New Netflix 'One Day at a Time' remake has Cuban-American flavor

Johnny Diaz
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun-Sentinel
@Netflix presents a modern Latin "One Day at a Time."

It could easily have been called "Un Dia at a Time."

A remake of the classic sitcom series "One Day at a Time," about a divorced woman juggling her career while raising two teenage daughters has been adapted by Netflix for 13 episodes, which begin streaming Jan. 6.

The twist: This new version centers on three generations of a Cuban-American family.

With its sprinkling of Spanish words and Cuban references, the show speaks to living in a bicultural, multigenerational home. Based in Los Angeles, it follows Army veteran and nurse Penelope (played by Justina Machado), who is separated from her husband as she raises two kids with the help of her mother (played by Rita Moreno).

Norman Lear, producer of the original show created by Whitney Blake and Allan Manings, is involved in the remake. He is joined by two other executive producers, Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett. They decided to tell the story of a working mom through a Cuban-American family because Calderon Kellett is a Cuban-American whose parents came to the United States in 1962 during the Operation Pedro Pan youth exodus. Her mom arrived in Florida City and the father landed in the Keys.

For the show, she drew from her own experiences, such as having a working mother with a thick Spanish accent and a traditional grandmother, or "abuela." On the show, the abuela wakes up and brews cafecito while dancing to the music of Celia Cruz. She also calls Uber "El Uber."

"My abuela would wash out Ziploc bags and reuse them," said Calderon Kellett, during a media conference call Jan. 5.

Adding some South Florida flavor, Gloria Estefan was tapped to sing the show's theme song. Though the lyrics remain the same as the original, the new version features horns and a tropical beat.

"I love it. They did a wonderful job, and we were all thrilled the minute we heard it," said Lear, 94, who is also known for other classic comedies including "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Maude."

Lear said he simply called the Estefans, who are friends.

"If you were in the same situation, you would have thought, 'Let's ask her,' and we did," he said. "It was an easy call, and they were thrilled to do it."

The original series was known for breaking new ground in tackling taboo and heavy social topics. That spirit applies to the Netflix adaptation but with a modern update. In the first episode, Penelope considers taking antidepressants to help her deal with nightmares from her time in Afghanistan. Penelope also challenges her doctor boss to pay her the same salary as the male nurse in the office. Other episodes will touch on veteran benefits and addiction.

Although the time period and cast are different, the two shows share similarities. The layout of the living room and kitchen are the same. There's also a friendly handyman named Schneider who spends more time in the family's apartment than his own. Also, watch out for a cameo appearance this season from one of the original cast members.

"We want to do whatever we could to embrace anything from the old [show] that we could honor and would work within our show," said Royce.

"We just want to be able to live up to this pedigree," added Calderon Kellett, of Lear. "We have his blessing and we want to do right by him, certainly."

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