Inside ‘One Day at a Time’s Animated Special & Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Guest Role
It’s been a while since fans last spent a half hour with One Day at a Time‘s Alvarez family, but this week they’ll see them in a whole new light as the group goes animated in a brand new special.
In the standalone episode, the family prepares to welcome their conservative Florida-based aunt and cousins, Tia Mirtha (Gloria Estefan), Estrellita (Melissa Fumero) as well as Tio Juanito (Lin-Manuel Miranda, making his ODAAT debut). “It’s sort of a meditation on how to talk to family about politics,” says co-creator Gloria Calderon Kellett.
“They’re sorting out their own feelings and how best to discuss those feelings, how best to try to put forth ideas that might make somebody who grew up similarly to them come over to their side [politically],” she adds about the Alvarez’s motivations in this episode. “And then it obviously becomes much more emotional than that.”
“I think it was very interesting,” co-creator Mike Royce chimes in, “We realized the show had to be about talking about politics, not about politics.”
Throughout the half hour, the Alvarez family manifests different versions of what that conversation might be. It won’t be easy though, as fans of the Pop TV-saved series will recall the tensions Penelope (Justina Machado) and Lydia (Rita Moreno) had with Mirtha and Estrellita in “The Funeral” episode, but they’re also adding Tio Juanito into the mix this time.
“I texted him and he said yes,” Kellett says of getting Lin-Manuel Miranda to join in on the fun and get involved. “It was incredibly fortunate. We’ve obviously wanted to have him on the show, he’s been such a supporter on social media and so kind to us,” Kellett continues.
“So we had hoped, but he’s a very busy national treasure making a lot of amazing things and he was supposed to be shooting a movie right now … So he was very gracious in saying, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.'” And for those who appreciate a good Hamilton nod, keep your eyes peeled because one magically makes its way into the special. “Lin was okay with it,” teases Kellett, “so we decided it was a bit of fun.”
Despite the heavy subject matter of politics, expect plenty of laughter as Royce reveals, “The thing we tried to keep an eye on the whole time was making sure they sound like people. And by that, I mean their characters.”
“This would have been a very easy episode for it to evolve into a liberal talking point and then a conservative talking point … but then it starts to sound like a cable news talk show. And that obviously isn’t our job. So it was really trying to narrow it down and make sure that they are coming from their personal places and actual emotions,” Royce added.
The special episode was the product of a large team effort as the idea was given the green light but faced obstacles some viewers and fans might not be aware of. “She proposed this one episode we had that was already full of these fantasy sequences that might become a good animated episode,” Royce says of co-showrunner Kellett. “And we talked to Sony, Viacom, and Chris McCarthy of Viacom was good enough to let us proceed with it.”
But animation takes time, and that’s something this team had to find a way to work around. “My idea was met with ‘That sounds great, but it takes 29 weeks to put together an animated pilot’ and I was like, ‘Oh!'” Kellett says. “So Brett Miller, one of our executive producers, found Smiley Guy, this company in Canada with 100 employees who were all working remotely from home and they felt like they could do it in eight weeks, and they did. So it’s really insane how quickly they were able to get all of this work done. It was a really remarkable feat on their part.”
Things came together for the cast with the help of a mobile equipment service in which recording devices were left on their doorstep, while the deliverer waited in a van outside to retrieve the items after the session. With the help of their One Day at a Time sound team, the special came together and transformed into what viewers will see when it airs June 16.
There’s one thing that both showrunners agree they’re looking forward to fans seeing. “We love that Gloria Estefan wrote a parody of her song for us, that was thrilling,” Kellett teased. See which song Kellett is referencing in the sneak peek clip below and don’t miss the exciting animated special when it airs this week on Pop TV.
One Day at a Time, “The Politics Episode,” Airs Tuesday, June 16, 9:30/8:30c, Pop TV