Revisiting Gloria Calderón Kellett on 'One Day at a Time'
When Norman Lear decided to reboot the classic sitcom One Day at a Time, this time with a Latino family, he wanted a writer-producer who could offer an authentic voice to the project. He found that person in Gloria Calderón Kellett, who incorporated much of her own background into the show, including making the family Cuban.
For the holiday weekend, we’re revisiting our conversation with TV writer-producer Gloria Calderón Kellett. She wasn’t necessarily looking to work on a reboot, but then she got a call from Norman Lear. She tells us how her first meeting with the TV legend led to shaping the new version of One Day at a Time on Netflix to focus on a Cuban family living in Echo Park. She also talks about her past struggles as an actress who was told she didn’t look “Latino enough” and the experience of often being the sole “diversity hire” in a writers’ room.
Photo: Gloria Calderón Kellett on the set of One Day at a Time (Netflix)
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The original Norman Lear sitcom One Day at a Time starred Bonnie Franklin as a newly single mother raising two teen-aged daughters in Indianapolis. In 1975, when the show started its nine-season run, that kind of family setup was not the usual thing depicted on television.
Now, more than 40 years after the original debuted, the new Netflix series One Day at a Time still focuses on a single mom raising a couple of kids, but this time the family is Cuban and lives in the LA neighborhood of Echo Park.
The time, the mom, Penelope, is played by Justina Machado. She lives with a daughter and a son, as well as her mother Lydia, played by Rita Moreno.
Brent Miller, an executive at Norman Lear's Act III productions, came up with the idea of rebooting One Day at a Time with a Latino cast. Seeking authentic Latina voices to write and produce the show, they hired Gloria Calderón Kellett, who before One Day at a Time, wrote for shows including How I Met Your Mother and iZombie. She wasn't specifically looking to work on a reboot, but then she got a fateful phone call.
Calderón Kellett tells us about first meeting with Lear, and telling him stories about her Cuban family, many of which found their way into the show. She also shares past experiences starting out as an actress and being told she wasn't "Latino enough" and then working in writers' rooms where she was the “diversity hire.” Now that she's the one in charge of a writers' room, she and the other executive producers strive to make it as diverse as the family they're filming.