'Party of Five' finds new drama in immigration story
UPI News Service, 01/07/2020
The creators of Party of Five have rebooted the series with a new family in a new crisis.
The original Fox drama dealt with the death of the Salinger parents. In the reboot by Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser, the U.S. deports Javier (Bruno Bichir) and Gloria Acosta (Fernanda Urrejola) to Mexico while their children remain in the states.
In updating Party of Five to address immigration, Lippman and Keyser also could incorporate some of the issues facing immigrant families. They sought out Latinx writers -- Michal Zebede, Gabe Llanes, Mary Molina and Mike Skerrett -- to help address those specific nuances.
"I knew it would be valuable to work with writers who had particular insight, not only into the immigration story that we're telling," Lippman told UPI in a phone interview. "They would also have insight about gender roles in a Latinx family. What are the familial expectations of girls that are different from boys?"
The Acostas also are bilingual and have some conversations in Spanish, with English subtitles.
"There's no series without that," Lippman said. "I think you can't tell a story about a bicultural family without authentically representing half of their culture."
Having native Spanish speakers on the writing staff helped make those Spanish conversations more natural.
"I, as a non-Spanish speaker, really needed to rely on our staff to make sure that when translating something that was written in English that it felt authentic being spoken in Spanish," Lippman said. "The show can't simply be a slavish interpretation of English dialogue. It needs to work as dialogue that Spanish speakers would speak with each other."
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Bilingualism brings up an issue for one of the Acosta children. Beto Acota (Niko Guardado) is so Americanized that he never learned his parents' language. Coincidentally, Gaurdado is the only cast member who can't speak Spanish.
"My grandparents came to America and they were like, 'We're in America now. We speak English,'" Guardado said in a separate phone interview. "[They] were bullied at a young age if they spoke Spanish and looked down upon so that's the side of culture that my grandparents knew."
Emilio Acosta (Brandon Larracuente) is the oldest and comes back to the family home to care for his siblings and keep the family restaurant running.
"It's a bit of a power struggle also because Emilio is now going to be the father figure in the house," Larracuente said in a separate phone interview. "He's basically following in his dad's footsteps. His dad made tons of sacrifices to get him to this country to get a better life."
Lucia Acosta (Emily Tosta) was a straight-A student. Her parents' deportation thrusts her in new familial roles before she's ready. The situation also presents her an opportunity to get involved in social activism, a subplot the original series never explored.
"At the beginning, she didn't really want to accept this motherly role," Tosta said in a separate phone interview. "This season, I think she starts learning how to create a balance between all of her responsibilities, being that motherly figure now and also her social activism so trying to stay attentive and studious at school."
The older Acostas are old enough to care for themselves, although they'd prefer to have their parents for backup. The infant their parents left behind and younger sister Valentina (Elle Paris Legaspi) require the elders to become caretakers.
"She's really the heart of the family," Legaspi told UPI in a separate phone interview. "She's becoming a woman, so she needs her mom there to help her go through all of the things, but she isn't there. Her parents aren't there so she has to rely on her siblings."
Casting the Acosta family reminded Lippman of casting the Salingers, she said, with one difference. When casting the original Party of Five, Lippman and Keyser hadn't written the second episode yet. With this Party of Five, they know what stories they told the first time and have some ideas of new stories for this series.
"I think some of the advantages of using the original as a blueprint is that we knew what we were going to call upon these kids to do in some way," Lippman said. "We cast people who we knew were capable of telling stories that we hadn't yet written."
The Acostas have a family restaurant just like the Salingers did, but this provided new opportunities for the drama. Lippman said the restaurant was just a central location for the Salinger family. However, she and the writers discovered more relevant storylines with the Acosta family's restaurant.
"In a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, a lot of those employees are going to be undocumented," Lippman said. "That becomes very relevant. The fact that these places are often raided by ICE is something that we look at in our series."
Party of Five premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Freeform.
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