Go and grab yourself a nice, hot cafecito and make yourself comfortable. This post is going to be long and newsy. I'm about to seriously dish about the new TV sitcom, Wassup En LA? with lots of details and tons of photos about the project. (This is why you love me, right?)
I promised you a few weeks ago that I would write about the making of Wassup En LA? in great detail. I have so much to share with you about why I think this show is going to be fantastic and why I believe it's going to be must-see TV, but let me back up a bit.
The co-creators of Wassup, Rudolpho Zalez and Carlos de la Vega envisioned a good, old-fashioned TV sitcom. In their vision, they wanted to follow in the footsteps of old-school, family-themed TV classics, such as "I Love Lucy," "The Cosby Show, "Chico and the Man," and "¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.?"
Family friendly TV? Yes, please.
The premise is already hilarious:
Manolito Diaz has dreams of making it big as a Hollywood actor. His Cuban family is extremely supportive. In typical Cuban style, his mom and dad show their support by moving the family from Miami to Los Angeles to help their son reach his dream. They bring along his reluctant-to-leave-Miami sister and, of course the very deliciously Cuban abuelos.
Meet the fictional Diaz family:
From left to right: Oscar Torre as Pepe Diaz, Jean Paul San Pedro as Manolito Diaz, Nicole Garcia as Teresita Diaz, Nelida Ponce as Eufemia Olga Diaz, Gerardo Riverón as Alfredo Figueroa Diaz, and Jezabel Montero as Rosa Maria Diaz.
As I understand it, the entire first season has already been written. The taping we attended on March 23rd involved the shooting of the pilot episode and also a few scenes from various key moments from the rest of the season.
So, for those of you asking where you can see it, there's no good answer for that....yet. The show is still in the works. The scenes that were filmed on the 23rd are still in the post-production phase. It's quite an exciting (and nerve-wracking) time for all involved.
You'll recall that the producers called and asked if I had any Cuban-looking props for the set. Of course, I was happy to oblige. My kids and I willingly drove up to L.A. to deliver the goods. (I'm willing to drive to any area code where a Porto's can be found. I know. Shut up.)
Much to our everlasting delight, we got to visit the studio where the live taping was going to happen.
We got to watch the beautiful set being built.
And we got to sit in on one of the rehearsals.
Let me stop right here and tell you about the cast.
The first members of the cast that we met were Gerardo Riverón and Nelida Ponce, who play the abuelos, Alfredo and Eufemia. For me, it was love at first sight. Both accomplished actors, in their own right, they brought the "Cubaneo" from Miami to the Diaz dinner table. I love that even as they delivered lines in Spanish and Spanglish and broken English, they were always translated beautifully as part of the family dialogue, which is not easy to do.
Kudos to the writers for making them completely Cuban and perfectly accessible to the American audience. Or as we Cubans say, "Se la comieron." Which translates literally to "They ate it." It's a Cuban idiom that means they fantastically exceeded all expectations. (See what I mean? Not easy.)
Here's Nelida (Abuela) showing the next generation how it's done:
Jezabel Montero (daughter of the iconic telenovela beauty, Zully Montero) plays Rosa Maria, the mom. She's an absolute joy to watch as she effortlessly portrays everyone's Cuban American mami. I'd like to interject here that she is a lovely, blond haired, blue-eyed beauty, which is so very typically Cuban (believe it). Smart, funny and oh, so approachable. She's exactly who you would want for a next door neighbor, co-worker, or best friend.
Oscar Torre plays Pepe Diaz. He is the quintessential Cuban dad. All Cuban perfection in his tone and delivery. The ideal blend of seriousness and tenderness. There's a particularly beautiful scene in which Pepe reminds his son, Manolito (Jean Paul San Pedro) what a family is truly all about. I may or may not have cried a little during that scene. (Also, please notice my Cuban souvenir mini-conga set on Manolito's dresser, but that's not important right now.)
"No family is perfect. But be thankful you have one that loves and supports you."
Nicole Garcia plays the smart-alecky sister, Teresita, who hates that they left their lives in Miami to help Manolito chase his dream. She plays the role with a perfect balance of snark and sweetness that's almost breathtaking. I know Teresita. She's all the Cuban friends I grew up with.
And, of course, the one who brings them all to L.A. as he chases his dreams of stardom, Manolito, expertly brought to you by Jean Paul San Pedro. Watch the following video and fall in love with Manolito.
You're totally pulling for him already, aren't you? I know.
The taping went on for the entire day. We arrived around 1:00 PM for the 3:30 PM taping, which was sort of happening on "Cuban time" which was more like 4-ish.
I expected to enjoy the show. Hello? A Cuban family. On TV. What's not to like? I often felt growing up, that our everyday family interactions were worthy of a sitcom. I think most of us who grew up Cuban felt that way. I think that's why many of you relate to me here on MBFCF, and why we Cubans all so passionately love ¿Que Pasa, USA? These are our people. Our stories. Our lives.
Seriously, I have to say it again: Se la comieron. (Just to review: "They ate it." In other words, they fantastically exceeded all expectations.)
Both Eric and I were floored by what great chemistry the cast had with each other. Did I already mention that the entire cast consists of real Cuban Americans? (As God intended.) They were truly believable as a family. As a Cuban family.
My favorite moment of Cubanity (<--that should sooo be a word) happened as the family was gathered at the dinner table.
The director's cue was: "El Cubaneo. Go!"
The family starts talking all at once and over each other. Genius. That's dinner every night at our house, people. I know you know what I'm talking about.
The script was beautifully written. The comedic timing of the actors dead on. The actors were there from 6:00 AM to almost 10:00 PM. And for every take they were both fresh and funny. Every. Time. Seriously.
I'd like to interject here that obviously the appeal to me, personally, was that the hilarity all takes place in a Cuban family. And while that was both familiar and priceless, let me reassure you, the family interactions are of the every day variety. Bickering was balanced by caring. Misunderstanding complemented by tenderness. The only difference being that they were a little bit louder. And they rolled their R's.
I want to know these people in my real life. Yeah. That, right there? Makes this sitcom a total winner in my book.
The shooting of the pilot wrapped up around 9:00 PM and we stuck around to watch them film a few scenes from other episodes.
From the episode: "One quality plate is better than a buffet," Pepe gives Manolito and his friends dating guidelines. I must reiterate that Oscar Torre gives the perfect Cuban papi performance. He is the Cuban "Everyman."
The supporting cast of friends, Pritesh Shah, Aaron Kuban, and Keila Hamilton (as Teresita's friend, Tawana) were all superb as complementary characters to the Diaz family. (I think I'm running out of superlatives here.) Oh, how I wish this show were on the air already!
I encourage all of you, my friends, to support the effort to get this brilliant sitcom on TV. You can help in the following ways:
Go love them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Subscribe to their YouTube Channel (be prepared to get hooked on these characters). Share with your friends. Get the word out. We need their kind of magic on TV.
The show is not only family-friendly, but beautifully written and the performances were all fantastic. So entertaining. So fun to watch. So positive and frankly, uplifting. Just like the shows I grew up watching and loving as a kid. I promise to keep you informed as soon as I know anything about where and when it can be seen.
Thank you, again, Rudolpho and Carlos and the beautiful cast and hard working crew for your tireless energy, perseverance, and faith to see this thing through. I'm waiting, rather impatiently, to see what happens next with Wassup En LA?
Because seriously, they ate it.