“Hallmark has put this fun project together… I can’t believe we are here and playing a Latino family without mention of our ethnicity.”–Saundra Santiago
By Elia Esparza
Once upon a time in TV/ movie land the majority of mothers meddling into their children’s lives were Jewish. Then a change slowly evolved and enters the Black moms phase creating a more diverse Hollywood. Well, almost.
It is 2013, and Hallmark Movie Channel has opened sees an opportunity to cater to and include family movies that feature Latino talent and storylines, with a universal and feel-good theme to satisfy all Hallmark viewers.
Hallmark Taps into the $1.2 Trillion Latino Consumer Buying Power
Meddling Mom, a Hallmark Movie Channel Original World Premiere, February 23 (8PM ET/PT, 7C), stars three-time Golden Globe® and Emmy®-nominated actress Sonia Braga (Angel Eyes) and Tony Plana (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives) and lead an all-star cast. Directed by Patricia Cardoso (Lies in Plain Sight, Real Woman Have Curves), the Meddling Mom set and cast was a reunion of actors who were thrilled to be working on this romantic comedy.
Braga portrays widow and meddling mom, Carmen Vega, and her two best pals, Marisol (Rose Abdoo) and Valeria (Saundra Santiago), do everything in their power to interfere in the lives of Carmen’s grown daughters Yolanda (Ana Ayora) and Ally (Mercedes Renard). How many of us can totally relate to a metiche mom gossiping about us to their comadres? Of course all the meddling stems from the foundation of unconditional mom love and for Latinos that does not stop when one turns 18! You could be 70 with a 90 year-old mom and nothing changes, they still see you as their baby.
Who is the Widow Carmen?
It isn’t that she’s evil. She simply can’t help herself. Constantly displaying baby books as a subtle hint for newly wedded daughter Yolanda. Carmen interferes in Ally’s date with Marisol’s son Pablo (Rafael Amaya). It seems that there is no stopping this woman. But then again, maybe there is after all… Yolanda and Ally have just about had it with their mother’s scheming ways and figure it’s time she get a life of her own and let them live own. When mom’s meddling causes a rift with Ally’s new boyfriend Ben (Rob Mayes) and his boss, the sisters have finally had enough. There just has to be a way to teach her a lesson, after all, behind every meddling mom is an honorable mom struggling to get out.
Ally and Yolanda scheme and encourage the dashing ballroom dance teacher Luis (Plana), who already carries a torch for Carmen to take her out.
Playing Sister to an Acting Great
Saundra Santiago is an award-winning TV, film and Broadway actress who was on two of the most popular long running soaps, Guiding Light and One Life To Live, and whose role Detective Gina Calabrese on Miami Vice for over six years made her a household name. She more recently had a recurring role on HBO’s hit Sopranos.
As Carmen’s sister Valeria, Santiago plays a bit of a space cadet. “Kind of shallow person who goes out with different men and is holding on to her looks by dressing provocatively. I am the complete opposite of Sonia’s Carmen,” she laughed.
“[Mom] had the right intentions but often times, she went overboard.”
Santiago reflects on her own childhood growing up with a mother with a strong character. “Mom was not easy. Unbelievable strict and could be demanding at times,” she recalled. “There were also many happy times in spite of her being strict. She had the right intentions but often times, she went overboard.”
“In my senior year, my first boyfriend was a gorgeous handsome football player. I had blossomed into a popular girl and started dating. I had to be home by 9:30 or 10PM at the latest. I broke off the relationship, mom made me call him and tell him I couldn’t see him any more. My mother convinced me that if I continued, I was not going to pay attention to my studies… I was a very good student… she lured me into breaking it off,” she said.
“He wrote me a letter after that, confused on why I had broken up with him. After my mom died years later, I was clearing out her house, and I found the letter. I read it again and it was just so sad that I broke his heart because of mom,” Santiago recalled.
Tony Plana is the heart of Meddling Mom and he’s pleased to be cast as a ballroom instructor who is a big romantic, playing the love interest of Braga, was a dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted to play opposite Sonia since seeing her in Kiss of the Spider Woman and Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands. She is the iconic image of the Latino woman,” Plana said with a grin.
Additionally, Plana points out, “Hollywood writers don’t usually focus on the romantic lives of Latino characters. We are usually playing a function of the plot,” added the former Ugly Betty dad.
