At the Television Critics Association Press Tour
At the NBC portion of this summer’s Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press tour, three Latino actors – Ricardo A. Chavira, Joseph Haro and Justina Machado – are enjoying the glare of being introduced as one half of the series regulars ensemble populating the new comedy series, Welcome to the Family, debuting October 3 (8:30-9pm). Created and exec produced by Mike Sikowitz, the series follows the machinations of the Anglo Yoder family and la familia Hernandez, following the revelation that Stanford bound valedictorian Junior Hernandez (Haro) has impregnated adorable but not so bright teen Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck).
Sikowitz explains the real-life situation that set him on the path of creating the sitcom. “I was in a store with my wife and our then three‑year‑old. She was returning some clothes. It was taking forever. And my three‑year‑old boy starts to play with a little three‑year‑old boy, who happened to be Latino. I looked up, and I started talking to this kid’s dad. And I realized this is a city of 4 million people. There are so many people who are so different than I am right here in the same city. We’ve had totally different experiences growing up, me and this guy. But we’re just two dads of two little kids. Of course, in our show Dan Yoder (Mike O’Malley) and Miguel Hernandez (Chavira) are dealing with older kids.”
“With older kids problems,” interjects Chavira, who enjoyed a long-running stint as Carlos Solis (Eva Longoria’s on-air husband) in ABC’s Desperate Housewives. “Obviously, the character that I played on that show was an affluent businessman, a Latino but also very assimilated into white, suburban America. This character is not that. Miguel is a lot closer to who I am.”
Both Machado – who was a regular on the hit HBO show of a few years back, Six Feet Under – and Chavira are well aware they represent the only full family of Latino series regulars appearing on network television, which is totally out of proportion to the Latino demographic that watches primetime TV. Machado chides,” I don’t know why it’s not happening. I think we as Latinos have to speak up more; we have to say that we want to see ourselves up there more. It’s true; we don’t exist as much as we should. And we are huge in this country. I always say we put Obama over. That’s my favorite line. So we absolutely have to start speaking up about it.”
Chavira adds, “When we exist, we exist within the realm of specific stereotypes. So, can we get away from those things? You can’t always escape them. There are some of those aspects, even in this show; but that is not what Welcome to the Family is about. It’s more universal than that in terms of dealing with problems all families have in common.”
“I like the fact that Caroline Yoder (Mary McCormack) and my character, Lisette, don’t just sit back and watch the husbands do the macho thing. Caroline and Lisette are not just nurturers. After all, my son knocked up her daughter. The women express valid concerns about how these two families are going to co-exist. And they know it is going to be their jobs to make this happen. We also have a second son, Demetrio (Fabrizio Guido), who is 11. I am really happy how the show is working in terms of dealing with the many aspects of family life and how we deal with the crises of life.”
Haro, who recurred on FOX’s Glee, is delighted with how his character, Junior, is explained in the show. “I am playing a Latino who is a scholar not a gang member or drug dealer. And when the girl he loves gets pregnant, he doesn’t flee. He wants to marry her and make it work. In many respects, he is fearless. I really like that.”
Welcome to the Family is executive produced and created by Mike Sikowitz, Jamie Tarses and Michael Engler, who also directs. The series debuts Thursday, October (8:30-9pm) on NBC.