When Hollywood executive producer and showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett was growing up as a Cuban American in Portland, Oregon, she didn’t see any families that looked like hers on television.
Now, Calderón Kellett is helping share that representation with her bicultural reboot of the iconic 70s sitcom "One Day at a Time" on Netflix. The executive producer and co-creator drew from her own heritage to give the hit show about a single mother raising two children its distinctive Latino flavor.
“It’s an interesting thing when you’re not represented in the mainstream; it affects you, I think," said Calderón Kellett. “So for me, being able to put a show out there that’s representative of Cuban culture as it is for me...It’s incredibly important."
“I knew that all I could do was be honest about what my story was and hopefully that honesty would resonate with other people,” she said.
The reboot of the original Norman Lear hit 1970s show focuses on Cuban-American mother and veteran Penélope Alvarez (played by actress Justina Machado), raising her two children with the help of her mother Lydia, played by the legendary Rita Moreno.
Calderón Kellett said she was influenced by veteran producer Norman Lear’s storytelling, one that infused meaningful topics with humor. She and the show’s writers work to bring their own unique perspectives to the multi-camera series in a way that’s both poignant and funny.
“We needed Norm to be able to remember that you can have funny stuff and then also talk about real things, being able to talk about things that are meaningful and that are topical," said Calderón Kellett. "Trying to make it funny while also talking about real things is very difficult and something we work hard to try to achieve in a way that feels organic.”
In its first season, the series tackled such issues as gender equality, veteran’s issues and PTSD, immigration and coming out. The show drew praise for its storyline on LGBT issues, focusing on the coming out story of character Penelope Alvarez’s daughter, Elena.
“That’s the kind of storytelling that’s meaningful to me,” she said.