Sunday, June 13, 2021

Christina Vidal Mitchell Reveals That She Would Love to Reboot 'Taina'

Fans grew up watching Christina Vidal Mitchell as a child actor, starring in her own Nickelodeon series, Taina.

Running for 26 episodes over two seasons between 2001-2002, the Nickelodeon series followed Taina Morales, a student at the Manhattan School of the Arts who dreams of stardom, and loves music and dance. But her journey to fame and fortune isn't an easy one as she deals with love troubles, difficult auditions and pressures from her Puerto Rican family.

The series was one of the first Latinx-led shows on television, along with The Brothers Garcia. The show touched on themes of family, culture and what it’s like being a Nuyorican teen living in between two worlds. The series, created by Puerto Rican showrunner Maria Perez-Brown (Gullah Gullah Island) is seared into the memories of many who grew up watching it, because at the time it was rare to see an authentic portrayal of what it was like to be a Nuyorican teen, and has became a fond memory for a generation of teens.

In a recent interview with ET to promote her new show United We Fall, Vidal Mitchell revealed that she would love to reboot Taina and see the titular character working on her dancing and becoming a mom!

Today, Vidal Mitchell actor, who also starred in Disney's Brink! and Freaky Friday is a proud wife and mother of two. In fact, she gave birth to her daughter, Ava, just four days prior to doing the interview with ET.

As old fans get to reconnect with the actor, new fans are just discovering Vidal Mitchell's past projects thanks to a slew of streaming services.

"It's surreal, it's bizarre," she notes of now being a mom and people watching her previous shows and movies. "In a lot of ways, I still feel like that kid rollerblading and playing guitar and being on Nickelodeon. So sometimes it's a reality check, you're a grown woman!"

Taina Theme Song | Gonna Be A Star | Full Version

Vidal Mitchell credits Taina as the role that changed her life. Aside from it being her first time leading a show, she recalls having a lot of responsibility and growing up and maturing in "a very short period of time."

"It was a groundbreaking role for me. It catapulted me into a lot of other work and opened up different opportunities for me," she mentions.

She also loved seeing her Brink! cast in their recent virtual reunion. "It was so fun! I missed all of them," she says of reconnecting with Erik Von Detten, Patrick Levis and Sam Horrigan, adding that after their Mashable Zoom, they talked about a potential Brink! sequel to the Disney Channel Original Movie.

In a separate interview with IndieWire, revealed that she thought “that show was ahead of its time.” Adding “I think Maria was ahead of her time.” Vidal, who was just 20 at the time Taina aired, said it wasn’t until she reached adulthood that she understood the significance the series had on her as a performer. “I was just having fun, and doing the job, and being a kid,” she said. “It wasn’t until I got older that I realized, ‘Man, that was some important work we were doing there.'” Vidal said that Taina was really her first big opportunity to delve into the waters of the 30-minute sitcom, something she’s reprising with her latest television series.

United We Fall premieres July 15 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

From Refinery29:

The Quiet Revolution Of Christina Vidal & ABC’s United We Fall

Christina Vidal Mitchell — currently starring in ABC’s new parenting comedy United We Fall — took a pause during an afternoon phone call with Refinery29. Then she admitted, “I was just talking to someone the other day and saying, ‘I had no idea the impact that Taina had.’” If you are a Latinx millennial or zillennial woman who had access to cable television in the early 2000s, Vidal Mitchell’s admission is probably a jaw-dropper.

For many of us, Vidal Mitchell's Nickelodeon series Taina — about a Nuyorican teen girl striving for stardom — was the first time we saw ourselves reflected back on young adult TV. At the time, the genre was dominated by the white faces of series like Lizzie McGuire, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Boy Meets World. If there was a Latinx girl on-screen in 2001, when Taina premiered, she was the best friend — not the heroine. Ask Lalaine’s Lizzie Macquire character Miranda Sanchez.

The “impact” of Taina — Nick’s first-ever sitcom led by a Latinx girl — is baked into its existence. “At the time, I was just like, ‘Cool! I’m doing a TV show,’” Vidal Mitchell said. That’s why it has been “humbling” for her to learn the true meaning of her series to so many. “It sobers you to think, Okay, you’re not just doing a show. Somebody could be getting something more from this,” Vidal Mithcell — who has garnered over 30 TV credits since Taina’s 2002 finale — added.

