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Fans of One Day at a Time got their hearts broken about a year ago when Netflix pulled the plug on the beloved series. The show, which is a modern reboot of the 1970s series of the same name, is one of the few shows on TV featuring a Latinx family dealing with the many issues that they face today in America. From veterans rights to sexuality and religion to immigration, there isn't a single topic that One Day at a Time shies away from. Because of this, the show had become a beacon for Latinx viewers who rallied behind the series in hopes that it would get picked up by another streaming service or network. Then the seemingly impossible happened.
After three months of signing petitions, sending thousands of tweets, and even getting the show to trend multiple times on Twitter, the series was officially picked up by PopTV. This made ODAAT the first series to be cancelled by Netflix to make it's way to traditional linear TV. The show officially returns on March 24, bringing joy to America once again in a time when it needs it the most.
Seventeen got to exclusively talk to Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz, who play Elena and Alex Alvarez, about the show's big return and what it means for them and the future of the communities they are representing on screen.
17: Congrats on the big return! Tell us about how it was for you when the show got cancelled and later picked up again.
Isabella Gomez: It felt like my family was back and it was such a roller coaster. It took such a long time and a streaming show has never ever been saved and gone to network. So it was unprecedented. We knew our show was special but also didn't [expect it]. I had a lot of hope, and then months and months went by and then it was like, "All right, time to move on."
So when we got that call, it seemed like a miracle. We were so delighted and we were so happy, not only because we get to work with each other again, and it's the most incredible cast — we all adore each other — and we have the best writers, but also because of what it means for the Latinx community and for the LGBTQ community and for women-led shows.
Marcel Ruiz: When they told me that [the show] got canceled, it took some time to really have any feeling about it. I didn't know how to feel about it right when they told me. Then when I started going to events and stuff and they started asking me questions about the cancellation, then I started to really take it in. I was surprised that it got canceled, because I know how much the show impacted the lives of so many fans. It's one of the first shows where there really is a Latino family in the realest way possible.
When it got picked up, I wasn't surprised, but the thing that did surprise me was that it was such a long time between the cancellation and the pickup. If it was a month between the cancellation and the pickup, I would have been like, "Oh, okay, then yeah." But after a month or two passed, you're like, "Oh yeah, it's over." So I had already forgotten about it — I was already in school and working on other stuff. When they called me, I was in my house, and my mom tells me, 'Hey, One Day at a Time's coming back.' I was like, "Oh my God."
17: Were you surprised by the fan reaction to the cancellation?
IG: Our fans have been fiercely loyal since the beginning, but we were aware that we obviously didn't have the biggest fan base in the world. We just had a very dedicated fan base. The way that it exploded was pretty shocking. The day the news came out, we trended number one worldwide for like seven or six hours, which is insane in the Twitter world — that doesn't happen. We all just kept messaging each other and being like, ‘This isn't real.’ And honestly, if that was all that happened, that would be than enough to make us feel better. But it was the continued support [that was really surprising] — when it was one month later, two months later, and people were still tweeting #SaveODAAT and tweeting the networks.
Norman [Lear, executive producer and creator of original series] said it best: In his 97 years of life, he had never seen anything like that happen, and it's likely that none of us will ever see anything like that happen again.
17: What was it like going back to the first table read? Was it harder than you expected getting back into character?
IG: It was so strange. I kind of expected everything to feel exactly the same. And of course after a year and a half it didn't. Everybody has grown up. Marcel is 16 now — he's like an old man. And I think we all came back with this new fresh outlook of "Holy crap, we get to do this thing and we're so lucky to get to do this thing." But at the same time, sitcoms are very hard to do. A lot of people might not see it that way, but it's very specific comedy. I remember after the first table read being so shocked at how rusty I was. I was like, "Oh no, I lost my funny." But we have the best cast and the best writers and the best directors in show business, so they got us right back in the groove of things, and it's been like nothing happened but also like a miracle happened and we're all aware of it.
MR: During the first table read, we all felt a little rusty. When we finished, we looked at each other and it was like, "Oh my God, that felt weird." But when we started rehearsing, we got back into character very easily. Also, everything really was the same. People always ask, "Oh, what's changing?" Really, the channel's changing, but the way that we film and do this show is still the same — we just do it on a stage down from the one that we used to do it on.
