Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce are co-creators and producers of Netflix’s remake of the Norman Lear sitcom, “One Day at a Time,” which originally aired in the 1970’s and 80’s.
The new version of the show is getting more than a few updates. For one thing, the family is now Cuban-American. Along with the addition of an immigrant grandmother, played by Rita Moreno, this change allowed Calderón Kellett and Royce to include serious conversations about immigration policy throughout the show's first season.
But the new "One Day at a Time" also takes on other topical subjects, including PTSD among veterans, sexism in the workplace, and the challenges facing LGBTQ youth.
Royce and Calderón Kellett joined the Frame's John Horn in studio to talk about the challenge of remaking "One Day at at Time" without losing the spirit of the original show.
On the show's knack for tackling tough subjects:
Calderón Kellett: Norman [Lear] tells a story about how they wanted Mary Tyler Moore to be divorced and the network would not allow it. So really, [the original "One Day at a Time"] was the first time there was a divorced woman on television and raising children by herself. That was, at the time, very groundbreaking. I think what's daunting about doing anything from Norman's canon is that he did everything pretty amazing. So how do you redo something that was already pretty terrific?
On Norman Lear giving her creative license with the show:
Calderón Kellett: When I met with him, he asked me to talk about my family and so I did. It's now very kind of in vogue, Latinos, but it's all I've known. But the interest has been coming the last few years and it's something that I've been very protective of because I have other comedian friends or writer friends that have written about their own family, not even necessarily just Latinos. Things get messed with along the way and unless you have a very clear voice and people supporting you, it can be a scary thing to do. And I adore my family. They come to the show every week and so I wanted to make sure to do it right. So certainly in that meeting with Norman, he made me feel very comfortable and I felt very confident that he was going to allow me to be unfiltered.
On what about the show is and isn't unique to her background:
Calderón Kellett: Just specificity, really. I don't think my family is that different than other people's families. But there is a warmth and we are up in each other's grill a lot. I see my parents every day and my dad will text me if I don't reply in an hour. It's like, Are you dead? Qué paso? I'm like, Dad, I just saw you. We're just up in each other's lives a lot, but that's not specific to Latinos.
I'm Cuban. That's how I grew up. My parents came here not knowing any English. I am the child of immigrants and this is what I sound like. A lot of people don't identify me off the street as being Latina, even though I'm a hundred-percent Latina. So I think to be seen in that way and to be able to share that experience and have people not only hear, but lift you up, is pretty incredible.
On how Royce contributes to the show being non-Latino:
Royce: What started percolating in my head when I met with Norman was teenagers. I have teenagers. And the single mom was a big part of the original "One Day At a Time." I've been fortunate in the past to do some shows that I related to, but I've never been able to do a show that directly took stuff from my own family or at least was inspired by. I think that is where I really started to relate to it. The pilot episode is about the daughter not wanting to have a quinceañera. While I'm not Cuban, my daughter, if she was Cuban, would have not wanted to have a quinceañera for the exact same reasons that Gloria did not. That's why we took that story and made it part of the pilot.
On using the show to talk about larger issues:
Calderón Kellett: The Cuban experience in the country is harrowing. What these kids went through was harrowing. So I don't want to take away from that experience because what they went through no one should have to. It's something my family wears very much on their sleeve. My mom still can't talk about Cuba without bursting into tears — and it was 40 years ago. So I don't want to take away from that, but I also feel like they had the opportunity to follow the rules and not everyone does. Certainly, living in California and having so many friends that are different types of Latinos, this was a conversation that I would have with them and I'm so grateful that my parents are open listeners. They have their convictions, but I've always been allowed to talk about things and in talking about them, we both come to a better understanding.
On casting the writers room:
Royce: We just read a lot of people. When you're staffing, what happens is you put out a call to all the agents and they give you submissions. So the thing we said was, We need Latinos, we need women and diversity across the board. Please send us that. You have to say that because you will be avalanched with white guys.
Calderón Kellett: Some agencies are doing a great job of trying to do that, but there were places that sent one person or two people because that's all they had. We love our room, but a lot of it came from a lot of reading, a lot of poking around and finding people.
Royce: The talent pool is out there, but you also have to help the talent pool. You have to grow these people. You have to make the effort. So it's trying to keep a lot of balls in the air and it's really incumbent on show runners to do that.