Premieres on Friday, October 10th at 8:30pm/ 7:30pm Central
By Elia Esparza
Burbank, Calif. – On September 16th the Latino Premiere Club (latinopremiereclub.com),which is comprised of influential Latino leaders from all fields including education, public relations, business, law, and non-profit organizations and a new partnership between the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the LatinHeat Media Institute, held a screening at ABC/Disney Studios of the network’s upcoming sitcom Cristela for their membership.
From the first punch line to the last one, the laughter echoed throughout the theater—Cristela was a hit with this audience.
The pilot episode introduces Cristela, played by breakout comedienne Cristela Alonzo, who stars as a woman laughing her way to the new American dream in a family comedy loosely based on her life and stand-up routine. Cristela has a dream of becoming a lawyer, something her traditional Mexican-American family doesn’t quite understand. She’s entering her sixth year of law school after juggling home obligations and working multiple jobs to pay her way. She lives in cramped quarters with her sister Daniela (Maria Canals-Barrera), her long-suffering brother-in-law Felix (Carlos Ponce) and their two young kids (Isabella Day & Jacob Guenther), and a traditional Mexican mother (Terri Hoyos), while Felix’s cousin and co-worker Alberto (comedian Gabriel Iglesias) drops in to shamelessly flirt with Cristela – something she wants nothing to do with. (In the pilot the kids were children were played by Bridget Barrera as Isabella, and Matthew Velasquez as Henry).
The south Texas native and popular comic threw in some cultural zingers, some about how Latinos, especially Mexicans are perceived and other times, how we treat each other. We can laugh along with Cristela because many Latinos have been in similar situations. When Alonzo was asked about how she could be so positive when someone was being stupidly stereotypical, she answered, “I laugh it off and by turning it into a funny situation, I’ve taken the power away from who ever was trying to insult me.”
Laughter was what led her to her first stand-up stage and fell in love with it. She upped her game and has been very successful playing at comedy venues all throughout the U.S. Lorne Michaels should have cast her for Saturday Night Live, for sure she’s the Latina comedienne who got away.
Cristela Alonzo breaks new ground with Cristela as the first and only Latina to have a TV show in which she not only stars, but is also co-creator (along with Kevin Hench), co-executive producer, and writer. Not since George Lopez and Ugly Betty has there been a TV show on broadcast TV created and starring a Latino/a on TV and once again ABC leads on that front.
In person Cristela Alonzo is very charming. She’s down-to-earth, funny, and endearing. During the Q&A that followed the screening she answered questions about the guerilla filmmaking it took to get the pilot made within a three-week period. About the casting, which was important to you. About how she was able to get Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias to commit to being on the show, for which she said, “He’s a personal friend, we’ve known each other for 13 years, I asked and he said yes.” A brilliant casting move because Iglesias is one of the most successful stand-ups on the comedy circuit who sells out everywhere he goes.
Cristela has been dubbed “the little show that could” because after the pilot was pitched, ABC passed on the script Alonzo and Hench had written. At the urging of another executive producer, Becky Clements, the creative team took a huge risk by taping a pilot presentation. It worked. “We knew we had a funny script but it’s not the same thing reading the words than actually seeing it in action,” said Cristela during the Q&A which followed the screening. The show tested through the roof with audiences and ABC took a chance on a relatively unknown Alonzo with a great stand-up pedigree, and gave Cristela an order for 13 episodes with a premiere date of October 10th on Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. central.
“We urge everyone to support the show not just by tuning in,” said Alex Nogales, President of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, “but to also take an extra step by sending an email to ABC executives, or Tweeting about it and social media.”
Bel Hernandez, executive director of the LatinHeat Media Institute agrees. “It’s not enough just to watch anymore, it is vital the network hears from us directly and let them know how important shows like Cristela are to the Latino community.”