In the new comedy series “Welcome to the Family,” actor Ricardo Chavira (“Desperate Housewives”) plays Miguel Hernandez, a Latino father who finds out his very intelligent son (Joey Haro) has gotten his girlfriend Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck) pregnant and no longer plans to enroll at Stanford University. With the impending birth of a child, the Hernandez and Yoder families are forced to bond, despite their cultural differences and the fact that Miguel and Molly’s father Dan (Mike O’Malley) do not get along.
“Welcome to the Family” airs Thursday nights on NBC.
Fox News Latino recently reported that over 20 shows this fall will have at least one Latino as part of its cast. Do you feel like we’re seeing a change in the TV landscape when it comes to Latinos on TV?
Oh, a very minute change. [Latinos] know what our demographic is and how large our demographic is. We know the growth pattern of our demographic and where it’s going – nowhere but up. Any corporation, I don’t care if it is television or whatever, if they have any sense about themselves, they’re going to try and tap into that demographic. We still have a long road to go. If we’re going to represent [the Latino] demographic properly there needs to be a lot more than the number that you just mentioned. But I think we’re getting there. I think they’re dragging their feet about it, but I’d rather have them drag their feet and still be moving forward than doing nothing. But the Latino aspect of our show is just the texture. This script is the best writing I’ve ever seen for a Latino family since I’ve been in Hollywood auditioning for material.
Do you tend to just look at the number of Latinos working in the industry or are you also concerned with the way those 20 shows are going to represent the Latinos they’ve hired? Does it matter if they’ve included a Latino in their cast as just a filler character?
I don’t want that. I want there to be a wonderful storyline for every Latino character. That’s not always going to happen though. I mean, a part for a Latino in the industry is a good thing period. I wish we could stay away from stereotypes, but you can’t avoid them. They’re always going to be there. Like with my character on this show, for instance, there are some stereotypical situations he is a part of. But the stereotype does not completely define the character. It’s my job as an actor and our job as a show to be able to find a way to make it three-dimensional. My character has the tattoos and he was in prison. That’s an aspect of my back story for my character. My character also owns a small business and he’s raising a son that has graduated high school valedictorian and is showing the promise of possibly going to Stanford. It’s showing a multifaceted aspect of the male in a Latino family.
Can you explain to me the sort of the culture clashes we’re going to see as the season goes on? I mean, we have this Caucasian family and this Latino family. Can you give me an example of how they’re going to get lost in translation?
Well, let’s not use that [term] “culture clash” necessarily. The fact that this family is Latino is one texture to the overall show. I think you could take the Latino out and make them Asian or black or even another Anglo family and that would just be a texture. What we’re really dealing with is the universal differences in family – like how people differ in their parenting skills, the way they show love and affection, the way that they talk and relate to family and the acceptance of outsiders into the inner circle of a family. These things are universal. But the Latino thing, we’re going to see it. There’s this white family having to deal with this crazy Puerto Rican wife who wants to enjoy cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and they just want to order it in.
Is your friend and former “Desperate Housewives” cast member Eva Longoria going to be making any guest appearances?
Eva actually is. She is in our second or third episode I believe. I made a call and I convinced her that she owed me and she need to come and do my show and she jumped at the chance. She’s a big supporter of mine. She has been for a long time. I didn’t realize how special of a relationship and a friendship I have there. I need to take better care of it. She is precious not just to me but to our entire Latino community. Whatever she’s trying to do, she’s trying to do it from the best place in her heart. Rita Moreno [will also be a guest star]. Right now, with regards to the Latino cameos, that’s it. But boy I would love Jimmy Smits in there or Alfonso Arau or Darius Lando or anybody. I’d love to see them come in and play around. I also want some new Latino faces coming in. I got a good friend of mine, Hugo Medina, who graduated in my grad program. He’s Mexicano. I’d love to have him come over and do [the show] because I think he could add something special, too.