'Gentefied': Everything You Need to Know About Netflix's New Latinx Dramedy
By Liz Calvario & Colette Ngo
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There's a new Latinx series coming to Netflix that you do not want to miss.
Executive produced by America Ferrera, and created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, Gentefied is a bilingual story about family, community, achieving the American Dream and the ever-changing world we live in. Mix in themes such as achieving insta-fame, translating memes for your parents, chismeando with your besties, and it's a refreshing and relatable look at how many first-generation Latinxs live their everyday lives and celebrate their Latinidad.
Before the series drops next month, ET is breaking down everything you need to know about the streaming service's upcoming dramedy.
What is Gentefied?
Gentefied is a 10-episode bilingual series that follows three Mexican-American cousins -- Erik (JJ Soria), Ana (Karrie Martin) and Chris Morales (Carlos Santos) -- as they attempt to forge their own paths, while also balancing their cultural traditions and identity. Set in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, the Spanglish dramedy sees the characters struggle with how changing society and gentrification have threatened their beloved area, their immigrant grandfather, Pop (Joaquin Cosio), and the family taco shop.
"The concentration is on the first-gen experience of having to figure out what it is to be American and to honor your parents' culture," co-creator Lemus told ET and a group of reporters during a June set visit, adding that it touches on people not feeling American enough and at the same time not Latinx enough. But it also shows those who are proud of their roots and how they overcome prejudices from both of their communities.
What Does "Gentefied" and "Gente-fication" Mean?
A take on gentrification, in which an area or location is renovated to conform to middle-class taste, "Gentefied" or "gente-fication" is a term that is used in the series to describe the act of a person attempting to improve his or her own area to accommodate outside communities. While gentrification can increase the economic value of a neighborhood, it is generally seen as a negative action by lower-class communities, who are then forced out due to the increased cost of rent and higher cost of goods.
In part, the series shows members of the Latinx community attempting to accommodate non-Latinx groups by Americanizing their taco shop and menu in an attempt to attract more business and save their local. Whether that's a good or bad idea, viewers will witness the Morales family's experience throughout the 10 episodes.
Who Are the Stars?
Karrie Martin as Ana Morales
Ana Morales is a 24-year-old Chicana, one of the three grandchildren that bring life into Gentefied. As a "sarcastic, woke, blunt, and endearing, queer artist," Ana breaks every stereotype. Strong, yet vulnerable, she’s at a crossroads within her community, family and passion for her art. Her fight for her own journey is something her mother struggles to understand. Nonetheless, she adores her Pop, mom, cousins and little sister, Nayeli, and hopes there will be peace among them all.
"My character is going to bring a lot of acceptance to families. I don't want to just say Hispanic, Latinx families, but just to families in general,” Martin expressed during the set visit. "This show is going to start conversations within families... I think it's going to open a lot of parents’ eyes... I want all young girls or women to feel empowered by Ana, to feel like they can have a voice. She is who she is. She is unapologetically herself."
Carlos Santos as Chris Morales
Chris Morales is a 27-year-old chef-in-training who abruptly moved to Idaho at a young age, where he adopted a more “Americanized” way of thinking and living. Nicknamed Guero by his cousins for acting and looking like a “white boy,” Chris is at an in-between point where he never feels that he's Mexican enough. As he makes his return to East L.A. to live rent-free with Pop, he chases his dream of being a Michelin-star chef. The move back to Boyle Heights, however, leads Carlos to gain a greater grasp on who he is and where he belongs.
"He wants to do it all, but he's also stuck because of his circumstances," Santos shared. "He feels like he's stuck in a way, but also feels like he wants to belong. So it's a weird place for him character-wise and emotionally... In a way, all three cousins are trying to prove themselves in different ways."
"I kind of had a similar feeling in terms of the character because I've been away from Puerto Rico for about 15 years," he explained. "When I go to Puerto Rico, everyone thinks I'm Mexican. It's this weird thing... When I got here, it was getting acquainted with the culture, with just the L.A. vibe. From the get-go, I feel like I've always had that feeling of trying to belong. That's very inherent in my life in real life."
