Cristela Alonzo opens up about how her mom inspired her
It isn't often that there's a sitcom starring a Latina comedian. Nonetheless one who writes, acts and co-produces the show and is the star. Comedian Cristela Alonzo is owning all of those job titles, but her success didn't come overnight. The Texan native never gave up on her dreams and now uses it as hilarious material for her on-screen character Cristela, a woman from a Mexican-American family who dreams of becoming a lawyer, but has plenty of obstacles to face. The show, also starring Carlos Ponce and Maria Canals-Barrera, is funny, authentic and offers a glimpse of a Latino family de corazón. Get to know more about Cristela in our Q/A coverage below!
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On her favorite sitcoms growing up:
I really loved Roseanne growing up. She wasn't Latina, but she was lower class and we were lower class and blue collar. I related to her. She was kind of my hero because she got to tell off people I never got to tell off growing up. She was honest and was never apologetic about it. I loved that she was comfortable in her own skin. I also loved The Cosby Show. To me, it was one of the best shows to ever exist because it showed this family that I thought looked like me and they were successful and they had this great life that I wanted to have. I always tell people that one of my favorite shows ever was also the Marie Tyler Moore Show. By watching that show, I got some positivity growing up because she never let anything get her down. That's how I approach things now. The moment you laugh at things you take away its power and then you can have a real conversation about it.
On how her mother inspired her:
I stopped my entire life to move in with my sister and help the family when my mom got sick. My mom chose me when I was 8 or 9 years old to be the one that took care of her when she got old. I had to move back to Dallas and took care of my mom and the kids. My mom passed away a little after a year of me moving back and I was depressed. I was stuck taking care of these kids and had no mom. I was nowhere near doing anything I wanted to do in my life. I come from a poor family and we didn't have health insurance so I couldn't afford therapy. Going back to comedy was my way out. It was my way to talk about my mom. She was a very funny woman and I learned a lot from her. Comedy was always the mechanism we used.
On her success:
I never thought the stories would lead to anything. I just was doing what I enjoyed. To be honest, I never thought my stories mattered because I was never called special. I have been called other things, but not that. A couple of years ago, an agency told me 'your stuff could become a show' and I thought 'well they said it for a reason, let's do it.' Growing up poor has made me so fearless because I feel like I have nothing to lose. It will never be as bad as it was growing up.
On Cristela getting picked up by ABC:
I was pitching to networks and I didn't know what to do. I had never pitched a show before. My executive producer sent the video out to people and the president at ABC liked it. We got positive feedback but the show didn't get final approval. I thought we were going to shoot a pilot. I was disappointed and ended up going back to Dallas and doing stand-up. I got a call when I landed from the executive producer who said, 'I really think we have something special with this show and I don't want to let it go.' She convinced the network to give us the penalty money and we shot our own pilot episode with the money. The buzz started going again once they saw the project. Every week we were getting written up more and more. We started calling it the zombie pilot because we had basically come back from the dead. It was such a long shot.
Cristela premieres Friday, October 10th at 8:30pm ET/7:30 PT.
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