Freeform Promises Diversity with an Edge at TCA20
The Freeform Panel for the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour was held on Friday, January 17th in Los Angeles. The panel spotlighted the best and brightest in new TV shows for the young network. I had the pleasure of attending the panel, which debuted three brand new series: Motherland: Fort Salem, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay and Party of Five.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is the story of Nicholas (Josh Thomas) who goes to visit his dad and teenage half-sisters (one of which is neurodivergent and on the autism spectrum. She’s also played by newcomer Kayla Cromer who is autistic herself).
Their father dies unexpectedly, causing the rather frenetic Nicholas to have to step up as the parental figure, which he does in his own quirky and fabulous way!
Josh Thomas is an Australian comedian who is well known for his debut project, Please Like Me.
In Josh’s interview we talk about his reception as a comedian with a queer point of view and how his process now isn’t about writing for others, but simply inviting you to enjoy himself.
Josh was an absolute pleasure to talk with. He has such a vivacious energy and humor while tackling controversial or taboo topics in a really meaningful and heartfelt way.
Everything’s Gonna be Okay premiered on Freeform January 16th, and episodes are also available on Hulu.
Party of Five is a reimagining of the 1994 classic of the same name. But instead of following the Salingers, we follow the Acostas as they deal with life after their parents are deported. Though the show has a chance to be mostly political, they navigate those waters wisely and deliver a drama that hits to the core of all its viewers. Co-creator Amy Lippman says, “Immigration is everyone’s story,” and everyone can find something in this story to relate to.
I sat down with Brandon Larracuente who plays Emilio, Niko Guardado who plays Beto, and Emily Tosta who plays Lucia. I learned a lot about the three during the panel. Brandon is very musically talented and got his start with an opera company when he was young. Lucia has had her fair share of immigration experiences as she came here when she was 12. Niko, much like his character, didn’t learn Spanish growing up, but stays true to his Latinx roots.
The kids really took the roles and story to heart, but insist that this isn’t a one-issue show. There is family and togetherness at the center and they want that to shine through. We talk about the best way to deal with conflict and the importance of diversity and world experience.
Afterwards, I sat down with Co-Creator Amy Lippman and Co-Executive Producer Gabe Llanas. Gabe talked about the beauty of working in a diverse writing room and having diversity as the default. Amy talked about her wishes for the series and what things we should and shouldn’t take away from the 1994 showing.
During the interview we talk about the way the show is digested by young people and even the role of fanfic and fandom. It’s fascinating and a great listen!
Party of Five premiered January 8th on Freeform and is also available for streaming on Hulu.
Last, but certainly not least, I got to sit down with the inspiring cast of Motherland: Fort Salem. Envisioned by Eliot Laurence. Laurence is also he creator of Claws on TNT. Yet another show with unlikely yet powerful female heroines.
Motherland: Fort Salem tells the tale of an alternate present in which witches are conscripted to employ their “work” (the moniker “magic” is never used in the series. Laurence says “It’s called ‘work’ because it’s hard.”) on behalf of the Military. We follow rebellious Raelle (Taylor Hickson), naive yet spirited Tally (Jessica Sutton), and overachiever Abigail Bellweather (Ashley Nicole Williams) as they go through basic training in order to qualify for war college. They are supported by drill sergeant Anacostia (Demetria McKinney), General Sarah Alder (Lyne Renee), and mysterious outsider Scylla (Amalia Holm).
The future is female and Motherland: Fort Salem sets the course where they tackle not only women’s issues, but ones that lead to saving the country in the process. Additionally they tackle female sexuality, and role reversal, and produce a world in which there are no heteronorms. The show is gorgeously filmed and feels cinematic even on the small screen.
The Freeform panel opened with a performance of This Land is Your Land by MILCK. When I sat with the cast, Jessica and Ashley talked about their experience with magic and what they first thought of the unique script. Taylor and Amalia talked about the wildness of the casting process and how the show has changed their world views. And Demetria and Lyne (sporting amazing footwear) talked about what it’s like being the supporting leadership and how important this show is for the new generation.
Motherland: Fort Salem will debut during Women’s History Month on Wednesday, March 18th. It will air on Freeform and be available for streaming on Hulu.
And here’s a fun extra about the casting process!
All in all, the Freeform panel was very exciting and the Freeform lineup is ready to charge ahead. These shows join positively diverse and popular shows like Good Trouble, Grown-ish and The Bold Type. All episodes are available next day on Hulu.
Does this new line-up excite you? Tell us what you think about the new shows in the comments!
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