The same mantra could be said for Vidal Mitchell’s current series, United We Fall, which debuted in mid-July, less than a week after Jezebel published the story “There Are No Latinx Shows Left on Network Television.” United pulled television back from that grim brink, which befell pop culture in the wake of ABC soap The Baker and the Beauty’s permanent cancellation. Chaotic comedy United We Fall — created by Julius Sharpe, about his life with wife and series writer/producer Stephanie Escajeda — is Vidal Mitchell’s latest step in keeping television’s Latinx uprising alive.

“There are those people who are tasked with making change. They’re tasked with making noise,” Vidal Mitchell began. “And then there are other people who are tasked with showing up when the opportunity presents itself.”

While Vidal Mitchell says she falls into the latter, more laid-back category, United by definition is a series that “makes change” as the only surviving network series led by a Latinx family. The comedy follows Vidal Mitchell’s Jo as she and her white husband Bill (Mad TV’s Will Sasso) try to juggle the increasing stress of raising two young children, making it to work on time, and maintaining the romance in their marriage. Jo is a far cry from the hypercompetent Latinx superwomen modern television has popularized, like One Day at a Time’s Penelope Alvarez. Although Penny has human flaws, she is also a heroic army veteran and expert nurse who keeps her family running despite severe periods of depression.

Jo is a hero for all Latinas who don’t feel like they’re “making jefa moves” every moment of every day.
“I come from a long line of strong women who get it done. Like my mother, my tias, my sisters. And I’m like, ‘Where the hell did I come from?’” Vidal confessed with a long, hearty laugh. “My mom would even tell me, ‘Aye, nena, you were so sweet and laid back when you were a kid. I used to look and you and be like, ‘Is that my daughter?’’

While viewers haven’t met Jo’s United mom yet, it’s likely Mrs. Rodriguez would have a similar question if she is anything like her type-A son Chuy (Scandal’s Guillermo Díaz). There is nothing Chuy enjoys more than pointing out his sister Jo’s perceived shortcomings. “I really do appreciate being able to go play a Latina who does not have it all together. Who is not your typical strong, ‘I can carry the weight of the world on my shoulders’ Latina,” Vidal Mitchell said.

The inspiration for Jo, United writer Stephanie Escajeda, was one of those typically doing-it-all Latinas, according to Vidal. Then Escajeda had kids.

“I think her point was, ‘I was strong and I was firing on all cylinders in all these areas. But then I became a parent and it all kind of fell apart,’” Vidal Mitchell, a mother of two herself, explained. “I was like, ‘Man, you know that’s so interesting. Because I don’t feel like that I’ve-got-it-all-together Latina. It is a lot of pressure.’ Especially when all the women in your family are like that. I’m over here like, ‘Uhhh. I'm still just trying to tie my shoes. Put them on the right feet. Get out of the house in one piece.’”

If you’ve seen the cold open of most United We Fall episodes, you know Jo has similar complaints. Each chapter of the series is immediately powered by the stress of the traditional pre-COVID19 early morning rush. As we look towards the future of the sitcom, it sounds like Jo is destined for more less-than-perfect and extremely recognizable bumps in the road. “You might discover that Jo has a bit of a potty mouth,” Vidal Mitchell teased ahead of Wednesday night’s upcoming episode, “Participation Trophy.”

You know, because real-life messy Latinx women curse. “That’s true. Certainly the ones I know,” Vidal Mitchell quipped.


From Metro:

Taina star Christina Vidal praises show’s impactful legacy as she discusses potential revival special

As one of the first Latinx-led television shows to launch on Nickelodeon, Taina managed to capture the hearts of viewers in a short amount of time.

Premiering on January 14, 2001, the show followed the Puerto Rican teenager Taina Morales and her friends as they attended a performing arts high school in New York.

Thanks to its fun script, a diverse cast, aspirational messages, and infectious theme song, it became an instant hit.

For the show’s lead actress Christina Vidal, it was hard to imagine that starring on the series for a mere two seasons would lead to fans still lovingly associating her with the show twenty years later.

In an exclusive chat with, the 39-year-old admitted: ‘I still can’t believe I ever had that incredible opportunity, the honor of being able to star on that show and everything it represented.

‘I knew it was a big deal at the time but I certainly didn’t realize what an impact it would have on people. It’s strange to think it’s been 20 years but also it feels like another life.’

The actress explained how fans have approached her in the years that followed to explain how the show inspired their life choices.

