“It’s been such an amazing experience to portray a character so close to your identity,” admits Nico Santos about his role on NBC’s “Superstore.” Watch our exclusive video interview above (or listen to the audio below) where he adds, “When I first started in this industry I thought I would have to downplay my Asian-ness and my queerness. And I’m not particularly a person who can hide my queerness. That I have a full and successful career where all parts of my identity are not just portrayed but celebrated has been such a blessing. I never thought in a million year’s I’d be playing parts that are queer and Asian that are complex.”
In its fourth season, “Superstore” is a workplace comedy set at the ‘Cloud 9’ big-box retail store. Santos plays Mateo, a Filipino associate who works at the store. The actor himself has a background in retail, adding, “I worked in high end retail. Working on ‘Superstore’ I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter. The level of crazy that comes with the customer is exactly the same; whether they’re spending 99 cents on toilet paper or $10,000 on a handbag. I’m glad all those years in retail I’m finally able to put to use.”
This season Mateo had to come clean about his undocumented status. Santos explains, “It’s been an incredible journey. When Mateo first started on the show he was this snarky and sassy employee. When the showrunner told me we were thinking about turning his character undocumented, I thought it was brilliant. It informs everything about Mateo: why he’s hyper competitive and why he’s the way he is. It’s another layer that informs his character; so he becomes more than just this sassy employee.”
The storyline also provides an opportunity for the show to explore an aspect of American life not often dealt with on network sitcoms. Santos says “there is such a wide variety of what it means to be undocumented and an immigrant. Mateo is a small part of a story that rarely gets told. Being Filipino, I’m an immigrant myself. I came to this country when I was 16. My own parents were undocumented at one point in their lives. I was really happy to get the opportunity to portray this story. Because it’s a story that the Filipino community is familiar with, and a story that doesn’t get told that often.”
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