Nathalie Kelley and Victor Rasuk Say 'Baker and the Beauty' Is a 'Love Letter to Latin Culture' (Exclusive)

The stars of ABC's romantic drama talk to ET about their new series.

Nathalie Kelley and Victor Rasuk, stars of ABC's new series The Baker and the Beauty, have a lot to be excited for. Their one-hour romantic drama, adapted from an Israeli format, is one of only a handful of prime-time scripted offerings led entirely by an all-Latin cast.

"It's powerful," Kelley tells ET. Raised in Sydney, Australia, but born in Lima, Peru, to an Argentine father and Peruvian mother, the actress noted that there was a freedom from the network and the writers for the cast to "bring our full Latinness to these characters and to the show." "The whole show is a love letter to Latin culture," she adds.

Rasuk, who is Dominican, echoed Kelley's sentiments. While the series -- which follows Daniel Garcia, a baker from a working-class Cuban family in Miami, Florida, who falls in love with Noa Hamilton, an international star -- is primarily in English, it was vital that the series, filmed in Puerto Rico, depict how a tight-knit Cuban America family really interacts with each other. And that means Spanish, lots of it. "They were way more open to allowing us to insert our ideas and what wasn't on paper than any other network show I've ever worked on," the How to Make It in America star tells ET.

Ahead of Monday's premiere, ET hopped on the phone with Kelley and Rasuk for a preview of their new drama, what elements of  Latin culture they wanted to amplify and the star-crossed romance between Daniel and Noa.

ET: Before I get into the show, how are you guys keeping busy in quarantine?

Nathalie Kelley: It's just me and the cats, so a lot of talking to myself and talking to the kitties, and cooking as well. And to be honest, really spending a lot of time meditating on what I can do to be of service right now, because it is a really heavy time for so many people. I know I'm one of the lucky ones who gets to use this time to do all kinds of nourishing things for myself, but not everybody's in that boat. So yeah, a lot of reflection.

Victor Rasuk: I've been cooking a lot too. Nathalie and I just spent five months in Puerto Rico shooting season one of the show. We had just gone back when everything really started hitting the fan, so I was already planning on sleeping for a few days straight because we were just so exhausted. I started reading and catching up on books that I really wanted to read, but couldn't because we were shooting. I've been also catching up on TV shows like Tiger King, which is a conversation for another time. It's insane. I've been playing HouseParty with my friends in New York and in LA. I've been trying to stay connected with my friends, because if I stayed at home and wasn't talking to anyone, I'm sure like everyone else it would drive me crazy.

You mentioned spending time in Puerto Rico filming The Baker and the Beauty. What was that experience being away from Hollywood and getting to create your own family outside of L.A.?

Kelley: It was a really beautiful experience because Puerto Rico is a wonderful, special place in terms of its natural beauty and how awesome the people are. And it was a wonderful time for us to be filming there, because they're in the process of rebuilding post-Hurricane Maria. So everyone was so grateful for the work. And also, the Latin crew. For a lot of them, this was the first time they were working on something where all the cast was Latino and there was so much Spanish being spoken. All of us being from L.A. and having to relocate, it meant that we were all in the same boat. And it could have been a very lonely situation, which I'm sure at times it was for a lot of us. But we made the best of it and we were always going out and eating together and it was a bonding experience. On this show, there's so much love between all of us. I think that resonates when you watch it as well. It only brought us closer together.

Rasuk: I've been fortunate. Baker and the Beauty is the third project I've shot in Puerto Rico. And I just want to, again, piggyback off of what Nathalie said. It's definitely the most special experience out of the three projects that I've shot in Puerto Rico. Baker and the Beauty by far was the most special and intimate project I've ever shot there, for the reasons that Nathalie said.


It is, unfortunately, still rare to see a fully Latin cast leading the charge and being the focal point of a TV in prime time. What immediately drew you into this world, this story and these characters?

Kelley: It's powerful. You're right. This is kind of a first on network television. And the fact that they really let us bring our full Latinness to these characters and to the show. They let [the characters] Mari and Rafael speak a lot of Spanish. Filming in Puerto Rico, there's just an undeniable Latin flavor throughout the whole show. A majority of the writers' room were also Latino and they would always listen to us when we would say, "Hey, maybe we can insert some dancing here, some singing." The whole show is a love letter to Latin culture. That's exciting for Victor and I being Latin actors. Fifteen years ago when I first moved to L.A. to audition for roles, a show like this would have been inconceivable. It just says how far we've come. We think America and the world is ready to fall in love with the Garcia family and Latin culture. It's a real honor for me to be a part of a project like this.

