BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – With a title like "Bob Hearts Abishola," Chuck Lorre's new series sounds like a love story, but he says its deepest appreciation is reserved for immigrants, a group at the center of a heated political debate involving President Trump and his critics.
In the new CBS comedy from the producer of "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men" sock-company owner Bob (Billy Gardell) falls for nurse Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku), an immigrant from Nigeria, in a Detroit hospital after he suffers a heart attack.
"This show, on the surface, looks like a romantic comedy," executive producer Lorre told the Television Critics Association during the CBS presentation Thursday. "But I've done that and I didn't want to do it again. It is our entrance point to the series, these two very different people meeting and finding, over a very slow process, a relationship." But "the story I wanted to tell is about the greatness of first-generation immigrants … the hard work, the rigorous honesty that goes with coming here and grabbing hold of the American dream."
With that, Lorre took a not-so-veiled slap at President Trump's anti-immigrant statements and his red Make America Great Again (MAGA) caps, saying, "Immigrants make America great," as he donned a yellow cap with the initials IMAG.
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President Trump has criticized the flow of immigrants into the country and has made building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border a cornerstone goal of his presidency. His recent tweet telling four Democratic congresswoman of color to go back to their countries was criticized by many as racist and condemned by the House of Representatives. (Three of the women were born in the U.S. and the fourth, a naturalized American, was born in Somalia.)
Lorre said he couldn't have tackled the topic if he hadn't partnered with co-creator Gina Yashere, who was born in London to Nigerian parents. Nigeria-born Olowofoyeku, who came to the U.S. at 18, said "the humorous side" of the immigrant experience is authentic, "especially with Gina aboard."
Yashere, who also plays Abishola's friend, Kemi, said it's important to define Abishola, who has a son and lives with her aunt and uncle, by more than just her status as an immigrant.
"They're people. They're working, with a mother trying to put her son through school … in a country she wasn't born in," Yashere said. "Yes, she was born in Nigeria, but they're three-dimensional people with dreams and loves and hates and jobs and a life, and that's what it's about, which we really never get to see."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Big Bang Theory' producer Chuck Lorre celebrates immigrants in sitcom