JJ Soria as Erik Morales
Erik Morales is a 29-year-old "tough homie with a heart of gold." His intelligence is often undermined as a high school dropout, yet he is self-educated by his passion for reading at his local library. Erik is a dreamer trying to find his purpose in the midst of problems revolving around his grandfather potentially losing his shop. Loyal to Pop, whom he’s always looked to as a father figure, he often lacks time for himself and girlfriend Lidia and butts heads with his cousin, Carlos.
"He's trying to find a balance of being there for his baby mama and former girlfriend. Their situation is one where there's no title on it, but he loves her. And then also being there for his grandfather and his family," Soria said. "It's a beautiful project created by beautiful people and the production is a beautiful production team. I knew from the moment I read the script, I go, 'Oh, they have a great project here.'"
Annie Gonzales as Lidia Solice
Lidia is Erik’s high school sweetheart who "got out of the hood" to become a college professor. After graduating from Stanford with two degrees, the 27-year-old moved back to Boyle Heights as an adjunct professor at East Los Angeles College (ELAC) and rekindles her relationship with Erik. Devoted to inspiring her students and her community, Lidia always puts others before herself.
"Lidia is sensitive. She is confident. She is intelligent. She is fearless. She is hella fearful," Gonzales expressed. "I'm the good girl that got up out the hood. I went to Stanford, figured it out, but still had my feet planted here, because I know where the hell I'm from, and I'm about inspiring everyone around me to show them that we are this, but we can also be so much more. I think that's the importance of it, understanding that I'm from here, but I'm also an educated a** b*tch."
"We're showing so many beautiful colors of the culture and of what we are as a people," she noted. "As Latinxs people, I think we are showing that we are professors. We are artists. We are owners of businesses. We are Afro-Latinas. We come in so many shapes and colors."
Julissa Calderon as Yessika Flores
Twenty-three-year-old Yessika Flores is a strong-willed Afro-Latina who isn't afraid of taking a stand. Hailing from the East Coast, Yessika moved to Boyle Heights when she was a teenager and, as a Dominican girl, she quickly immersed herself into the predominantly Mexican community of Boyle Heights. As the gente of the neighborhood become her family, she becomes an activist for the community and falls madly in love with Ana.
"I think we're breaking every stereotype. I don't think this show has stereotypes, because I am a Latina. I am a lesbian. I am Afro-Latina. I am a black girl. I am an activist," Calderon told ET. "Yessika is way ahead of her years, so I think that she was a little skeptical when she first got to L.A. and you'll see it play out. She did kinda just want to go back home because she didn't see herself represented and that's very much how I felt. There weren't bodegas like there are [on the East Coast]. There weren't Dominican hair salons. There weren't Dominicans, Puerto Ricans [and] there weren't Caribbeans. [Yessika] saw the same thing when she got here, but then a girl kept her."
Joaquin Cosio as Pop
Pop is the rock of the Morales family. There's no doubt that the 71-year-old business owner is hard-working, stoic and giving, but also an old-fashioned, at times grumpy, ranchero whose favorite word is cabron. Always looking out for the chiquillos, Pop does everything he can to protect his grandchildren, save his beloved taco shop and leave behind a legacy that he's proud of. He has very special and different relationships with Ana, Erik and Carlos, which at times causes trouble among the primos.
"Pop kind of takes care of [Chris] in more ways than he takes care of [Erik]," Santos explained. "He's a little harder on Erik. So from the very beginning, [Erik's] always like, 'What? So I get away [with nothing] and Chris gets away with a lot of stuff?' Which is not something that Erik is a fan of."
Who Are the Creators?
The series is co-created and co-written by first-generation Chicanos, Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, who told ET that they wanted to "create a show we wish we had seen growing up."
Lemus, a Mexican and Guatemalan-American writer-director-producer, has worked on successful video campaigns for the film Dear White People and brands such as Anheuser-Busch and Nissan. He's also directed a number of short films, with Vámonos (2015) winning awards at the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival, Frameline40, and an Imagen Award. He and Chávez then debuted Gente-fied: The Digital Series at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, which earned rave reviews and garnered the attention of Netflix.