Rasuk: It felt like I was on an HBO show in the sense that what Nathalie was saying, they were way more open to allowing us to insert our ideas and what wasn't on paper than any other network show I've ever worked on. So I just give a lot of props.

What specifically did you want to incorporate to amplify the Latinness or the Latin culture in the show that you haven't been able to do in past roles or projects? What key elements did you feel was crucial to bring forth?

Kelley: Definitely the dancing. I don't think network television had ever seen so much authentic Latin people dancing. When you think about network TV and dancing, it's always in the context of something highly choreographed, like Glee or something. But how dancing is expressed in this show is so spontaneous and authentic. In episode three, Noa's coming to dinner, and Mari and Rafael break out into dance. That's something that is not on paper, but that's what would happen. That's how we express ourselves when we're happy in Latin culture. And then at some point in the season, Natalie, their daughter, has a quinceanera, which is a landmark event for all Latin cultures. It's a big, big moment in a woman's life. And there's a lot of dancing in that as well -- the real authentic kind. 

Rasuk: They allowed us to insert Spanish phrases and they're actually keeping it. I've been on so many sets where maybe you insert a Spanish word or Spanish phrase and it never makes the final cut. In this one, almost everything... Obviously, the show is predominantly in English, but there are definitely small Spanish phrases that ABC loved. And they're going to let us use it.

Kelley: This is breaking away from the Latino thing, but the fact that they let me keep my Australian accent, it also speaks to the international appeal. The actor they cast as my dad, Grant Bowler, is Australian too. I don't think we've ever seen a show where people are speaking Cuban Spanish and somebody's Australian. It really speaks to where we're at right now in the world. It's getting smaller culturally and even an all-Latin cast, which wasn't intentional. They didn't want Noa necessarily to be Latina.

Can you elaborate?

Kelley: She couldn't be, because part of the storyline of the show is that there's a huge cultural barrier between her and Daniel. So if the family's Cuban, then Noa has to be anything other than Latina. Even though that's my background ethnically, I was raised in Australia, so I did make the choice to come in with an Australian accent to show more of the cultural difference. The fact that they went for it is also a true testament. And it turns out Dan Bucatinsky, who plays my manager, is Argentinian. 


Based on the premise, Daniel, a baker at his family's mom-and-pop shop, falls for Noa Hamilton, an international superstar. What do you want to set up for the central relationship on the show?

Kelley: What I love about doing nine episodes is that it's a great number to explore the arc of a relationship in a meaningful way. As the series progresses, it goes from first meeting to getting to know each other and then the honeymoon period. But added to that are the pressures of one of these people being a huge international celebrity and the other coming from a more traditional, working-class background. The obstacles that come up because of those differences, those are the twists and the turns in the season. It's not only the fact that relationships are hard, period, no matter who you are, but taking into account who they are, their jobs, living in the public eye and their relationship being under scrutiny.

Rasuk: When I first read the pilot, one of the things I really related to Daniel was this ease about him. I think that comes when you are the eldest of your siblings, right? This responsibility and these expectations that you don't ask for. It just comes with the territory. When he meets Noa, he deals with it with such ease. We can't give spoiler alerts, because something crazy happens in the middle of the season, but there's a certain ease about him that I don't think I innately have but I respect and I understood because I'm also the oldest of my siblings in my own my family as well.

Are there any storylines that you're personally excited about?

Rasuk: I honestly think the Garcia family, America will not be ready for this family. I always describe it as a sweet escape, not to sound cheesy, but it's also a modern-day take on a fairy tale and all the nuances that come with that. When you include a family like the Garcias, I think all of America or the world will relate in one way or another because our characters are so multidimensional. 

Kelley: Victor, you stole my answer, because I was going to say what I was excited is that you get the opportunity [to see] when Noa gets to intersect with the Garcia family. That's when this show gets super juicy, is when the worlds collide. I like to say that our love story is just an excuse for us to tell their story because they're amazing. We're just the backdrop for this other amazing storyline going on with the Garcia family. [Laughs]

The Baker and the Beauty premieres Monday, April 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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