Its cancelation of One Day at a Time notwithstanding, Netflix has helped to usher in a new wave of Latinx programming that's included On My Block, Casa de las Flores and The Expanding Universe of Kathy Garcia. Later this week, the streamer debuts the latest bilingual addition to its ever-growing catalogue. Based on the webseries of the same name, Gentefied focuses on three Mexican American cousins struggling to attain the American Dream, even as that same dream threatens to destroy their neighborhood. Here's the 411 on this promising new series:
First produced as a seven-episode short-form webseries in 2016, the original Gentefied premiered at Sundance that year, where it was hailed for putting a human face on the gentrification of LA's oldest neighborhood. The series was created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, executive produced by America Ferrrera, and ultimately snapped up by Netflix to be developed into a full fledged series.
Like the webseries, Gentefied is about characters adapting to changes in their barrio, but while the webseries focused on one character in each episode, the new show focuses on the three Morales cousins Ana (Karrie Martin), Erik (Joseph Julian Soria), and Chris (Carlos Santos), who are trying to help their immigrant grandfather Pop (Joaquin Cosio) keep his Mexican restaurant afloat amid changing tastes and rising rents. In addition to the theme of gentrification itself, the show tackles Latino/Hispanic/Latinx themes such as code switching, the current climate of volatility around immigration, and the ongoing debate over how to pronounce “Latinx.”
As it happens, both Vida and Gentefied and set in the same neighborhood in Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, using humor to address changes in the neighborhood. But lest you think there's only one story to be told on this topic and in this neighborhood, the unique casts of characters and circumstances of the two shows will prove you wrong. While Vida is laser-focused on a small tight-knit queer Latinx community in Boyle Heights, Gentefied draws from a larger cast of characters, with a style that's uniquely its own.
The show’s title comes from a play on the word “Gentrify,” the concept of external forces and money creating change in established multicultural neighborhoods that forces residents out due to rising costs. “Gentefied,” by contrast, uses the Spanish word gente, which typically means “our people” and suggests an effort by Latinx residents to proactively adapt their own neighborhoods to avoid some of those outside factors from displacing them. In the trailer for the Netflix series (below), the cousins’ efforts partly focus on updating Pop’s restaurant to make it more appealing to a broader audience.
The showrunner of Gentefied is Monica Macer, who was previously a producer on Teen Wolf, Nashville, and Queen Sugar. In addition to executive producers Ferrera (Ugly Betty, Superstore), Teri Weinberg (The Office, The Tudors), Charles D. King (Mudbound) and Kim Roth (Fences), the show is led by Lemus and Chávez, as well as Aaliyah Williams (Buppies) from the webseries. Ferrera and Wilmer Valderrama are expected to play small roles. The rest of the cast includes Julissa Calderon (Revenge, WTF Baron Davis), Annie Gonzalez (Shameless, Good Girls Revolt), Laura Patalano (Vida), Felipe Esparza (Translate This), Rafeal Sigler (Ugly Betty), Greg Ellis (Hawaii Five-O), and Jaime Alvarez (Grey’s Anatomy).
Gentefied's first season hits Netflix on Friday.
Omar L. Gallaga is a longtime technology and culture writer with bylines in The Wall Street Journal, NPR's All Tech Considered blog, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, CNN and the beloved TV websites Television Without Pity and Previously.tv. He's a former newspaper journalist who now lives in New Braunfels, Texas. You can find him on Twitter @OmarG.