'Expect to fall in love with this family,' actress Christina Vidal says of new show 'Primo'
Coming-of-age stories have often spoken to audiences universally. It’s this awkward stage in youth that San Antonio author Shea Serrano helped bring to streaming screens everywhere with the new show “Primo,” inspired by his own youth.
He teamed up with Executive Producer Michael Schur, who’s responsible for shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The show, now available on Amazon Freevee, centers around high schooler Rafa and his large family, comprising his mom and her five brothers.
Actress Christina Vidal plays Rafa’s mom, Drea, the matriarch of the show. She spoke with the Texas Standard on what to expect from the show and how her character gets to show a goofy side as well.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: You know, I think most people will recognize you from a few iconic works you’ve been involved with. I mean, you go back to Michael J. Fox – you were starring opposite him in “Life with Mikey.” Then “Freaky Friday” with Lindsay Lohan, and that Nickelodeon show where you were Taina. Tell us a little bit about what got you into acting in the first place and how you landed here on “Primo.”
Christina Vidal: Well, if you ask my mom, ever since I was little, I was singing and dancing and in talent shows and just always performing. And my oldest sister, Lisa Vidal, who is also an actress, she began first, and I just wanted to follow in her footsteps. I said, you know, “I want to do that” first time I saw her on TV. And so then I never pursued it because I was only like 10 years old. But I always knew I wanted it. And then “Life with Mikey” started holding cattle call auditions, and that was my first opportunity.
Wow. That’s, well, success right out of the gate, it sounds like. I mean, that’s something else.
Yeah. It was almost like God was like, “Yeah, I guess you’re supposed to do this.”
Well, it sounds like you’re on to another winner here. I was taking a look at some of the reviews: Hollywood Reporter says Shea Serrano’s family comedy another low-key winner for Freevee – that’s Amazon’s free service. Rolling Stone: Primo is a feel-good, coming-of-age comedy for the whole family. You’re getting some really positive reaction. Did you know what you were getting into? I mean, did this have the feel of a winner to you?
It absolutely did. To be honest, from the moment I read it, I thought, “OK, whatever needs to be worked out, I need to do this. Like, this is a good one.” Yeah.
What drew you to the part in the first place?
Well, I loved the writing. I really loved the writing. The breakdown of the character gave a little bit of insight. But really what drew me was when I actually got to read the script and the writing and the relationships. And I just thought, “Man, I know this woman, and I want to play her well.”
This is a complicated place that Drea is in, right? I mean, when you normally think about the sitcom mom, you know, that mom character usually only has the nuclear family to bounce off of, you know, the husband, the kids. But here you have five adult brothers to interact with, as well as Rafa and his friends. There’s a really playful side to your character. Tell us about tapping into that goofiness – does that sort of sound like your family growing up, or not so much?
Well, what’s interesting is, is Drea’s strength and the fact that she’s a little bit scary and she’s a hustler and she’s resourceful and all of that – those are actually traits of the women in my family. But I never felt I had those traits. But the goofy, playful, childlike side of Drea, that’s just a little irresponsible and kind of, you know, off color: That’s me. So I was really excited when they encouraged kind of giving her that layer and that color.
And I remember having a conversation with Lisa Muse Bryant, who’s one of the producers and writers of the show, and she said, yeah, we want to make sure that she’s not always just the stern sort of law enforcer in the family, but that sometimes we get to see that she really is just one of the siblings and she gets in with the trouble sometimes as well.
Well, so I understand you recently walked the red carpet there, the opening premiere. What was that like?
Yes, just so exciting. I mean, just to be able to get to this point. A few people know, of course, the personal journey. But then also just for all of us and for Shea from the very beginning of this idea and this sort of baby. And to see it really come to pass and see that not only did it happen, did they do it, but successfully – we all did – it was just such a payoff.
And I got to be with everybody again. I was really sad the writers and Shea couldn’t be there; that was really upsetting. But I understand. But it was great to get together with everyone again, because we really were like a family from day one.
You were referring to the writers’ strike, of course. What’s the vibe right now in your part of the country, what with the writers all on strike?
I mean, you know, still striking, still standing in support of and just hoping and believing that they will work something out. Because, you know, obviously, what’s being asked for is more than fair. And we support our writers, because they are the driving force of the show.
Well, let’s talk a little bit about what viewers should expect when they tune in. Could you say a little bit about that?
Expect to be comforted; expect to laugh; expect to be surprised by a few colors and layers of the characters that you wouldn’t expect. And I would say expect to fall in love with this family. I mean, by the end of me watching the show, I loved the family like I was a viewer.
You know, I think this is really going to resonate here in Texas. I mean, we’re talking about a San Antonio teenager balancing college aspirations and expectations that society might have on him, I think it’s probably safe to say. And then there’s that hectic home life where you have a big family, and a lot of people, I think, will relate to that sort of experience, don’t you think?
Oh, absolutely. I would say especially the generation we’re in now of of kids who are Rafa’s age, you know, where they have access to so much more information. There’s so much further ahead than we are intellectually. There’s so bright. They’re forward thinkers. And it can be difficult trying to embrace that and pursue that in a family dynamic where there’s a lot of old generation thinking, you know.
But there’s a lot of love, and I think that’s what the show ultimately shows. Rollie’s character says to Rafa, you know, “Hey, you got six people who give a damn about what happens to you. That must suck.” You know, at least there are people who care what you do enough to have an opinion, even if it’s the wrong one.
You know, being from an Hispanic background, what is your take on how much of a part that plays in telling this story of this family?
You know, I think it’s more of a color and a backdrop and not really the central focus of the storytelling. What I think is important about that aspect is that, yeah, this is telling the story of a Hispanic family, but it’s more telling it in a way that says: Hey, we’re a family. We’re people. We have these different needs, these different things, these different personalities that anyone could relate to. And we just so happen to be Hispanic – which I think is important, to begin to see Hispanic people and other cultures and everything just normalized as we are in real life. We’re doing the same things everyone else is doing. We’re trying to navigate family life and work and relationships and all of that.
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