Former State Representative and founder of Fair Fight Stacy Abrams was the perfect moderator for the One Day At A Time panel. For one, she is an activist and advocate for many issues that the reimagining of the classic Norman Lear sitcom embrace, but also because she is a true fan of the show. At the beginning of the virtual panel, Abrams just wanted Rita Moreno to say her name so that she could tell her family it happened.
“Stacey Abrams! Stacey Abrams! Stacey Abrams!” Moreno playfully sang.
“OK, that was awesome…I’m leaving now,” Abrams gushed as the rest of the cast and creators on the panel laughed.
Abrams and Moreno were joined on the PaleyFest panel by Executive Producers Mike Royce, Brent Miller & Gloria Calderon Kellett as well as stars Justina Machado, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz, Todd Grinnell, Stephen Tobolowsky, India de Beaufort, Sheridan Pierce, Ed Quinn and Raquel Justice. Throughout the panel, the love that Abrams had for the show was reciprocated by the cast and producers, as each of them expressed their excitement for merely talking to the inspirational change-maker and advocate.
Abrams admitted that she was skeptical when she heard of the reimagining, but quickly changed her tune when she watched the first episode. She was impressed with how the show told a new story from a fresh perspective but kept with the themes from the original that was “miraculous” to watch.
She pointed out how the Machado’s Penelope as the reimagined role of the matriarch has been the centerpiece of the show. Abrams asked how it has been to play a character like Penelope, a grounded representation of the Latinx community that isn’t based on stereotypes but based on soul.”
“It means the world to me,” said Machado. “I always said I wanted to do something important with my art but there was not a lot out there. Now there is more coming out because of warriors like these wonderful executives who made this show — but it’s been a long time coming.”
Machado said that it has been incredible to represent so many people and change the narrative that subverts the typical Latinx storyline centered on a Cuban American family. “I feel really honored to be a part of history because One Day At A Time is a historical show in my opinion,” she smiled, later adding that it’s been the greatest 4 seasons” of her career.
The show tackles issues in true Norman Lear form and now, with the pandemic, the civic unrest and social movement in the country, Royce (before inviting Abrams to be a guest on the show) talked about how One Day At A Time fits into the era we are currently living in.
“Our stories come from this family and any story that has a bigger societal impact,” said Royce. In regards to folding in the events of the current social landscape into a story, he said it would lean on how the moment impacts the family. “It has to come from the characters itself,” he said. “We never want to catch ourselves preaching or doing an ‘issue’ show without any tethering to human beings. We try to talk about issues that have built in the past four years, not responding to the exact thing that is happening right now.”
As an advocate for voting rights and census, Abrams was naturally drawn to the politics episodes and how they are a snapshot of our lives. Calderon-Kellett credits that to the show’s inclusive writers room and how many of the stories come from what is important to them and their families. Those conversations between people of color haven’t really changed since season one, but now, with the current landscape and reckoning, people are finally taking notice.
“What we try to do with the legacy that Norman laid out so beautifully for us,” said Calderon Kellett. “He held up a mirror and invited people into homes that they were normally not privy to.”
Che continued, “We don’t necessarily feel that the show is political. It’s just political to be Latino. It’s political being a person of color. It’s political being LGBTQ. These people are fighting day-to-day for their equality and human rights — so we are just talking about the things these people are talking about in their homes.”
There was a consensus among the entire cast in not only their love for Abrams but how each actor plays a role in an inclusive narrative that champions the lives of an immigrant family and their experiences with family disagreements, gender issues, age issues, sexuality, adolescence and even white privilege.
At the end of the panel, Calderon-Kellett became emotional while talking about how One Day At A Time grounds the Latinx experience, gives an insight into the meaning of family and what she hopes America takes away from the show when it comes to identity.
It was so interesting to see on TV about my community was so not reflective of what I knew it to be which was a home that was accepting and loving,” said Calderon-Kellett on the verge of tears. “To have grown up with two immigrant parents who came here with suitcases and not speaking this language; who learned how to watch TV by watching Norman Lear shows and to be in a seat of privilege where I can make a Norman Lear show about them has been the greatest thrill of my life.”
The show was an opportunity for her to extend her love for the Latinx community and to eclipse the misrepresentation they often endure by spotlighting her community’s vibrancy and beauty. She continued, “What this show does is try to do what many of us are trying to do which is build bridges to one another…because if we can truly achieve equality, we can all have a better time on this planet together — and this show is a celebration of that love.”
Videos of all PaleyFest panels, including this one, will be available Monday, Aug. 10, on the Paley Center YouTube channel.