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.