“Primo”, a hilarious and heartwarming coming of age sitcom released Friday on Amazon Freevee, focuses on a family living in San Antonio.
Primo is the titular nickname of the 16-year-old protagonist, Rafa Gonzalez, who is navigating high school as he is at a halfway point when his guidance counselor advises him about thinking about college, which is something he never thought of before.
Rafa is highly clever and intelligent and underestimates his talent, but what he has is lots of heart as he looks towards his family for encouragement and unconventional advice. Drea, Rafa’s single mother, is his prime caregiver as he is also supported by his five loving but dysfunctional uncles whose conflicting personalities clash yet make a beautiful combo of this family unit. Rafa is not only facing college prep, but also young love with Maya, an Army brat who recently moved to San Antonio from Germany.
In eight episodes, “Primo” takes you on a hilarious journey as you see a redefined sitcom family get into misadventures and funny moments that will have you on the floor laughing. Not only will your lungs be out of air from laughing so hard, but your heart will be full due to the amount of heart that the family has for each other. Recently, the landscape of families has been changing from the nuclear family to a more varied form which reflects more of not only family bound by blood, but by the bonds we create.
“Primo” is a more comedic reenactment of the youth of the show’s creator, Shea Serrano, who is an accomplished journalist, author and former teacher whose work is based more on sports and pop culture. I recently had the privilege to interview him and actors, Ignacio Diaz Silverio and Cristina Vidal, from the show.
YR Media: So what inspired you to bring your life story to the screen in this way?
Shea Serrano: I just want to make some cool stuff with some cool people to get paid to hang out with my friends and make jokes and do that … I pitched it to Mike (Mike Schur), he seemed to like it. And then here we are, I saw that all that it was just trying to make a cool thing.
YR: How would you consider it different from other family sitcoms?
SS: You know Mike Schur is responsible for some of the greatest comedies of the past 25 years or whatever. Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, he worked on The Office. He's done all of this stuff. But all of those things were like workplace sitcoms. And so this is the official, the first Mike Schur family show.
YR: How does your family feel about their portrayals of their alter egos in the show, basically?
SS: Aww, they love it. We did a screening for them a couple of weeks ago, like three weeks ago, it was the first time any of them had watched it… my mom and uncles had not seen any of it. So we did a screening. And they were laughing. There were like two of them who started crying at certain parts. Like they were yelling stuff at the TV. Like we were watching a basketball game.
YR: How involved were you in the casting process and what gave you the reason to give Ignacio the blessing to betray Rafa who's based on you.
SS: Let's write a bunch of like, let's invent a bunch of fun storylines and plot points and whatever and let's get some smart, talented, funny actors. And then just turn everybody loose like it doesn't it doesn't need to be a full on recreation of my life…I just sat with each of the actors and was like, Hey, we brought you in here, because you're very talented. And you're very funny, and you're very warm. And we just want to put that on the screen. So just trust your instincts. And we'll grab all the best pieces and go from there.
YR: How do you feel the show connects to youth, and Latino youth, especially in these times, when many young people are seeking unconventional ways to start their careers instead of traditionally going to college?
SS: What I'm, what I'm hoping happens is, I hope somebody will watch this show. And just be like, like, this is a show that you can sit down and watch. Because I know, it's just going to be like a funny, warm thing that's going to hopefully make them feel a little bit better about being in the world.
YR: And what advice would you give to young Latinos who are looking to advance their futures and spread their wings?
SS: I was the first person in the family to graduate high school, let alone go to college, right. And so what ends up happening is, like, like, your world is this big until somebody opens it up a little bit.
Silverio and Vidal play the mother and son duo, Rafa and Drea, on the show.
YR: Christina, did you give advice to Ignacio as a young actor who's blossoming in Hollywood in his first lead series? And how did you two bond offset?
Cristina Vidal: We bonded just by getting to know each other. Talking about life and different things. And he actually asked my advice about something that was not related to the industry, but made me feel very special that he wanted my advice.
YR: Christina, is your approach to motherhood the same as Drea’s? What similarities and differences do you share with your character?
CV: The similarity I share with Drea as a mother is her just unconditional love and unending support of Rafa.
YR: Ignacio, do you see yourself having the same dynamic with your mother as well in real life?
Ignacio Diaz Silverio: Oh, the same dynamic. I don't know about this same dynamic. I'm not an only child and my mom's not a single mom.
YR: Christina, Ignacio, if there was a freaky Friday style episode, who do you say you would switch bodies with or who would you not want to switch bodies with?
IDS: Oh, you know what, I think it'd be great. If Rafa had to switch with Uncle Jay. I don't think he'd know what to do. All of a sudden, all of a sudden he has to direct a crew of men doing, you know, irrigation work and manual labor.”
YR: All of a sudden he's that husband and a father.
IDS: Yeah, he'd be completely at a loss I think. Could you imagine Uncle Jay, all of a sudden finding himself at 16 going to high school?
YR: How did you both channel that beautiful chaoticness of being part of a family like Rafa’s? Did you grow up living with many relatives or have many uncles or brothers as the Gonzalez family?
CV: Yes, I didn't have, well, I have three siblings. But it was, you know, six of us in a very small two bedroom apartment in New York. And then we always had aunts and uncles and cousins, and somebody was living with us. There was always somebody in the family who was falling on hard times, and they were sleeping on a couch or on the floor. So I'm very familiar with that kind of chaotic, no boundaries.
IDS: Like, I'm the first of my family to be born and raised in the US. So all of my extended family lives, you know, very, very far. And so in terms of like, you know, my actual household with my parents, you know, I've one sibling, I have a younger brother, but my mom is one of seven. My dad's one of four.
YR: What advice would you give to young Latinos who are looking to advance their futures and spread their wings in a time where college isn't the traditional path to take?
CV: Yeah, I think this show, actually, this story is a wonderful example of one of my favorite lines from Sweet Home Alabama, actually, shout out to Reese Witherspoon. Um, but in the movie, one of the characters says you can have roots and wings. And I love that, that you can embrace where you came from.
IDS: “And that's something I've struggled with in life is like, you know, getting told, like what you are, you know, like, you know, you're, you're, you know, you're Latino, you're not, you're too this, you're too that you're American, you're not American, you're and to that end, like I would say. I would say just, like walk confidently through the world, knowing who you are and not letting the, the perception of you within that moment, like, count for too much.”