One Day at a Time showrunners and creators Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce and actor Isabella Gomez (Elena Alvarez) made their first appearances at ClexaCon this year. Their panel, moderated by Annie Segarra, was a great conversation about Latinx and LGBTQ representation.
Gomez’s character, Elena comes out during season one of the series, a decision made by Royce and Kellett early on. They have a couple of gay writers in the writers’ room whose experience they were drawing from, and Royce’s daughter came out while they were writing season one, so he was able to use some of that experience as well. After the decision was made to make Elena gay, Royce and Kellett met with Gomez and her parents to discuss it with them and make sure they were comfortable and all on the same page. Kellett talked about how seriously Gomez took it and that she wanted to portray Elena accurately. Gomez talked about not realizing how big of a deal it would be, for her it was just another aspect of the character.
Adding a nonbinary character, Syd (Sheridan Pierce), came about similarly. Royce had taken his daughter to college and seen a sign about pronouns that sparked a conversation about it. Kellett talked about seeing how starved for representation different communities are and wanting to do more. She was inspired by LGBTQ students she saw at an event who gave their pronouns when they introduced themselves, something she’d never seen before.
A fan asked what were some of the most surprising reactions they’ve gotten from the LGBTQ or Latinx communities and Gomez talked about the adults that come up to her and are affected by the story. She has teens thank her for representing them all the time, but it’s parents who tell her the show helped start a conversation or adults who tell her their life would be easier if they had a character like Elena when they were fifteen that really blow her mind. She also said the amount of love and support they get is really beautiful.
One Day at a Time also tackles issues like mental health, with Elena’s mother Penelope (Justina Machado), who’s a disabled veteran who suffers from PTSD and depression. Kellett and Gomez talked about how important it was to deal with mental health because it’s still very stigmatized and not talked about, especially in Latinx communities. Gomez got a little personal, talking about how one season two episode really helped a family member of hers, because it helped explain some of what they were going through. The mental health discussion will continue to season three, according to Kellett.
When it comes to addressing the harder topics, Royce said they don’t want it to feel like the family is standing at a blackboard teaching a lesson, they want it to be an issue that clicks with what the family is going through. He mentioned having a blackboard full of issues that they might want to tackle, it just has to be about the characters and an issue that would get them emotionally invested. As far as the comedy aspect goes, Gomez pointed out that a lot of people deal with hard situations with comedy, so it does help make it real.
Season three was announced a few weeks ago and the One Day at a Time writers are already back at work. Unfortunately, Royce and Kellett were unable to say anything about what we can expect in season three, but Kellett promised it would be good. They will bring Carmen (Ariela Barer) back if possible, they tried for season two, but were unable to get Barer.
You can check out the full panel below.