The much anticipated show, “Vida,” is back and ready to delight fans once more with its unique and contemporary portrayal of two sisters returning back to their hometown roots of East Los Angeles.
Season one of Vida showcased the Hernandez sisters Emma (Mishel Prada) and Lyn (Melissa Barrera) from two very different worlds coming together because of their mother’s passing. However, instead of things going smoothly, the sisters learn that their mother was a lesbian and was married to a woman without their knowledge. Aside from family trouble within the Hernandez home, they also have to deal with the business their mother left behind- a bar called La Chinita. But if you love some relationship drama, then you’ll love the complicated relationship between Lyn and Johnny (Carlos Miranda). Latino heartthrob Johnny, the neighborhood’s local mechanic, leaves his pregnant fiancé to be with Lyn- only to be left by Lyn at the end of season one. The creator of the show, Tanya Saracho, also uses conflicts associated with gentrification in East L.A. as well as explores the narratives of gender, cultural identities, and sexual orientation.
Fast-forward to season two- premiering May 23rd on Starz- and the Hernandez sisters have to deal with the mismanagement of the family business, relationship issues, grief, loss, and so much more as they settle back into their Mexican-American childhood neighborhood while leaving behind their previous lives. I was able to speak to the cast of Vida about everything from the tasty Mexican food on set, the love and hate they’ve received for their characters, gentrification in East L.A. and so much more! Check out my chat below with Tanya Saracho!
The Knockturnal: Everyone loves the show!
Tanya Saracho: They do?! Good.
The Knockturnal: Yes! I feel everyone is excited for season two. I’ve noticed that this show tackles a lot of topics: gentrification, cultural identity, racism…the list could go on. What could be new topics that the show can touch on that the Latino community hasn’t highlighted yet?
Tanya Saracho: We don’t think of the show in topics when we build it. We just want to continue and deepen. So, that’s what’s happening in season two. Because three hours of T.V. is only una probadita, a taste. So now we really get into it in every way! Such as deepening the sister’s relationship- all of it! It’s more about deepening the storylines and themes, except we don’t think in themes so much. We just follow the characters.
The Knockturnal: I know you’ve brought on two new characters, Raúl Castillo and Roberta Colindrez. Really great! And Raúl, I believe, is from the show Looking.
Tanya Saracho: Yes!
The Knockturnal: So what made you want to bring on these two new characters for season two?
Tanya Saracho: Well, Raúl I’ve known since we were 14 years old and Roberta, we’ve worked in theatre together too. So I knew those actors and the quality of their work. And we were just crafting these characters organically in the writers room, so they just appeared. I can’t tell you too much about their characters because you just have to discover them but you’ll see how perfect those actors are for those roles! We haven’t had a hyper-masculine male on the show and now we have Raúl! He’s like a former cholo.
The Knockturnal: Really? Tough guy?!
Tanya Saracho: Yeah, tough guy! He clashes with Emma and she’s not use to that.
The Knockturnal: I feel like that’s coming on from the first episode already. I was like: Hmm, I feel like something’s going to be…
Tanya Saracho: No, they’re not friends. But he also represents the neighborhood. He has a certain view of her presenting whiteness and he tells her. As soon they meet, he tells her. I love it.
The Knockturnal: I know you’ve written for previous shows like Devious Maids (which I was a fan of!), Looking, and even Girls. What makes writing for Vida different from those shows?
Tanya Saracho: Well, I’m the boss here! The story starts here [points to heart]– so that’s the difference. When you’re a writer for hire, you’re rendering a story for a showrunner. So you’re guessing as to where they want to take it when you’re pitching and stuff like that. It’s a different muscle. Here, it’s purely an engendering muscle.
The Knockturnal: And you have more power!
Tanya Saracho: Yes! I have more power! Which is better.
The Knockturnal: That’s fun! So I know I asked fans what would be the number one question they would want me to ask you. And a lot of fans wanted me to ask you this question and, so, let’s see if you know!?
Tanya Saracho: Ok!
The Knockturnal: They realized in one of the bar scenes in the background they’re playing Costa Rican singer, Chavela Vargas, who was lesbian. Was that a special nod to her as an LGBTQ Latina since she had came out in a time when it was taboo?
Tanya Saracho: I love that they noticed! She’s Costa Rican but she claimed Mexican-ness a lot because she lived in Mexico most of her life. So, yeah! Chavela Vargas is our gay icon! That was very much on purpose.
The Knockturnal: I’m glad they noticed. Because I said to myself when I got the question, “let me just throw it out there. I’m not sure she’s going to know about it.”
Tanya Saracho: We paid a lot of money for that song because it was so important to have! Juan Gabriel- one of his songs was in the first episode- and we also mentioned another artist. It’s very specific. It’s code-switching to this queer way. I’m so glad they noticed!