There are aspects of working on the Netflix series “One Day at a Time” that could intimidate any actor: it’s produced by TV legend Norman Lear (“All in the Family”) and it co-stars trailblazing EGOT winner Rita Moreno. But Justina Machado didn’t feel pressure when taking on the starring role. Her primary focus was, “Let’s make this good. We’ve got to get this together. We have an opportunity to change the Latino narrative.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Machado above.
“One Day at a Time” is inspired by the classic sitcom about a single mother and her two children that ran from 1975 to 1984. But the new version is quite different. For starters it’s about a Cuban-American family. On top of that, Machado’s character, Penelope Alvarez, is an army veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress. The show also incorporates a third generation with Moreno as Penelope’s mother.
It’s especially meaningful for Machado to be able to show viewers “that we’re a lot more similar then we are different.” And that has been just as meaningful to the show’s Latino fans. She explains, “So many times me and a lot of the cast get people tweeting us and trying to reach us, letting us know how great it is for them to be represented, how they’re so happy that they see themselves up there … Art is important and if we can change the narrative and let people see us in a different way … Then I feel like I’m doing something with my art.”
And the role itself is “an actor’s dream. Are you kidding me? I get to do it all,” says Machado about the depth of her character arc. “It’s like all of the years of guest starring and recurring, all of these things I’m very grateful for, it’s like I finally get to put all of that life into this character.” Before this she built an extensive TV resume that has included roles in “Six Feet Under,” “ER,” “Ugly Betty,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Private Practice” and much more. “I feel like this is what I’ve been working for my whole life,” she explains, “and there’s no pressure, just a lot of gratitude and a lot of happiness.”
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