“It comes down to real characters,” said Superstore actress and producer America Ferrera about the diversity that’s being presented on TV today. It’s often said, if you want to take a look at what’s going on in the U.S., turn on the television. As such, networks and streaming media services are embracing more multi-cultural stories. Joining Ferrera today on Universal Television’s diverse comedy panel at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event were NBC’s Telenovela executive producer/star Eva Longoria and Netflix’s Master of None co-creator Alan Yang.
Ferrera took to Justin Spitzer’s Superstore as it reminded her of “the pathos” she adored in the working place comedies she watched in her youth, i.e. Cheers and Roseanne. Ferrera mentioned in preparing for her role, she visited a local Target and attempted to download a floor clerk on her personal life. “I’d ask her ‘Do you have this in a size 6’ and then quickly ask her ‘Did you go to college?’ The one girl did call me out. I told her I was playing a store employee on TV and she was open to talking. But it was hard for me to go undercover”. Ferrera said that in building a diverse cast, the script never called for it. “Amy wasn’t written as Latina, Mateo wasn’t written as Filipino. Ethnicity wasn’t specified, we were casting the most talented, funniest actors we could find.”
Having been a lifelong fan of behind-the-scenes comedies like Tootsie, Soapdish, and TV shows like 30 Rock, Longoria wanted to do one, and Telenovela was ripe with her soap star lead Ana Sofia Calderon loosely based on the actress’ experiences on Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful.
“I grew up not speaking Spanish in Texas. I was a fish out of water. When I moved to Hollywood, everyone saw my head shot and I would get asked to do (my audition) with an accent or in Spanish. Sometimes, I wasn’t considered Latin enough,” said Longoria about her early career. “Ana Sofia is the star of the soap who doesn’t speak Spanish. Everything is fed through her earpiece phonetically,” she added.
Similar to her work on Devious Maids, in which Longoria is also an EP, the former Desperate Housewives star also directs on Telenovela. “Working with Marc Cherry, that was my film school. He was very specific about the rhythm of a joke or words. ‘Don’t walk on the joke, don’t move on the joke.'”
Master of None co-creator Yang called actor Kelvin Yu his “avatar character.” In the clip at today’s panel, Aziz Ansari and Yu talk about the struggles they have in getting the respect they deserve from their parents, especially after making a slam dunk in life. Yang explained that the series was originally set up as a network one centered around five couples, however, when Ansari and him took it to Netflix, they realized that the sky was the limit. “So, we did 10 shorts films. The 2nd episode has zero characters from the first episode except for Aziz,” said Yang. When it came to casting their parents on TV, Ansari already enlisted his, but as far as Yang goes, “Maybe if we see Kelvin’s mom, I’ll put my mom in (the role).”