She recalled: ‘What a great honor I had in God placing me on that show. I still have people coming up to me saying, “I got into the business because of you” or “I decided to try out for that dream job because of this show.”

‘I had no idea the show would have that power. Credit goes to the creators and producers at Nickelodeon for recognizing that this show was necessary and putting it on.’

The Freaky Friday actress also credited the show’s popular theme song for keeping the series alive in the heart of fans as she revealed: ‘Even now, I have friends who will send me videos or FaceTime me because they’re with someone who remembers the show and loves the theme tune.

‘It happens all the time and I love that. I love it because it’s such a sweet nostalgia.’

The lack of social media at the time the show was on air meant Christina didn’t fully realize just how far the love for the show had spread.

Looking back, she explained: ‘I remember one time at a Puerto Rican parade in New York, they asked me to be on a float and then I did a little Q&A afterwards.

‘It was the first time I saw all these young Latina girls looking so happy as they sang and clapped along to the songs. I felt very proud in that moment. I just felt so proud of the show.’

Far ahead of its time with regards to diversity and inclusion, the show followed Taina and her friends Renee Jones, Daniel McDaniel, and Lamar Johnson as they chased their dreams in school, and tried to get past the likes of high-pitched nemesis Maritza Hogg.

Viewers also got to watch as Taina tried to balance the struggles of staying connected to her Latinx heritage while also loving things about American culture. Kids tuned in week after week to see the 15-year-old and her pal’s antics, however, the show abruptly came to an end in 2002 after just two seasons on air.

Despite the success the show had with both viewers of Latinx heritage and non-Latinx fans, a series similar to Taina didn’t appear on screens for many years to come.

Christina noted: ‘The simple fact is diversity should be far more common, especially in the States. We shouldn’t be noticing it, or the lack of it, because it should just be happening.

It’s still not happening enough and it makes me sad that we’re making such slow progress. ‘What makes me sad is when it is a decision that is based on racism that is motivated by fear. That’s even worse than ignorance to me.’

She continued: ‘The lack of representation is not just with Latinos and for African-Americans, but also Asian culture, African culture – which is actually very different than Black culture.

‘Just thinking about all of this culture we’re missing out on because some people are afraid to see something that is unfamiliar. Entertainment has the power to teach us and influence us and it’s sad that we’re not using that for more good… to enlighten people and to introduce children to different cultures and different family types.’

The United We Fall actress added that she was glad to see that tide appeared to be turning in a lasting way, with more effort being made to create shows like Taina once again.

With reboots and revivals popping up all over the place, it’s no surprise fans have been calling for the show to come back in some way.

Christina revealed she would love to check in with Taina to see where the beloved character would be now.

Discussing the option for a revival special, she told ‘A lot of people have talking about wanting to do a tiny reboot. Maybe we could do a one-off special for the fans and see where it goes. I’d be up for that.’

Fingers crossed.


‘Taina’ at 20: Christina Vidal on playing the pioneering Latina everygirl

Fifteen-year-old Taina Morales was a fictional character, but she represented the Latina everygirl of the 2000s: a passionate young woman with stadium-sized dreams, a boundless love for her family and a pair of hoop earrings for all occasions.

Created by Maria Perez-Brown (“Gullah Gullah Island,” “Model Latina”), the Nickelodeon teen sitcom “Taina” premiered Jan. 14, 2001. The show revolved around Puerto Rican diva-in-training Taina Morales and her fellow students at the Manhattan School of the Performing Arts, a fictional stand-in for the actual New York City fame factory, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

With a diverse cast of young actors — and featuring cameos by now-superstars Luis Fonsi, Shakira, Kelly Rowland and Solange Knowles — the show marked a turning point for kids’ television in the United States, where Latino characters, and more generally actors of color, were few and far between. “Taina” came on the air following a 1999 boycott of CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox protesting the “brownout” or lack of Latino TV shows and lead characters on the major networks and just months after Nickelodeon debuted the more male-centric, Mexican American sitcom, “The Brothers García” (for which a reboot was recently ordered by HBO Max). Despite the fact that ratings doubled in its second season, “Taina” was canceled in June 2002.