Chávez is a force to be reckoned with and writes from the heart. She's written a handful of shorts, including The One-Ways (2009) and Target Amnesia (2014), as well as having written a couple of episodes of The Divas (2011) and BAMF Girls Club (2013), before partnering up with Lemus for Gente-fied: The Digital Series. Chavez also has a number of producing credits under her belt, including Play It Forward (2014), Drop the Mic With Becky G (2014), Naked Problems (2014) and more.
Adapted from the 2017 Sundance digital darling of the same name, both Lemus and Chávez brought their own personal life experiences to the project.
Lemus grew up in Bakersfield, California, where he felt like he didn't belong and felt ashamed of his culture. Calling himself a latchkey kid, he loved watching TV and movies, but was put off by the Latinx characters he saw onscreen. "Every time I would watch, all the people who looked like me were always the gang-bangers, the cholitos, the prisoners, the gardeners and all these negative stereotypes. It internalized a lot of hate," he admitted. "It internalized a lot of shame for me and it internalized this feeling of 'I am wrong and I am not like the other families.'"
With time, and a lot of personal reflection, Lemus has reversed and unpacked a lot of his past thoughts and learned to love himself and la gente. "We want to see so many different characters and people," he expressed. "This story has helped me grow so much love and catch up with all the years that I lost of loving myself and loving my culture."
As for Chávez, who grew up in the Hawaiian Gardens and East L.A. area, she has always been a proud Latina who has embraced her culture and heritage. "I feel like I was born to tell these stories," she relayed. "For me, the three-dimensional women that I grew up with were women that I wanted to see in the media and it was one of the first driving forces for me when I started to create and write, was wanting to show the people that I grew up with and observed and love and knew were complicated and multi-layered and I wasn't seeing them anywhere."
"I was seeing them at home and they were f**king hilarious, and they were also dramatic, and they were also dealing with really heavy, difficult things and their stories weren't being told in ways that they deserved to be told," she explained. "They were being cast aside."
"For us, growing up here meant having to figure out what it looked like to be American and honor our parents' culture and our relationship to our culture," Lemus said, adding that that sentiment is a driving force for Gentefied.
How Much of the Digital Series Is Reflected in the Netflix Show?
For those familiar with the digital series, the creators honor the original as much as they can. Gentefied is a hybrid of the anthological aspect of the 2017 project, mixed with a normal television narrative and dramatic drive.
"There's a lot of the heart of the digital series and some of the storylines have made their way into the main series," Chávez shared. "A lot of the main characters like Chris, Erik and Ana are obviously characters in the digital series who even turned into cousins. Pop is a new character who kind of has risen to such an important, prominent role in this story. So it's a combination."
"There's a lot of new story, a lot of great story created in our writers' room that hopefully, people fall in love with," she added. "We wanted to be able to tell a community story, which is hard to do on the TV level with all the rules and budget and all of that, but we wanted to maintain that community feel."
Why Is This Show Important?
Gentefied focuses on a Latinx community, but it also embraces a culture’s history and traditions, while depicting the struggles that many immigrants and first-generation people have in a lighthearted way. Breaking typical stereotypes, the show hopes viewers, Latinx or not, identify with the characters and see their lives finally reflected on the screen.
"We wanted to tell a story about the people we love, the people we've grown up with. We wanted to see our people, our family, our tios, our tias, our primos shown in a very complex way that we've never seen before," Chávez said. "We are influenced not only by our parents' culture, which we love, but also influenced by US-American culture in the ways that it leads into our world. So the way we try to position everything we do in the show, we always try to work against the stereotype of what's expected."
When it comes to gentrification, Gentefied tries to humanize ones' neighbors and the communities that are being affected by it. "To give a face to the people that you're displacing and to allow people to fall in love with the people that they would ultimately displace is the thing that we were really invested in showing," Chávez expressed. "These things are hurting people. It needs to be made aware."
Lemus added, "We don't pretend to have any sort of answers. We want to explore all sides of it, especially when it comes to gente-fication. For some it's a positive term, some it's a negative term because it's still displacing people. But [we hope] to be able to just explore and present it so people can hopefully have a stronger understanding of what it looks like, what it means and what the repercussions are, and to start that conversation."
When Does It Premiere?
All episodes of Gentefied are available to stream starting Feb. 21 on Netflix.
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