The Netflix reboot of Norman Lear’s 1970s sitcom, “One Day at a Time” follows many of the same beats as the original. But this time, the show runners are Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, and the family at the show’s center is Cuban.
Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks to Norman Lear and Gloria Calderon Kellett about the making of the series and what comes next.
Kai Ryssdal: Let me start with you, Norman Lear, and ask you why this show for the reboot? Of all the shows you’ve done, why “One Day at a Time”?
Norman Lear: Because somebody came to me with the notion, and I didn’t happen to wake up with the idea. Brent Miller — a young guy who’s one of the producers on our show — had been talking to somebody else — I can’t remember who that third person was — “How about a Latino version of ‘One Day at a Time’? The next thing that happened was to meet this young woman, Gloria Calderon Kellett and her partner, Mike Royce — partner on this particular project — and we all hit it off, and I fell in love with the idea just sitting, talking, listening to her talk about her family.
Ryssdal: So, Gloria Calderon Kellett, tell me about that because this is, I mean, it’s a little autobiographical here right? Or it’s a lot of autobiographical.
Gloria Calderon Kellett: Oh, yes.
Ryssdal: Or it’s a lot of autobiographical. I wish you could see her eyes popping up.
Calderon Kellett: Yes, well when somebody calls and says, “Would you like to sit down with Norman Lear?” you steady yourself on the nearest wall and then you say “OK.” He’s very disarming and very charming and so easy to talk to and so legitimately curious. And I just answered all of his questions, and he just was asking me about my family and how they came here. They came in 1962 from Cuba during a program called Operation Pedro Pan, which is something we talk about on the show. He asked me about my mother, and I told him all about her. She’s a little boo-popsicle-firecracker. I said “Just picture Rita Moreno.” That’s what my mom kinda resembles.
Ryssdal: You’re stealing the Rita Moreno question because, no disrespect to anybody else in this cast, but she has the whole smash on this show man. She is unbelievable.
Lear: She’s great, she’s great. And Justina Machado is her match.
Ryssdal: That’s true — the woman who plays the lead — that’s totally true. How different is it for you? You came from many other places, Gloria, but “How I Met Your Mother,” so you’ve done, you’ve done traditional network and Norman you’ve obviously done a lot. How different is to have to do this thing in three acts with 22 minutes of content and commercial breaks as opposed to doing it for half an hour? You know what I mean?
Calderon Kellett: It’s glorious.
Lear: It’s great.
Calderon Kellett: And the other beauty is that with this extra time, because “Rules of Engagement” was last [multicamera] I was on and those episodes were about 20 minutes, 21 minutes maybe. So that’s eight minutes of content. It’s quite significant in having those silent moments and those jokes.
Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett talking to cast members of “One Day at a Time.”
Lear: I remember back to [when] 27 minutes or 26 point something, and then they just started to take more time out.
Ryssdal: For commercials.
Lear: Then of the reruns, they wanted to take time out. So we had to go back and edit our own shows, and that was agony. Agony taking time out of content that you cared about.
Ryssdal (to Lear): You in your earlier days were known for, and still are known for this, for incisive social commentary on events of the day. And you’re taking this on in this show as well, right, with illegal immigration and with, you know, women in the military, I mean all of that stuff. How much are we going to see in Season 2 of this show of what’s going on in the American body politic today.
Lear: Well, that’s a great question, because we’ve got Gloria Calderon Kellett here and Mike Royce who are family people…. And we’re going to be dealing with the problems that face all Americans. We start as Americans. So we’re going to deal with the problems that face all Americans. And then we’re a Latino family. And I particularly am in love with the commonness of our humanity. You know, I’ve never worked with a Latina family, but a Jewish family isn’t all that different. They’re human beings. They love and react and are upset the same way. The same way in a real human way, very different in the way they perform. So I’m learning a great deal about this woman and her family.
Ryssdal: Intending absolutely no disrespect, I have the sensation right now that you’re not answering the question the way you want to answer the question. The question was, “Let’s think about what’s going on in this country right now.” And you’re Norman Lear, and you’re the guy who put “Maude” on the air and “All in the Family” on the air and things that spoke sharply and incisively about what was going on in this country.
Lear: And we’re going to be talking about do we really want a 5-year-old with a biscuit in his pocket and a function of — [phone rings]
Ryssdal: And a phone, let’s turn the phone off —
Calderon Kellett: He always answers the phone. [Lear answers phone] There you go. He always does.
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Lear: Here’s the thing. I have six children. I’ve told them, “Forever, I’ll always be available to you.” They call rarely, but when they call for something important. So I keep the phone on. I’m sorry.
Ryssdal: Amen to that. That’s totally fair, and it’s a lesson I could take as a dad.
Calderon Kellett: To get to your question, I think the one difference between Netflix and what Norman was able to do is the speed with which he was able to talk about things that were happening in the news … on a weekly production cycle. We finished shooting our show in August. So we knew we couldn’t talk — we would have loved to talk about the election. We would have loved to talk about what was happening in this country at that time. We couldn’t do it because we didn’t know who was going to be president, we didn’t know what things were going to be when we knew we would be airing in January. So are there things we’re going to want to talk about with this election? Yes. We have to be smart in the way that we do that because we don’t know what’s going to be happening six months from that point. Does that mean flashbacks to the election and to marches and things like? Perhaps. But we would like to do it. Yes.
Lear: That’s the way we’re going to have to do it. We were talking 10 minutes before we sat down with you about how to deal with it. You know we’ve got a 6-year-old in the White House with a biscuit in his pocket, and we got to talk about that.