Since then, neither Nickelodeon, nor its parent company, ViacomCBS, has aired the show; it is only watchable on YouTube, where now-adult fans go to watch reruns and reminisce about some of the most memorable scenes. Fan favorites include the episode in which Taina sneakily buys a form-fitting hot-pink dress for her quinceañera, or her 15th birthday bash; when she botches a love letter to her crush, who could only speak Spanish; and her stint in the girl group Blue Mascara, played by real-life R&B trio 3LW.

Played by Puerto Rican actress, singer and LaGuardia graduate Christina Vidal — now Christina Vidal Mitchell — the role of Taina Morales was her first lead role. Vidal rings from the backyard of her home in Los Angeles, which she shares with husband Marcus Emanuel Mitchell and their two children. At the time, she thought of “Taina” as just one of many gigs, but 20 years later, Vidal Mitchell, 39, has come to understand her role as a critical milestone in a the history of Latinas in Hollywood.

When she was in her first movie at age 10 — opposite Michael J. Fox in 1993’s “Life With Mikey” — she says, “I used to wish that I could be the main character and not just the friend.” She later played supporting roles in the 1998 skate movie “Brink!” and the 2003 Lindsay Lohan comedy “Freaky Friday.” And last year, she starred in the extended-family sitcom “United We Fall” with Will Sasso and Jane Curtin; the series was canceled after one season.

But it’s “Taina” — which came out before “Hannah Montana,” “Victorious,” “Glee” and other shows centered on teen stardom and fame aspirations — that still generates social media love from fans.

“I had no idea that [‘Taina’] would be so impactful,” Vidal Mitchell tells The Times. “Not just for Latin girls and boys, but people of many colors and cultures.”

Your first role was playing a scrappy child star in “Life With Mikey.” How did you kick off your real-life acting career?
Some people would call it fate, but it was really my older sister Lisa [Vidal], who is a pretty well-known actress [“The Baker and the Beauty,” “Being Mary Jane”]. She started when she was 13 — sending out resumes, going to people’s offices all over the city and dropping off her picture. I was going to school in Whitestone, Queens, and heard about this audition, for a film with Michael J. Fox. They didn’t want an actor; they wanted a real street kid. Lisa coached me through my auditions, then flew with me to Canada, seven months pregnant with my nephew, and stayed with me through the first few weeks. I became the first Puerto Rican child to star in an American film.

Were you aware of what that meant at the time?
I didn’t. My first experience with Spanish press after “Life With Mikey” was embarrassing, because I did not speak Spanish fluently. I understand why Latinos [feel honored] when you speak their language; you’re keeping the culture alive. But I was very hurt that they didn’t acknowledge any other way that I was Puerto Rican. We need to do a better job of supporting each other, instead of looking for reasons to invalidate someone’s Latin-ness. But I did feel extremely supported by one famous Latino: Ruben Blades.

How did Ruben Blades make you feel supported?
He organized this huge luncheon for me. I remember being 11 years old and standing on a chair, in front of all these influential Latin people in the industry. They were all clapping for me. I thought, “I don’t know why I’m here, but I get free food and that’s awesome.”

Before “Taina,” you didn’t play explicitly Latina roles — you were in movies like “Brink!” and “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” How did you curate the roles you took as a teen?
At that time, there was no emphasis on playing one ethnicity. It was just about being an actor and playing a role. I mean, look at Al Pacino [in “Scarface”]. None of us cared about that awful accent, because it’s Al Pacino! What was important was … my mom wanted me to have a childhood, and was very selective about the roles I took. She let me work here and there, but during the summer, so I didn’t miss school. Spike Lee actually wanted me to be in “Crooklyn” — he even called my house personally — but my mom said no to Spike Lee!

As a Puerto Rican girl who attended New York’s famous performing arts school, LaGuardia, it’s as if you were destined to play “Taina.” How did you get the role?
I was in Germany with my pop group [Gemstone] when I got called to audition in L.A. Taina loved to sing and dance and act — and I love to do all three of those things. The character Taina had a birthday, and it was the same month as mine: November. And that birthday was chosen before I was chosen. It was eerie.

How did the show compare with your actual high school experience?
We both got in trouble with our teachers, but Taina had a much better work ethic. I was naturally talented, but I was lazy. And girls were not nice to me. One girl was like, a real Latin Queen [gang member] — they carried razors in their mouths all day. I guess she liked the guy that I was dating, so one day she said she’d cut my face after school. I was like, “Please don’t!” But one of my friends said something to her, this tough girl named Princess. And then we became friends.

