Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 04/11/22

A familia ring. The Garcias—a reboot of the hit Nickelodeon series The Brothers Garcia—will premiere on HBO Max on Thursday, April 14th. The new show jumps ahead 15 years from the original series with the Garcia kids now grown up with children of their own and traveling to beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico for a journey of self-discovery. My conversation with series creator and showrunner Jeff Valdez follows the trailer.

JWK: What led to this reboot?

Jeff Valdez: It was basically seeing that there were no shows on TV for a long time after the original series ran that showed dimensional interesting characters that were a family. In 2011 I started trying to get the rights back from Nickelodeon. I tried for seven years. In 2018 Bob Bakish became CEO of (parent company) Viacom. I went to him and he said “Yeah, I’ll get you the rights back.” Then I set on the process. I called the cast and (we) got together and they said “This is a great idea! Let’s do it!” Then we had our deal with HBO Max and we said this is the show we wanna do.
JWK: How much of the Garcias’ story is autobiographical?
JV: My wife leaned into me the other night when we went to the premiere and she goes “Oh, my God! This is like, basically, every bit of our lives!” A lot of it’s autobiographical. The first (series) was really more about my family that I grew up with. This is really more about my wife, my two sons and I – even though there’s three girls and a boy in the (TV) family…The stories and a lot of the lessons learned come from just me raising my kids.
JWK: So how have things changed since the original show aired – for families, for the country and for television?
JV: There are certain things that are exactly the same. I love so much of the new technology we can use. We didn’t have to wait for dailies. Everything was just in real time. I loved the casting using Zoom because you actually see the actors. It’s almost like an automatic screen test. So, all the technical stuff, I thought, was great.

What’s changed in the country? There’s obviously a very anti-immigrant sentiment out there. In the show we don’t even mention immigration. Not in 50 episodes of The Garcias was there ever the words “immigrant,” “border,” (or) “drive-by gang.” None of that was ever mentioned (in that show) or in this show. This is about a family first and foremost…People think that all Latinos are immigrants. My families been here since 1590. We were here before there was an America or a Mexico.

(As for) Hollywood, quite frankly, not that much has changed because, if you look at the reports that have just recently come out, the percentage of U.S. Latinos on the air is very low – like five percent. (If you were to ask how many) Latinos on television are funny, charming and dimensional, the answer would be way under one percent. In this show, it’s 100%. We achieved 92% diversity behind the camera. Now, we tell people “Look, we’re either geniuses – which we’re not – or somebody’s not trying very hard” because, you know, we’re not a multi-billion-dollar company and we did it in a matter of three weeks. Why has Hollywood not been able to get this done in 50 years? You know, call me. I’ll help you. I’m happy to give you the secret sauce.

JWK: Other than moving the characters forward 15 years, are there any other differences between the two shows?

JV: We serialize this series. The original Brothers Garcia was not serialized. You could watch it in any kind of sequence out of order. (The Garcias) you need to watch in order. That’s another thing that’s changed. Things are much more serialized.

JWK: Is that because of streaming – that people tend to binge and watch the episodes consecutively?

JV: Yep, pretty much.

JWK: As the showrunner, what exactly is your job?

Basically, my job is to create the character arc and get it ready for the writers’ room – we have amazing writers working on the show – and making sure we get the right casting and going and hiring a great DP (Director of Photography), an art director and set designers. I’m very hands on through every element and then, you know, the post production – sitting through all the sound mixes, through all the edits and the color sessions. I have my fingerprints on every little detail in the show because it’s important to me that this thing be really, really well done.

JWK: What specific stereotypes are you pushing back on?

I wouldn’t even go into the notion of stereotypes. I will tell you this. The show is very authentic because of the fact that, literally, I had 100% complete control of every creative decision in the show. I think that’s, hopefully, gonna be a good thing for Hollywood to look and go “Let’s actually hire Latinos who know how to be Latino.” So, everything in the show is very authentic. It’s not usually a non-Latino telling us how to be Latino. We’ve seen that that has not worked for 50 years now.

I can tell you I’ve talked to several, in particular, Latino reporters and they just are effusive about (watching) the show with their families. They just really connect with it’s validating effect. As we say, all we’re doing is creating a sense of normalcy…One thing we poke fun at is, you know, in Mexico on a lot of Spanish TV everybody’s really white, right? We poke fun at that – the fact that you’re in Mexico and everybody on TV is white. We have a scene where…all the Mayans are blonde-haired, blue-eyed and all the crew behind the camera are Mayan looking. That’s art imitating life.

It’s not a stereotype but we talk about the fact that when I met my wife – who’s from Mexico – I would go to Mexico thinking I’m Mexican and realize… I’m an American. I’m Mexican-American but I’m not Mexican. There’s a distinction between Mexican-Mexican (which) is very different than Mexican-American. So, people are like “Omigosh! The Garcias are living in Mexico and they’re fish out of water.” People who don’t get that are like “Wait a second! They’re Mexican!”…The character George – who is really based on me – comes finally in Episode 10 to a realization of who he really is. He’s 100% Mexican and he’s 100% American.  He doesn’t have to choose.

JWK: So, while the show may have a special appeal to Latino families, it’s something people in all families can relate to.

JV: Yeah. The show is not a Latino show at all – and it’s 100% a Latino show.

It’s not a Latino show at all in the sense that…our biggest current Garcia fan knows as much about the show as I do – and I created the damn thing – and he’s a white guy out of New Jersey. A reporter I spoke to earlier was just effusive. He’s African-American. He said “I grew up on (The Brothers Garcia). I love that that show. It had a moral lesson at the end of every episode and I use some of the lessons learned on how I deal with my own family.”

I would say it’s like a warm blanket. It’s a safe space for people to go to in what is really (currently) a dark environment of television. Look, there are no zombies that are gonna eat your face off in this show. The world doesn’t get blown up by a maniac 20 times over. There are no guns. There’s no violence. And it’s not corny. It’s not syrupy. And it’s something you can watch with your family.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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