Plana tells us that because Sonia’s widow character has no relationship, she focuses all of her attention into her daughters’ relations. “We all have moms that have nothing to do except to deal with our lives,” says Plana. “Mothers meddle because they have no other purpose in life.”
“I got to work with a whole new crop of young Latino talent,” Plana said, “ I impressed with their talent, personalities and how well trained they are.
Tony’s Meddling Mom Moment
“Mom was diplomatic and liked to stay out of the way,” he remembered fondly.
However, Plana tells us there was that time at his wedding. There were the invites to the Mexican side of the family, and invites to the Cuban side. “Mom called everyone she wanted to attend and they thought the invitation was for the entire family. “We only had room for 200, yet we had hundreds of Cubans RSVP, much more than the Mexican side,” he laughed. His mom had to call everyone and un-invite a lot of them and ask that only bring the invited guests.
“Meddling Mom is The Huxtibles of TV, Latino Family Who Speak English, are Educated and Share the Same Family Issues of Most American Families” – Tony Plana
The two bright young talent of Meddling Mom are Ana Ayora and Mercedes Renard who portray Carmen’s daughters. Renard plays the eldest daughter Ally and younger sister, Yolanda is portrayed by Ayora. Yolanda is a newly wed and the surmounting pressure from her mom to have a baby is driving her to the edge. “Not helping matters,” laughed Ayora, “is that my husband and I live in the back house on mom’s property.”
Renard’s Ally has her own issues with Carmen with her setting her up with to date Pablo, portrayed by the gorgeous Rafael Amaya, and who also happens to be Marisol’s (Rose Abdoo) son. Talk about a double-threat attack.
Ana Ayora and Mercedes Renard Talk About Their Respective Real Life Meddling Mom Stories
“I read the script and the first thing that struck me was that my role would be an architect… not a maid,” lauded Renard, who got started as a model in her native Miami. “Props to Hallmark for making this movie,” Renard applauds.
According to Ayora, what was most impacting to her is when they were not asked to have a “Latin” accent. “Meddling Mom is a newfound vision of what a Latino home is like without the usual stereotype prejudices. This movie shows that there are different [universal] stories to be told,” stated Ayora.
In addition, Ayora believes Hallmark is taking a risk with this movie by bringing in a community that has not been properly targeted in the past. “Our movie proves that this community does exists,” she concluded.
“We’re Latino, we have flavor, not fake accents,” Renard proclaimed. “I call it the Latino Cosby Show, affirming that most diverse American families are similar.”
Sonia Braga, the Ultimate Carmen
We’ve left the best for last—Sonia Braga—a veteran thespian thrust into the A-list category after starring in Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985. Braga has since appeared in many movies and guest starred in plenty of primetime series but she doesn’t accept just any role.
Sonia was grateful to have been offered the part of the meddling mom. However she says, “I must confess, I was overwhelmed. Every one spoke English as their mother language. I had to have two coaches help me with mine and the accent”.
Aside from having to perfect her English, being on the set, Braga’s worries were disappeared. “We bonded fast. It was great working with this cast. It was a two-week shoot, like having a job at an office… everyday you see everybody… that’s the way it was on this film…although a very quick shoot,” she recalled.
The character challenge for Braga, beside the language, was having to “…tango while doing the dialogue,” she laughed. However, she praised Plana as being “A spectacular actor and dancer… so helpful and he delivers,” she recounted.
Meddling Mom is not a Latino film. It is a story about a good intentioned, interfering mother whose love is boundless. Just about everyone has one of those as their matriarch. Its family story is a universal theme and Hallmark viewers will not be disappointed.
Kudos to Hallmark Movie Channel for taking the plunge into what a genuine diverse Hollywood is: All-inclusive.
–Bel Hernandez also contributed to article
Something You May Not Know
Six Degrees of Separation: Saundra Santiago and Tony Plana worked on Miami Vice where he is her love interest. Santiago and Sonia Braga constantly ran into each other in the 70’s and 80’s at auditions. Plana and Braga worked on The Rookie with Raul Julia.
Hallmark Movie Channel Original World Premiere
Saturday, February 23 (8PM ET/PT, 7C)
Hallmark Movie Channel
Directed by Patricia Cardoso
Written by Nina Wienman