Creator and executive producer Gloria Calderón Kellett likes to put a little broccoli in her TV shows. Her series are totally enjoyable and compulsively watchable—but they’re also good for you.
“I do it in my house,” Kellett said during a recent video call with Paste. “I made brownies the other day with black beans.”
On One Day at a Time, it was tackling some difficult topics while making us laugh. And in Kellett’s new Amazon Prime series With Love, it’s the representation of a successful Latino family living in Portland as characters who are diverse in terms of age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and gender identification. The five-episode series follows siblings Lily (Emeraude Toubia) and Jorge Jr. (Mark Indelicato), their parents Beatriz (Constance Marie) and Jorge Sr. (Benito Martinez), their non-binary cousin Sol (Isis King) and their respective significant others through a year marked by holidays beginning with Nochebueno (Christmas Eve) and ending with Dia de los Muertos.
“I love that it’s this entertaining, warmly wrapped ‘feeling ,like a Christmas holiday rom com,’ but [within that] are people that don’t normally get to see their stories told,” Kellett said. “They get to be the best friend but they never get to be the center of the story. Emeraude, now she’s the lead. Mark Indelicato gets to be the funny side character all the time, now he’s the lead. Isis King gets to be the brilliant first trans lead of a holiday rom com show.”
Kellett, who plays the hilarious Tia Gladys on the series, wrote the show during the pandemic. “This show really came out of not being able to see my family, not getting to be at the big warm wonderful parties that I’ve taken for granted and then it was also I love rom coms. My favorite movie of all time is When Harry Met Sally. It became clear there are no Latinos anywhere in this genre and I can change that. I wanted to create the Mexican Nancy Myers. I wanted it to be warm. I wanted the kitchens to be beautiful. I wanted the people to be dressed up. I needed to make something that was just joyful.”
The result is a series that is charming, funny, poignant, and groundbreaking. Paste TV got the chance to talk to the cast of With Love during a recent virtual press tour and hear from them what made the project and the characters they played so special. Meet the characters of With Love:
Two doctors meet and fall in love. One is resistant to opening themselves up to a relationship. The other is coming off a difficult divorce. It’s a story we may have seen before, but this time Sol is a trans, non-binary character. Except for the quick announcement that Sol uses they/them pronouns, little mention is made of the fact that they are trans and non-binary. “You wouldn’t be like, ‘Hi trans cousin,’” Kellett said. “Everybody came out a decade ago. Nobody cares anymore. All that’s left is the love.”
Coming out stories is something viewers have seen over and over again, King said. “What happens after that? Our lives are not in limbo in the coming out phase. I’m so grateful that there’s also no trauma related to this storyline. Sol has a career. Sol had a supporting family and friends. Sol may or may not be moving into the next phase of finding love and that’s it. It’s so refreshing and rewarding for me as an actress to get to be playing this part that I’ve always wanted to see.”
For King, having Sol be a fully realized character and not just a sexual object really sets With Love apart. “It just really grounds people like me,” she says. “ And just shows that we are all the same and we deserve the same basic needs, support love and family and I just think the show really captures that in a really real way.”
Grinnell, who also starred in One Day at a Time, views With Love as a thematic continuation of that series. “I hope they take away that we are all one,” he said. “We are a lot more alike than we are different. On paper, I am very different from every single member of the cast. Yet I relate to every single one of the themes and the nuance of every relationship on this show and I think everyone else will too.”
When we meet Jorge and Henry, they are embarking on the next phase of their relationship and Jorge is going to introduce Henry to his extended family at the holiday party. “At this time in their lives, they’re ready for the next level of whatever their lives can be and it happens to be each other,” Rodriguez said. “We have our strengths and our weaknesses. The differences can help make your relationship stronger if you stay vulnerable and you stay open. I love that about Jorge and Henry and I think that’s a beautiful representation that we need to see more of these days.”
Jorge’s romance with Henry shows that “two cis gay men can be in a healthy monogamous relationship,” Indelicato said. “There is a very large stigma that still exists about gay men being only promiscuous,” he said. “There’s something that’s really beautiful about the relationship between Jorge and Henry. They’re truly committed to one another despites their ebbs and flows, the peaks and valleys in their relationship. At the end of the day they are really just obsessed with each other and love each other and only want to be with one another. That was something I wanted to really lean into that two cis gay men can only want to be with one another and no one else.”
Jorge and Lily’s parents have been married a long time. They’ve been busy raising their children and running their restaurant. Jorge can’t remember the last time he took his wife out to dinner or made her feel special. “This is a couple who do love each other very much but they are sort of on autopilot,” Kellett said. “You cannot take your eye off the ball. What does it look like to stay in love?”
When we meet them it is before somebody does something cataclysmic that’s irreparable, Marie explained. “There are so many people that have long term relationships and it’s so dusty that you can’t see who you used to be,” she said. “The fact that [the show] can transition between the drama of it and the comedy of it seamlessly is just a gift.”
Jorge gets a wake-up call that he needs to pay attention to his marriage. “It’s like realizing there’s a leak under the sink,” Martinez added. “You didn’t know it was there but when you find it you’re like, ‘Oh shit I got to fix that.’”
Martinez loved representing a successful Latino family. “We represent a clan that is just based in love and acceptance,” he said. “Humans interacting with other humans during the holidays, and during the stressful times they stick together and we are all a little bit better for it.”
A classic love triangle. Lily, who starts off the series reeling from a tough break-up, is friends (and maybe something more) with her brother’s roommate Nick while also intrigued with Santiago, a man she keeps running into. “I wanted to make sure all the girls watching the show can relate to Lily and see themselves,” Toubia said. “Finding love is not such an easy thing and we all go through it.”
Nick has spent his twenties looking for love in many of the wrong places. “He’s an immature dude,” Chiam said. “He conflates love and sex and there’s such a long journey from that point to figure out what love actually is and for him to take the first step on that journey is a huge thing for a character like that.”
Flynn is rather philosophical about Lily and Santiago’s romance, which hits some obstacles over the course of the five episodes. “These are major differences that they have,” he said. “It creates this kind of dynamic where you kind of want them to be together but if they don’t you kind of understand it.”
Kellett had initially planned to make 10 episodes, but in order to get the series out in time for the Christmas season this year, there are five. But Kellett can see this family celebrating many more holidays together. “I would love to make several seasons,” she said. “Tell Amazon! I love this family. I want to see where they evolve. I want to see who ends up together. I want to see all of it, and I have ideas for all of it.”
All five episodes of With Love are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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