"I really feel like comedy is the way to break in and change hearts and minds," the 'One Day at a Time' writer and co-showrunner said following NALIP's Diverse Women In Media panel.
Gloria Calderón Kellett says her drive to create stories about the Hispanic community comes from wanting to provide more accurate representations of it in entertainment.
"The constant demonizing of our community made me a writer because we need more accuracy out there," she said during the Diverse Women In Media panel hosted by the National Association of Latino Independent Producers in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Pam Veasey, executive producer and co-showrunner of L.A's Finest, shared a similar inspiration at the panel. "I knew no one like me. I knew no one that looked like me so I decided to write," she told the panel's audience.
Thursday's event by the NALIP, which also included guests such as Yun Lingner, executive producer on Shark Tank, and Isabella Gomez from One Day at a Time, continued the nonprofit's two-decade history of advocating on behalf of the Latinx community, which is the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. yet vastly underrepresented. A recent study by NALIP with the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that a little over 4 percent of characters across 1,200 films between 2007 to 2018 were Latinx.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter following the event, the One Day at a Time writer and co-showrunner expressed how impactful organizations such as NALIP are to the Latinx community.
"The name suggests producers and I was foolish in thinking when I was younger, like 'Oh, I'm not a producer, I'm a writer.' But it really is everything. So writers, directors, producers, a lot of people can really get a lot out of the experience with NALIP. They really support storytellers and specifically let the Latinx community sort of get a leg up."
Calderón Kellett, who oversees the Latinx reboot of Norman Lear's CBS hit with Mike Royce set for its fourth season on Pop TV, noted NALIP's recent study as a signifier that despite conversations about diversity happening, "it's not actually getting better for the Latinx community in terms of representation on screen."
"We are really not on TV and when we are, it's still largely stereotyped roles, especially in network television, unfortunately," Calderón Kellett said. "That's what really goes out to the masses. So what happens, I think as a result of that, is that somebody who has never met a Latinx person could have a skewed view of who my community is and what they represent."
Calderón Kellett added that is why it's "very personal" to her and fellow Latinx creators to tell their stories and "show the totality of who we are." Impactful storylines that One Day at a Time has brought to a broader audience include the Cuban American community's thoughts on Che Guevara clothing and merchandise seen as akin to wearing a shirt with Hitler's face in a Jewish family's home, a queer quinceañera and shedding light on Operation Pedro Pan.
When asked how comedy can be a successful genre to introduce the American public to an underrepresented community, Calderón Kellett noted, "I really feel like comedy is the way to to break in and change hearts and minds."
"I love the sitcom," she continued. "I think the sitcom is 'come on into my living room.' It's no coincidence that most sitcoms surround a couch. It's literally, 'come to my living room and hang out with me and we're going to talk and hang out and you're going to be like my family.' It's just a warm hug."
"When done correctly, when done the way the shows that I grew up on did it right, you would get to hang out with that family like you were one of that family. I think that comedy can do that in a way that is harder for drama...the stakes are so much higher. It's usually life and death.... So I just feel like there's such a value in doing it through a comedy and especially a family comedy."
Right now, everyone is looking for some kind of reprieve from being locked up at home due to the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards anytime soon, but The Office executive producers Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman think they’ve figured out a way to make light of the situation by crafting a new workplace comedy series inspired by the sudden rise in employees working from home due to the outbreak of coronavirus forcing people to practice social distancing.
Deadline was first to learn of the currently untitled coronavirus comedy series, though it’s not necessarily about the pandemic. Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman, better known to The Office fans as the frequently maligned Toby Flenderson and one of Jim’s business partners at their company Athlead, are creating the series that is said to focus on “wunderkind boss who, in an effort to ensure his staff’s connectedness and productivity, asks them all to virtually interact and work face-to-face all day.”
The series is in the works at Big Breakfast, the comedy production banner Silverman runs, where he’ll executive produce the series along with and Luke Kelly-Clyne College Humor and Kevin Healey Scare Tactics. They’ll also be working with Howard Owens’ Propagate Content, which will have Rodney Ferrell serving as an executive producer as well.
Silverman, who was also once an NBC executive, explained the inception of the series and his hope for what it will become:
“So many of us are jumping on daily Zoom meetings — for work and beyond. We are in a new normal and are personally navigating ways to remain connected and productive at work and in our home lives. With the brilliant Paul Lieberstein at the helm, we think we have a series that not only brings humor and comfort during this troubling time but will also be an inventive and enduring workplace comedy for years to come.”
While the prospect of trying to craft a series around the coronavirus outbreak sounds like a bad idea at this time, there’s no indication that the pandemic will actually play a part in the overall concept of the series. In fact, it would be easy to pull something like this off without introducing such a grim plot device.
What I’m envisioning with this series is a show with a format that echoes what we’ve seen accomplished with movies like Unfriended and Searching. Both of those films play out entirely on computer or mobile device screens and successfully tell a solid narrative. Modern Family did something similar with an episode that unfolded across the ensemble cast’s various screens, and it worked pretty well. But if that’s what this series will be like, can that concept be sustained for an entire series? Or will they need to take...