In an emotional blog post today, Cristela creator, executive producer and star Cristela Alonzo reflects on her ABC comedy series’ cancellation last Thursday. She talks about how she got the news and her reaction; about the deep personal connection she had with the show, which was based on her family; and how much the series meant to her and to the people it touched. Here are some highlights from Alonzo’s post (you can read it in its entirety here):
I once had a show named Cristela. By once, I mean up until Thursday night. I said ‘once’ because it adds dramatic flair and I think dramatic flair is funny.
It was a multi-cam sitcom that SOMETIMES aired on Friday nights. I say sometimes because a lot of times we were pre-empted for more important things like an Easter egg hunt happening in real time. Kidding. In reality, we were preempted for other things like a documentary on a parade and some other things I can’t remember. I think one night was a show about Christmas lights?
I was walking back to my hotel room Thursday night after my stand-up show in Fort Lauderdale when I saw the call. I knew it was bad news before I answered it because I had gotten a text from my Executive Producer that said, “Call me when you get this.” If it had been good news, she would’ve started mentioning it in the text. Since I was raised as a good old-fashioned Catholic, I braced for the worst. And that’s what I got.
When I heard the words “we’ve been canceled”, I can’t tell you how I felt. I was kinda sad, angry and other things. Since the show was named after me, the first thing I thought about was how I let the cast and crew down. They were out of jobs. I thought to myself, “I should’ve done more to promote the show. I could’ve done more.”
I hung up the phone, went to have a beer and my phone started lighting up with texts. I answered as many as I could. Some I still haven’t gotten to. I found myself sounding like a politician, saying the same thing to everyone: “Thank you so much. I’m doing ok. I’m doing fine.”
After the beers (I had two), I went up to my hotel room and laid in bed.
You learn a lot about yourself and others in times like these. I also think the truth comes out in moments like that; sometimes you realize you’re feeling something you didn’t think you were going to feel. I did.
I laid in bed, looking up at the ceiling and let out a big breath. I felt relieved. I wasn’t expecting that. At all. What the hell was I feeling relief about? The show had been canceled. What? I’m relieved I don’t have a job anymore? But, why?
I’ve learned so much this past year, both good and bad. I’ve learned lessons that I never thought I’d have to learn.
Making a show out of someone’s real life is so incredibly hard to do because you’re not doing it alone. There are so many different hands involved that sometimes it gets exhausting and frustrating. And that’s understandable because the show was based out of a real person’s life. My life.
If this show had been something that had been created out of thin air, I don’t think it would’ve been as difficult for me because I would’ve been playing a character not named Cristela, which gives it less of a connection to me but that’s not what this show was. This show was VERY personal to me.
The setting of the show took place in a real time in my life, a really sad time of my life. I had dropped out of college because I couldn’t afford it. My mom got sick. My sister needed help with her kids. I ended up moving in with my sister to take care of my mom and the kids. In real life, this leads up to my mom dying. I chose this era because while it was the hardest time of my life, it was also a time that I thought a lot of families could connect with, especially now. There are so many families that have a lot of people living in one house to get by. I’ve met those people on the road when I do stand-up. I thought, “If I could tell MY story about what happened to me, maybe others can connect to it.”
I was very protective over what I wanted to do in the show and what I didn’t want to do in the show because it portrayed real people from my life. The boss character (Trent) was based on a real boss I had that used to make racial jokes to me all the time. The daughter of Trent (Maddie) was based on an old college friend that came from an affluent world. We were friends that taught each other about each other’s worlds. The character Josh was based on someone real: My first boyfriend. I came from a different world than he did. When people saw us together, we didn’t make sense but we ‘got’ each other. The sister character (Daniela) was based on my sister Julie. She really worked at a call center and she really did get laid off like we wrote in the show. My brother-in-law (Felix) was based on my real brother-in-law Sergio that really has his own business installing floors. And then there’s Natalia. The mom you saw in the show (or according to ratings, didn’t see) was like my real mom. She could be harsh, sarcastic, judged everyone and I loved her with all my heart. When we were coming up with names for the characters and got to the mom character, I asked if I could name my TV mom after my real mom…so that it felt like she was always around. And that’s how we got the name: Natalia.
I thought it was important to show my family because there had never been one like that on TV before. A lot of the time, Latinos are shown as cholos/cholas that ride around in lowriders. I didn’t grow up that way but I always respected authentic stories that (as you’ll find in movies like Mi Vida Loca) showed that life because that lifestyle is someone’s reality.
I wish I could’ve written a show based on my life that showed my family kicking butt…like we were Latino Huxtables but that wasn’t my truth. And maybe I will create that show one day, who knows.
I used to dream about what it would feel like to have your own show. As a little kid, I imagined my face on a billboard; a big sign that had my face on it. I always wondered what it would feel like to drive down the street and see your name on a billboard. Something that kinda said, “HEY WORLD! I’m here! Check out this show with me in it!” After having a show named after me on network TV for a year, I can tell you that I still don’t know what it’s like to have a billboard with my face on it. I never got one. But I can tell you what it feels like to have your face on some bus benches and the backs of buses.
I will say that the best thing to happen to me this year was meeting the people that I wanted to reach with the show. My favorite things to hear were when people would tell me that FINALLY there was someone like them on TV and that they loved that it was a show they could watch with their parents or children. They felt like finally someone was representing them. I loved that.
Thank you to everyone that has sent me messages of support. You guys don’t know how much that means to me. To see how many of you loved my family is overwhelming. This past weekend, I’ve also gotten messages from people that told me how much my show inspired them to do something with their lives. People told me that they decided to go to college for the first time, others told me they’re going back to school. I have people telling me that their Latino kids are joining the drama club at their school. I have to admit, I cried at some of those messages. It took me by surprise. I cried because it made me so happy. YES! Go to college, get that education that you thought was impossible to get. YES! Support your kids, let them go into drama. YES! YES! YES! If these people made these changes because of Cristela, then the show has served its purpose.
My goal is to make my family proud. My goal is to by tell stories that entertain and speak for the unspoken, along with maybe a trip to Price is Right to do Plinko.
Trust me, Cristela the show might be done…but Cristela the person has just started.