Women Rule

‘I hope people can say, “Your show made my life better”’: Justina Machado & Gloria Calderón Kellett

Episode Summary

The star and showrunner of Netflix’s "One Day At a Time" — one of Hollywood's few series starring and led by women of color — talk Hollywood, sexism and the stereotypes they’re tired of hearing about Latinas.

Episode Notes

The star and showrunner of Netflix’s "One Day At a Time" — one of Hollywood's few series starring and led by women of color — talk Hollywood, sexism and the stereotypes they’re tired of hearing about Latinas.

It’s a TV show about a Cuban-American single mother who works as a nurse. She’s an Army veteran and her ex-husband is still a contractor overseas. She has post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. Her teenage daughter is an out and proud lesbian in a world that isn’t always welcoming. Her son has been bullied by racists who tell him to “go back to Mexico,” even though he’s a third-generation American. Her mother, a devout Catholic and Cuban immigrant, and lives with them in a small apartment in a working-class Los Angeles neighborhood.

If you’re among those who read that and think the show isn’t for you, Machado is having none of it.

“We get this question a lot, like, ‘What does it have to do with me? Why should I watch it?’” Machado said in an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast. “And I’m saying personally, I grew up watching white people and I identified with them. And I didn’t have anything in common with ‘Growing Pains.’ I had nothing in common with Kirk Cameron. … They were telling universal stories about family, about love, about all of these things.”

“When I wake up in the morning, I don’t think, like, ‘Another day in the life of a Latina!’” chuckled Gloria Calderón Kellett, the series’ co-runner, who joined Machado on the podcast. “You just wake up, and you’re a human and you’re trying to go about your day.”

Over its three seasons, “One Day At a Time” has earned a devoted fan following, both for its sharp writing and for its perspective on the world. It’s one of relatively few TV shows in Hollywood both led by and starring women of color (Machado’s mother is portrayed by Rita Moreno, the legendary EGOT winner whose career has spanned from “Singin’ In the Rain” and “West Side Story” to the Netflix series).

Having strong women behind the camera makes a difference, too.

“Day One of our show, we sit down with our staff and we say, ‘Hey, listen. If you have something — your kid has something at their school, you get to go to that,’” said Calderón Kellett. “‘And for those of you who have chosen not to have children, but your dog or your mom or your best friend is the most important person in the world to you, they have something? You get to go to that. All of you get to live your lives. And we’re going to try very hard to get out of here so that you can have dinner and have a full life outside of this.’ The moment you say that to anybody, they will kill for you.”

Having worked a steady career in TV on series like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Rules of Engagement,” Calderón Kellett said she was moved to take the approach because she’s toiled away in so many toxic and unaccommodating male-dominated writers’ rooms.

“Here I am in Hollywood, and I’m suffering [because of] a guy who doesn’t want to go home because he doesn’t like his wife and kids, and he wants to hold me hostage here while he’s telling dick jokes,” she said. “The more I would be in rooms where there would be half women, or more and more women, the more that type of misogynistic behavior ended. It would just start to end.”