In the show, there are tensions between Taina’s grandfather, who is from Puerto Rico, and the rest of the family, who grew up in New York. What was your relationship to Puerto Rican culture growing up?
In my family, being Puerto Rican was one of those things we didn’t question. Of course, being Nuyorican is different than being from the island. We spoke English, my mom spoke back to us in Spanish. And when she tried to get us to speak in Spanish, I allegedly said to her, “No, I sound like a jíbara!” It’s like saying you’re a hick. You don’t want to go around telling your mom how to be a mom, but I wish she didn’t let that slide.

We grew up in Queens, around a bunch of Italians and Jews. Almost everybody was white. I was darker than the other girls, and also had dark hair on my legs and a mustache. I always felt like an ugly little boy around the other girls. But Lisa, my oldest sister, she got bullied the worst. She used to get thrown off the school bus, and her books too. When my sister Tanya came around, she wore a leather jacket with a bunch of “I LOVE PUERTO RICO” buttons. She was like, “Say something to me and I will punch you in your face!” It wasn’t as bad once my brother and I got older.

Puerto Rican freestyle singer Lisa Lisa, who famously fronted the Cult Jam, played Taina’s mom on the show. Did you two connect over music?
She really looked out for me. She’d give me some some tips — like, “Girl, you don’t need to be washing your hair every day.” She said to spray it with some water, comb it, add a little product, and it’ll rejuvenate your curl without taking the moisture out of your hair. Game changer! She was also cool enough to let me sing one of her hits onstage at the New York premiere for “Taina.” But we got in trouble because we were only supposed to sing songs that Taina sings on the show.

Taina scored high ratings on Nickelodeon, but only got two seasons. There are many rumors as to why the show got canceled — some say it was budgeting, others say it was because it was a show about girls.
That’s ridiculous.

What was Nickelodeon’s explanation when they told you that the show wouldn’t be renewed for a third season?
They didn’t really say anything … just that they’d replace it with a show about Master P and his son. But I think it had something to do with me getting a record deal, and just not doing everything they wanted me to do. I wasn’t new to the business then — I was 20. I had a lawyer, I had people around me who knew my rights. This was a time when they had kids do a whole bunch of stuff without having any rights.

There have been accounts of shady behavior toward child actors at Nickelodeon — but you went in with an army.
And the general was my mother! I’ll give you a little tea. (Do the kids even say that anymore?) Well, I dated David Oliver Cohen, who plays Daniel, for a little bit. But then I was dating one of the choreographers at the time, who was much older than me. When my mom found out, ooh girl. ... She got him fired. She said, “You guys are not protecting my daughter if you’re allowing this to happen!” I’m a Christian, and I believe God gave me that mother for a reason.

So when you when you left the show, you decided to focus on music. What happened with that record deal?
I was signed to MCA. They wanted to make me a star. But a year later, the whole company got shut down and bought by some other company. The president of that company sat down with me and asked if I want to be the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. I was like, “So you want me to dress up in lingerie and sing these songs?” I wanted to be a solo artist, but they ultimately shelved my album.

You still found roles that integrated your singing ability into your acting ability. To this day, people on Twitter talk about Pink Slip, the band you fronted with Lindsay Lohan in “Freaky Friday!”
I guess “Freaky Friday,” “Brink!” and “Taina” all ended up being cult classics — I still don’t understand, but whatever brings people together, right?

In recent years, there’s been a heightened interest in Latino-centric television shows. The audience is there, but the networks often give these shows a season or two. The anomaly was “One Day at a Time,” which lasted three seasons on Netflix and one on Pop. What do you think needs to happen for Latinos to succeed in television?
Thanks to people like Eva Longoria and Gloria Calderón Kellett, [there] are conversations that are now happening in casting offices and networks: “We need diversity.” That’s really encouraging for me, because that means I’m getting way more opportunities. I can play characters I may have never [been cast for] because it would have just been assumed that the character was white.

But I want to keep the conversation at “Oh, here’s this really talented writer/director that we should look into …” instead of “Oh, here’s this Latin person we have to pacify for the Latin people so we don’t get them started now.”

We want to tell all the stories — it’s not about one over the other. I wish there was a way we could find that harmonious balance, but maybe the way to that is a little muddy and messy.


More Nick: Throw Back with Taina's Christina Vidal-Mitchell | Throw Back with Nickelodeon!

Originally published: Thursday, July 16, 2020.
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