Cuban-American Sitcom Wassup en LA Follows a Miami Family Moving to L.A.

With all the incessant talk of America's favorite d-bag Ryan Lochte starring in the next season of The Bachelor, we can't help but reminisce about the days when reality TV didn't exist and TV shows used to actually have meaning. Think back to the '90s when TV was mostly consisted of family shows like Family Matters and Full House. And who didn't love Growing Pains and Who's The Boss in the 80s? Just thinking about all these heartwarming, feel-good shows make us want to go on a TV strike (at least for a day or two, any way).

Fortunately, there's a TV show currently in the works that may be the solution to today's TV conundrum. Wassup en LA is a nod to the classic family-themed TV sitcoms of the '80s and '90s. Writer/producers Carlos de la Vega and Rudolpho Zalez say it is their ambition to fill the gap of family sitcoms with a show inspired by the ones they grew up on, such as The Cosby Show and ¿Qué Pasa USA?

Wassup en LA follows the lives of the Díaz family, a Cuban-American family from Miami that pack up and move to Los Angeles to support their son's dream of becoming an actor. The show ensemble includes veteran telenovela stars Gerardo Riverón and Nelida Ponce as the grandparents and CSI: Miami star Oscar Torre as the dad.

The duo are also hoping to use the show as a vehicle to bring Latino actors to the forefront in television while instilling good ol' family values. "You have Latinos like Sofia Vergara, but we want a show where the family and all the major characters are Latino," says de la Vega. "The only way to do that is to put Latino writers and producers to produce the writing and content."

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De la Vega and Zalez have launched a Kickstarter all-or-nothing campaign to help finance the production of a 22-minute pilot episode and the creation of additional episodes. Money raised will be used to offset the costs for sets, studio space, cast and crew. But like all Kickstarter fundraisers, if they fail to reach their fundraising goal of $50,000 by their deadline, September 8, they get nothing. And we get nothing either.

We chatted up writer, producer Carlos de la Vega to talk more about Wassup en LA and their fundraising efforts.

New Times: What was your inspiration in writing this show?
Carlos de la Vega: My idea started three years ago with a couple friends and we just wanted to get together and create a project as filmmakers. We also wanted to put Latino actors on the forefront at the same time and we decided to create a TV show. As kids, we loved watching shows like I love Lucy, ¿Qué Pasa USA?, and that was our inspiration. Of course, we want to do a modernized version of those shows.

What will the show's characters be like?
Well, you have the grandparents, the father, the mother, the brother, and the sister. It shows three generations; the grandfather, the dad, and the son, Manolito. Manolito is the lead character and he wants to go to Hollywood to become an actor. Manolito is kind of like the go-getter. He has a lot of aspirations, but he's a little bit naïve at the same time. Pepe is the one that supports his son to a certain extent--he doesn't know if he can really make it, but he's there trying to help him out and he has his own bagel shop. The grandfather, he's young at heart and he has a very close relationship with his grandson.

On the female side, you have the grandmother who's basically the matriarch of the whole family. She's the one that guides him as far as what is right and what is wrong. Then the mother, Rosa Maria, she's the glue that holds the whole family together--she's the one that rallies the whole family to move to Los Angeles from Miami. She's a very interesting character because we're making her modernized, but at the same time, she's a little bit of old school and a little bit of new school. New school in where she's independent and works, but at the same time she comes back and provides for the family and makes all the meals. And then you have the daughter, Teresita and she's very opinionated and she expresses it well.

Besides the fact that the lead character wants to move to LA to pursue an acting career, why did you find the need to bring the Cuban family from Miami to LA? Why not just leave them all in Miami where it's more culturally comfortable?
If you live in Los Angeles, you'll notice that it's very multi-cultural and very diverse. For a Cuban family to move from Los Angeles to Miami and then to try to settle in Los Angeles, it's like a culture shock within a culture. It's totally different. I mean, there's a lot of Latinos in LA, but it's a totally different Latino culture. And because of that, there's a lot of dynamics that we can play off. We're all Latinos, but at the same time, each country has its own differences in food and language. So it's very interesting to have a Cuban family move to Los Angeles and be among the Mexican culture. Whereas in Miami, yes, it's the Latin capitol of the world, but here you mostly hear Spanish and very rarely you hear English. Over there in LA, obviously there are parts of LA that's mostly Spanish, but overall in general, it's very diverse culturally. Having a Cuban family who barely speak English trying to get adjusted to a city where they can't solely rely on Spanish, they have to also rely on the little bit of English they know. They have to make friends with Armenians and Filipinos, versus if it were here in Miami, they would just be making friends with a Colombian or a Venezuelan. We can play more with the cultures and have more comedy to build off of it.

What different plots and storylines do you have in mind based on the culture shock they will experience?
The pilot episode is about the family's encounter with the mailman--he's Mexican-American, from East Los Angeles. He's the kind of guy that comes in and is always eating, and he brings Mexican food. Over there, you know, Mexicans love to put hot sauce on all their food. Cubans don't really eat a lot of very spicy food, so just having the family see him with the habanero sauce and to see how they react to that will be interesting.

 

Are you confident you will meet your goals with the Kickstarter campaign?

We are confident. I'll be honest, it takes a lot of work--we've been preparing for a while. But if you put in your hard work and you reach out to as many people as you can it'll work out in the end. Why put anything out there if you're not confident? If you put it out there, it means you have faith and that you're confident that you're going to reach the goal of raising the $50,000.

What incentives do you have for the donors?
We want to make it affordable for everyone. So for $12 you can get the pilot show in high-definition. From there on, it goes into different categories and you'll get stuff like t-shirts, or you can be the first one to receive the pilot show and become a focus group member in which you can put your input. We're giving tickets to the live taping as well.

To our future audience that's going to read this, this is a throwback to the classic sitcom, and if you want to see more Latinos in shows that are universal and have universal themes, support our show.

Want to see Wassup en LA on TV? Visit the Kickstarter campaign here.

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