“It’s been really lovely to see how in some small part we can use this platform to help these people and families,” said One Day at a Time executive producer and co-showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett of the effort initiated this week by TV writers to stop families being separated at the southern border by Donald Trump’s administration. “It feels like paying it forward,” added the daughter of Cuban immigrants, who were given sanctuary when they came to American decades ago.
“It was Tanya’s idea and we were just sick, we feel like what can we do?” Kellett explained of the outreach that Netflix’s ODAAT and Starz’s Vida, which is EP’d by Tanya Saracho, began on June 19. “Let’s start with the scribes,” she noted. “We just started it and reached out to rooms where we knew one of the writers or had connections. It really had impact and nobody said no.”
Kellett was joined on-stage on Saturday afternoon at the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Media Summit by the Vida EP and creator plus ex-Carmichael Show EP and current LA To Vegas consulting producer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, “I cry every night, they do want us here,” said Saracho to the packed Hollywood and Highland ballroom of the reaction in the past few days to their campaign.
The Hollywood gathering comes at the end of a week that saw the nation outraged by the Trump administration’s vile separation of children from their parents at the southern border. An outrage that clearly the ODAAT and Vida EPs responded to by seeking to unite TV writers to publicly halt the tearing apart of families and the tossing children in caged detention centers.
The unique effort quickly drew support and donations to non-profits from scribes on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The CW’s Jane The Virgin and Riverdale, OWN’s Queen Sugar, NBC’s Superstore and ABC’s upcoming Demian Bichir starring Grand Hotel, among many others. Also backing up its own, Vida’s home of Starz handed over $10,000 to Texan immigration legal services RAICES, which is actively working to get adults out of the zero tolerance nightmare and back together with their children.
Even with the executive order claiming to stop the separation that Trump signed on June 20 under pressure, over 2,500 children have already been torn apart from their families. More telling of where the administration’s priorities really are, there are no federal plans in place to reunite those families, as the kids have been detained all over the country.
While garnering a huge roar and round of applause in the Ray Dolby ballroom, the campaign created by the ODAAT and Vida teams was not the only topic the trio discussed.
In talking about her background earlier at the keynote sit-down, Kellett told the crowd at the ballroom that she actually first met Sanchez-Witzel around 12 years ago as one of the few fellow other Latina women in the business. Sanchez-Witzel recounted a tale of an EP saying to her “how does it feel to having gotten this job because of your last name” early in her career. Shocked by the remark, the now season vet said “I worked harder than anyone in that room that year.” Sanchez-Witzel, who inked an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV earlier this year, added that the EP who demeaned her back then actually was the one who strongly recommended her for future gigs.
“My armor was my education,” Kellett added of her own initial years in a writers room. The conversations we’re having now are changing that,” she noted of how diversity is being seen less and less of an obligation and more of a benefit to reaching audiences with new POVs.
With that, to put 2018 small screen representation in some context, of the approximately 502 showrunners there right now in the Peak TV Era, only five are Latina women.
“The reason it will change is if we do it in enough numbers,” asserted Sanchez-Witzel, who is currently developing a show with Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish. The producer added that she has made a promise to herself to only work with people of color for the immediate future to increase real representation.
“We have to be creators of our own stories,” said Kellett, as ODAAT recently started filming for its third season on Netflix. “Our stories in the hands of other people just isn’t as interesting,” she said to applause. “It is a political act to put brown bodies on the screen and to put brown bodies on the screen just living is a radical act” Saracho declared, citing that Latino stories are much richer and vivid that the stereotypes they are often reduced to.
Having wrapped up its six-episode first season earlier this month, Vida was renewed for a second season on June 12 – so there is clearly more radicalism of sorts to come.
The NALIP Media Summit itself wraps up today.