As anyone who's shared a Shit Miami Girls Say meme can attest, there's plenty of humor to be found in the city of Hialeah. But the upcoming six-episode comedy series Hialeah doesn’t laugh at its namesake. It laughs with it, according to star and executive producer Melissa Carcache.
The former Hialeah and Miami Lakes resident, best known for her role on the Nickelodeon sitcom Every Witch Way, has a soft spot for her former home. She hopes that affection comes through in the show, which is scheduled to premiere November 11 at the Milander Center for Arts & Entertainment in Hialeah, and is exploring distribution options.
“We talk highly of Hialeah [in the show],” says Carcache, who has been living in Los Angeles for more than ten years. “It’s a shame the city sometimes gets the stereotype of being this tacky, over-the-top, obnoxious place. Yes, it does have a little of that, but we’re touching on the things that make it the great city that it is today. We found a way to do it that is both funny and positive.”
Hialeah revolves around Mari Sanchez, played by Carcache, and her Jewish husband, Kay Greenberg (Jordan Wall), both of whom leave Chicago to move in with Sanchez’s loud and colorful Cuban family in Hialeah. The comedy tackles topics such as religion and race but mostly avoids politics. Each episode begins with documentary-style interviews with real Cuban exiles and runs about ten minutes.
Carcache’s classmate at Monsignor Edward Pace High School and fellow Cuban-American David A. Vargas directed all six episodes and co-wrote the show with Puerto Rican producer Javier Mayol. Filming took place in Hialeah over seven days in January.
“We used my dad’s uncle’s house,” Carcache says. “It’s very Hialeah. You cannot get more Hialeah. There’s the Jesus picture on the wall, the pristine floors, the Cuban flag, and a rice cooker.”
Tickets for the premiere sold out in 48 hours, according to Carcache, so it’s safe to assume the local community is behind the show. But how will people who aren’t Hispanic or from Hialeah feel about the series?
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“The story is told through the eyes of someone who has never been in front of a Hispanic family before,” says Vargas, who thinks non-Hispanics will relate to Greenberg’s fish-out-of-water experience. “He’s thrown into the mix in Miami’s most Cuban city, and now he feels like he’s on another planet. We wanted to tell the story of our heritage but also appeal to people outside of Hialeah and the Miami bubble.”
The majority of the cast is Latino and local, aside from Wall. So the role of the outsider wasn’t much of a stretch for the Jewish actor from Clearwater.
“[Wall] confessed to me: ‘I’m genuinely confused as we go through these scenes,’” Vargas recalls. “[He said], ‘I’m not acting. I honestly don’t know what is going on here.’”
Hialeah Premiere. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, November 11, at the Milander Center for Arts & Entertainment, 4800 Palm Ave., Hialeah; 305-827-0681; milandercenter.com. Tickets are sold out, but more might become available via facebook.com/Hialeahseries.