It's really been a fun season to film, because we're all just happy to be there and taking advantage of every little moment. We're really having fun with it.
17: Both Alex and Elena are a little bit older. How are they different this season?
IG: I think what makes this show so special is that we're creating well-rounded humans and that means taking the good with the bad. There is a stereotype of Alex being more the trouble maker and Elena being the perfect goody two shoes. But that doesn't mean that they can't do each of those things and switch them around. And I think we definitely get to see that more this season too. We see more instances where Alex will also step up and be more of that perfect goody two shoes and try harder and excel. Elena will take a step back and just freak out and be a little bit more of a normal human.
MR: You're of course going to see [Alex] be more mature, while still being the same Alex, having fun, making jokes with his family, and still being there for them. He'll always have that great relationship with his grandma and this season has him a little more embarrassed about his grandmother. The third episode, honestly, it's been one of my favorite episodes to film. It's so funny, everyone loved it. When I first heard about it, me and Justina were laughing so hard.
17: Do you feel a sort of pressure now that the show is back and knowing how much it means to people?
IG: When I booked the show, Elena wasn't LGBTQ, so I had no idea until later on in the process. But I also was very unaware of the lack of representation and why representation matters, because as a white passing Latina, the people on TV look like me. I never realized that my people weren't shown on TV because growing up in Columbia, everything was dubbed into Spanish. So it just all looks like TV shows about us. It didn't even click in my head. So it's [from being a part of] this show that I've learned a lot about representation
I feel obviously responsibility and pressure… in the sense that I feel very, very proud and very lucky to get to be the person that brings this representation. It has changed me as a person and [I am] much more aware and empathetic because of Elena and because of the LGBTQ community and the Latinx community embracing us and teaching us more and more every day. We have brilliant, brilliant writers that would never do us wrong and are always doing a ton of research to make sure everything that we talk about is represented accurately and positively. So in that sense, I feel that I can let my guard down a little. But I definitely understand that it's a huge responsibility and a huge honor.
MR: I don't feel pressure, just because we know that it's going to be good and people are going to like it. After everything that happened and now we're coming back, we have to start with a bang and we have to start with kind of like a thank you to the community.
17: You had a number of great guest stars join in on the fun so far. Who is your dream guest star for the future?
IG: I mean Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz are always welcome back anytime they'd like to be. They are so lovely. I've said since season one Lin-Manuel Miranda would be such a dream. I mean are you kidding? But I also think Phil Lewis, who was
incredible playing Mr. Mosbey [in the Suite Life of Zack and Cody would be great. Hedirects a lot of our episodes and is one of our in house directors and I think it would just be brilliant if he could be something where I get to play with him, either a teacher or SAT tutor or something.
MR: I'm just going to be real with you, it would be Bad Bunny. It could be himself, but not in the present. Possibly playing himself when he started up, so he still wasn't that famous. Him and Alex are just friends and Alex is just like, "I hope you hear my music and he's coming to the house." Then my mom's just like, "What are you doing with this grown up man?" That or he can just play a cousin or an uncle.
17: For fans who may be hesitant to watch because it's on a new network or for those who might be starting for the first time, what would you like to say to them?
IG: What I would say is that we would not have made this show on a network if we didn't get to make the show we wanted to make. We would have never compromised the Alvarez family. We would have never ever made it a version that didn't feel true to them or that didn't talk about the things we wanted to talk about or anything like that. So although there are some changes — like the episodes are a little shorter, we have to cut to commercial, it's a little snappier at times — it's still the same heart and the same essence and we still talk about all of those same big, big subjects. If anything, we get to talk about them more so, because now we get to be topical and now we are week by week. There's an election coming up and we definitely talk about that and religion is definitely something we touch on again. And the sex episode [episode three of this season], which is something I've never seen on TV. It's definitely still the same One Day at a Time you know and love, just now on network television.
MR: I mean, it's a sitcom. It's just like Friends or Seinfeld where you sometimes can just skip to the fifth season and watch the third episode of that season if you want. That's sometimes what I do and all you need to learn is the summary of the show. It's a great Latinx show about a single mom living with her family and her mom in LA. It's just the problems that they have every day and what they're dealing with. So really, if you know that, then you can already start watching the fourth season, and also, you can always watch the first, second and third seasons to catch up if you want.
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