Imagine a little girl who loved to watch TV and would eagerly wait for a new show to begin in hopes that THIS show would have at least ONE character who would look like her, talk like her and tell her story. For many of you, it’s not that hard because you knew or were that little girl with no one on TV who reflected who you were. Now, imagine that little girl all grown up and sitting across from THAT ONE character who is about to tell her story on TV. That little girl was me and I got to sit across from Cristela Alonzo at the People en Español FESTIVAL for an interview about her new show CRISTELA on ABC.
First, we had a sneak peek of the series premiere at FESTIVAL followed by a short Q & A where Cristela shared about her humble upbringing in the San Juan, Texas and her struggle to have her mother understand what her dream was partly because of the lack of (English-speaking) Latinos on TV and partly because Cristela’s mother’s dream was to survive. How could her late mother understand Cristela’s dream? So, Cristela set out to create her own show because she knew that was the only way her dream would come true and that her family would be proud of the work. When she told her family about the pilot, her family cried on the phone together.
“I thought it was important to show us (Latinos) being regular people because we are regular people. It’s time everyone knew we are just like everyone else.”
After the sneak peek, I sat down with Cristela Alonzo for a few questions one-on-one. Watch my interview with her below or read the transcript. Don’t miss the fun outtakes!
Cristela Alonzo: The only way it will be different is that it’s based on my life. The episodes come from a story in my life. We have to heighten then for tv to get laughs. But they all have a grand truth in them. I like the show having serious moments sometimes. When you’re having serious family moments. Which I think we’re not shown in other shows. We are a family that loves each other but because we love each other we are very critical of each other because that’s what families are like. Also even little touches that I think are very important. In shows I’ve noticed that nobody ever laughs when somebody says something funny. In real life, you laugh a lote. I mean my family laughs a lot. I wanted to do a show where if something is funny, people laugh like in real life.
I was joking that in this show … the best way to summarize this show is: CRISTELA – we eat three meals in thirty minutes. We eat all the time in the show. We are rehearsing and all of us are like “Gah, we are eating again?!” Its because … my family ate together all the time. We always eat together. It’s a very important part of the show to show that we eat together because that’s how we relate to each other. That’s our time.
QMW: That’s cultura, right?!
Cristela: Yeah, exactly! That is!
QMW: What did you or are you sacrificing now for your dreams come true?
Cristela: I am sacrificing … a life. It’s to the point where I work a lot and I knew I was going to because I write on the show, I act, and I produce on the show. In order to do that I put a lot of stress on myself because I know … just from social media that a lot of people are hoping the show doesn’t disappoint. Because of that I take that stress upon myself and I work really hard to make sure that I put out a product that people can be proud of. Not only me but other people feel like I’m relating to them and I’m showing their life.
In order to do that I’m willing to work as much as I can and do whatever I can to make sure that product is good because I want to make sure that everyone can be proud of this thing that we’re doing.
I don’t think it’s my show. That’s the thing. I always tell people the name of the show is CRISTELA and it’s CRISTELA because it’s based in my life but this show is an ensemble show and everyone on the show is important because not every I new going to like me. But the important thing is that somebody, everybody has to have that one person on the show they can relate to. They all have to like someone on the show. In order to do that everyone has to be real and in order to do that you gotta do the work and in order to that you gotta be willing to sacrifice everything and be willing to walk away from it if it’s not authentic. Because once I have a show that my name’s attached to, I can never use my name on another show again. So it has to matter so much.
In order to that, everything else … everything else doesn’t exist right now but the show.
Melanie/QMW: In the premier earlier you said (that) you wanted a show that kids could watch with their parents. What do you want those kids to take away?
Cristela: What I want is … when I was a little kid, I was a really, really poor kid that didn’t have anything. The shows I watched inspired me. Those shows never told me I couldn’t do it. Shows like ROSEANN where somebody didn’t have money and they struggled, that to me spoke to me. They didn’t even know that what they were doing was inspiring little kids like me to try to do it. They were just trying to entertain.
I took it to this really deep level where I just saw it and I thought this is what I want to do with my life. Nowadays, I see a lot of shows kids can’t watch on TV. They’re great. There are some shows that are fantastic but I feel like there are less people that are inspired and want to dream if they don’t start at an early age. To me, all of this started when I was six or seven. That’s when you get them. You get them when they’re young and when, I like to say, when their minds are still wet cement.
It’s that thing where you’re like: Hey, I want you to know right now at six or seven that anything you want to do is so possible. I want you to know that someone like me can be on TV which means that someone like you can be on TV or not even be on TV but if I can do the impossible you can do so much more because you will have so many more opportunities that I did not have.
That’s the goal. The goal is make sure I can hopefully connect to little kids in the middle of no where that think they don’t have a chance.
Melanie/QMW: Do you have a sense of responsibility? It’s kind of a big deal for a Latina to have her own show. I love that almost this whole time you’ve never referred to it as a Latino show or Hispanic show. Earlier today you said an ‘American family’. How do you feel about that?
Cristela: It’s a lot of responsibility. I feel like .. I feel and I don’t know if it’s true but this is how I feel … if the show isn’t … if I don’t do this show justice, I don’t want it to be another five years before someone else gets the chance.
In order to do that I need make sure this is done right and by right I mean honest. To me, that’s the most important thing. I don’t know what to say. The responsibility is big and I’d rather carry it myself than give it to somebody else. I really love what I’m doing. I love this project so much and I think other people will love it, too. ###
OUTTAKES start at 7:17. Don’t miss them!
CRISTELA premieres FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10th at 8:30EST/7:30CST on ABC and stars Cristela Alonzo as Cristela, Carlos Ponce as Felix, Maria Canals-Barrera as Daniela, Terri Hoyos as Natalia, Andrew Leeds as Josh, and Sam McMurray as Trent. Stand-up sensation Gabriel Iglesias (The Fluffy Movie) also appears as Alberto.
CRISTELA was co-created by Cristela Alonzo and Kevin Hench. Executive producers are Kevin Hench, Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements. Alonzo is co-executive producer. CRISTELA is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television.
Follow CRISTELA on ABC: