When producer Norman Lear offered Rita Moreno the role of Lydia Riera on the Netflix reimagining of “One Day at a Time” she insisted on one major aspect of the character. “I know she’s older, and I know she’s a grandmother, but she has to be a sexual person,” she told us when we interviewed her on the red carpet at the Netflix FYSEE event for “One Day” on June 2. Watch our chat with her above.
Lydia is the matriarch of a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. She fled Cuba when Fidel Castro rose to power, but she has lost none of her vibrancy with age. Her daughter Penelope (Justina Machado) is a nurse, and Lydia began a flirtation with Penelope’s boss Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky) that inflamed her jealousy in season two when Berkowitz began dating another woman.
Moreno said, “The writers loved the idea” of a bold and provocative Lydia, “and so did Norman because he’s a dirty old man — we all know that.” The character’s unapologetic nature has “worked out fabulously … The audience loves that part of her.”
But season two ended with a crisis for Lydia: (SPOILER ALERT) she suffered a stroke that left her in a coma, but true to the title of the season finale, “Not Yet,” Lydia wasn’t ready to join her late husband in the great beyond. So what does the future have in store for Lydia when the show returns for season three in 2019? Moreno hadn’t received any scripts yet when we talked with her, but she did tease the upcoming season, careful to avoid giving away too much. “It’s going to be a wonderful surprise,” she says, “something funny that’s going to be really, ‘Oh my god, they did that?'”
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