Why Representation on One Day at a Time Matters Now More Than Ever

By Billy Nilles Sep 10, 2018 3:11 PMTags
FEB. 18, 2024
Watch: Isabella Gomez Talks Tackling "One Day at a Time" Storylines

In its first season, One Day at a Time did not shy away from a series of tough topics that don't always get their due on TV.

Netflix's heartwarming and charming reboot of the classic Norman Lear sitcom managed to shine a light on veterans issues, LGBTQ issues, immigration issues, as well as the complexities of being a single mother in a multi-generational Cuban-American family, all while making us laugh. It was no small feat, but it was one that co-creators Gloria Calderon Kellet and Mike Royce, along with their extremely talented cast led by the luminous Justina Machado and the legendary Rita Moreno, make look effortless.

The good news? They proved in season two, available for your binging pleasures now on the streaming service, that season one's success was no fluke.

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Watch: Gloria Calderon Kellett Talks "One Day at a Time" Season 2

And honestly, the TV landscape is all the better for it. With the call for greater Latino representation in entertainment at an all-time high, One Day at a Time is leading the charge in a heartfelt and smart way. Season two doesn't miss a beat in its approach to issue-based comedy as it sensitively furthers season one's standout coming out storyline for teenage Elena (played by Isabella Gomez), while coming at racism and immigration from new angles. While being laugh-out-loud funny, the series is also doing the work to normalize Latino families in America at a time when the political climate isn't exactly the warmest for them. And the importantnce of that isn't lost on Kellet.

"It's very satisfying," she told E! News' Zuri Hall on the red carpet at the show's premiere event in Hollywood. "To be able to live with a family, especially a family like this family that's underrepresented right now—a good, Latino, hard-working immigrant family that's making good in America—we feel it's more important than ever given this current climate to show what that looks like in a real way. These are good, hard-working people that are good Americans."


As she explained, the satisfaction at getting to represent those who tend to be marginalized by media comes not from just creating the content, but also from the reaction of those its representing. "We've had the beautiful work that Jane the Virgin has done and Ugly Betty has done before us, and George Lopez, obviously, but to see women at the front of a multi-camera sitcom in the style of Norman Lear has really moved people," she explained. "When we do events, we have people come up to us and say, 'Can I hug you? I just feel so grateful to see myself seen.' And that is beyond just writing a show and wanting to entertain for a half an hour. That makes people feel like they're of worth, and to be a part of something that does that is incredibly satisfying."

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When it comes to Elena's storyline, the handling of which was one of season one's true highlights, Kellet promises that the character's sexuality won't simply fade to the background like it might on some other shows. "The LGBTQ community has been so supportive of the show and many of them have come to us and said, 'Sometimes a show will do one episode that's the "gay" episode,'" she revealed. "So to be able to just see this young woman as she's coming into her own and she's figuring out what that's like and to show people that. That it's OK and that she is loved and she is a wonderful person is wonderful."

For Gomez, who admitted that tackling Elena's sexuality wasn't hard for her, the opportunity to have an impact on people's lives through her work isn't something she's taking for granted. 

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"It's so beautiful. I don't know why, because apparently everyone talks about this, but I never thought about representation much growing up. Maybe because—and we do tackle this in the second season—I'm a lighter Latina, and so I looked like some of the Americans," she said. "And to know what this means to people and to really comprehend that this is a big deal and that it's helping people out there, it's the most humbling thing I've ever experienced. As an actor, of course you want to work and be doing things, but to work on a show that gives you that kind of feeling and that is doing something good for the world, it's unlike anything I've ever experienced."

For more from the pair, including an update from Gomez on Elena's love life in season two, be sure to check out the videos above!

One Day at a Time, which is nominated for The Revival Show of 2018 at this year's People's Choice Awards, also stars Marcel Ruiz, Todd Grinnell and Stephen Tobolowsky.

Season two of One Day at at Time is available to stream now on Netflix.

(This story was originally published on January 26, 2018 at 11:57 a.m. PST.)