In the new TV sitcom “Rob,” comedian Rob Schneider (“Grown Ups”) plays the title character, a lifelong bachelor who experiences some culture clashing when he marries into a Latino family. Actress Diana Maria Riva, 42, stars as Rosa, Rob’s new mother-in-law who likes to pick fights with her husband Fernando (Cheech Marin).
During an exclusive interview with me, Riva talked about what a show like “Rob” has to do to survive its first season and responds to critics of the show who think it conveys negative Latino stereotypes.
The next episode of “Rob” airs Thursday, March 1 on CBS at 7:30 p.m.
What first attracted to this show?
I loved the storyline. I loved the story of this vibrant Latino family and talking about this common language of marriage from a Latino perspective. I knew working with Rob Schneider was going to be fun. I thought it would be the chance of a lifetime when I heard Cheech [Marin] was cast as my husband. It’s all proven to be very true.
What kind of husband is Cheech?
He’s wonderful. My character loves to bicker and argue with him, but also loves to love him. As much as they argue, they’re a well-oiled machine that has been together since she was too young. It’s fun when they get to play out their personalities.
Yeah, both of your characters are very cynical with each other. How much of that is in the script? Do you get to improvise at all?
The cynicism is definitely in the script. The writers love to give me those zingers to whip out at him. The comedic chemistry between us was really apparent from the get-go. He lets Rosa be, and when we fight it’s funny. He follows this age-old rule of making your partner look good. He’s a very generous comedic actor. He makes it very easy for me to do my job.
TV shows featuring Latino casts are a rarity these days. Very few are given the chance like “The George Lopez Show” and “Ugly Betty.” What does “Rob” have to do to have a long life on the small screen?
I think what can really make a show like “Rob” work is not to be exclusive. Although it pulls from a Latino sense of humor, it has to be universal. I think that’s why the masses are turning to the show. It’s not about this Latino family, it’s about marriage and how when you marry someone you marry into their family whether you like it or not. If you can watch a show like this and identify with the characters and you’re not Latino, I think that’s saying a lot. It’s the flavor, dynamic, and attitude people are identifying with.
Have you ever been in a situation like this where you have to welcome someone new and different into the family?
Well, I married a Mormon. (Laughs) Well, his family is Mormon. I used to joke that every way we celebrate is a sin to them. His family embraces me. They love and accept me, but there were a couple of things I had to learn about respecting their religion and beliefs.
How do you respond to critics who say “Rob” conveys negative stereotypes in the Latino culture?
I think it’s something you will always hear at first. I think even before it aired people were expressing concern over stereotypes. But I really haven’t heard anything that hones in on that since we started airing. I think there’s always going to be something that makes someone uncomfortable. We do a really good job at storytelling, not Latino teaching. I think that’s why people are tuning in and enjoying it so much.
Even if it’s from a comedic perspective, do you think the show tries to reflect on more pertinent issues like immigration reform?
It is a comedy so it’s inevitable that we’re going to poke fun of things. It definitely is not a platform or a political front. It’s a sitcom. It’s there for enjoyment. It isn’t trying to tap into anything else.
What is the most Latino thing about Rob Schneider?
(Laughs) His wife (Patricia Azarcoya Schneider).