latinx lead characters, and they’re outside of stereotypes,” she explains. “We honestly need to showcase to the world that this is what people actually look like, and these are the experiences that we’re actually going through. This is the real world and we need to put more of that onto the screen.”
Party of Five airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform.