Friday, April 30, 2021

HBO Max Orders 'The Brothers Garcia' Sequel

The Garcias are getting the family back together.

(Pictured top: “Garcias” stars Ada Maris, Alvin Alvarez, Vaneza Pitynski, Jeffrey Licon, Bobby Gonzalez and Carlos Lacamara)

HBO Max has given a 10-episode order to The Garcias, a sequel to the family comedy The Brothers Garcia that aired on Nickelodeon for four seasons from 2000 to 2004, Variety has learned.

The series hails from New Cadence Productions, the banner headed by Brothers Garcia co-creator and executive producer Jeff Valdez and Sol Trujilo. Production is scheduled to begin in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico in June.

The original series, billed as the first English-language sitcom to have an all Latino cast and creative team, revolved around the Mexican American Garcia family, narrated by Larry, the adult version of one of the family’s sons. Larry recounts his life alongside George, Carlos, and Lorena (his two brothers and twin sister, respectively), and the way they deal with everyday problems such as school, work, growing up, and all living in one house in San Antonio, Texas.

Reviving the world of Brothers Garcia has been a long mission for Valdez. The new iteration finds the Garcia children grown up and gathering with their parents for a three-month summer vacation in a luxury home by the beach.

The six core original cast members will reprise their roles. A number of original writers, directors and crew members from the Nickelodeon series are signing on again to bring the Garcia clan back to life.

ViacomCBS owns the original Brothers Garcia. Valdez was relentless in pursuing the right to mount a sequel because he sees clear demand for an unabashedly family friendly series about a family that happens to be Mexican American. More urgently, there is the sad fact that the representation of Latinx stories, talent and creatives in mainstream TV hasn’t increased much since Brothers Garcia bowed more than 20 years ago.

“The original show was always about a simple slice of life story that happened in this family,” Valdez said. “In every episode there’s a lesson to be learned. We wanted to keep that simple contract with our audience.”

Garcias cast and crew is 90%-plus Latinx, Valdez noted, and inclusive of the many ethnicities therein. The Garcia siblings also now have diverse families of their own, reflecting the increasingly multi-racial complexion of American families.

Valdez is serving as showrunner, with Brothers Garcia alum Joey Gutierrez in the role of head writer.

Ada Maris (Nurses) and Carlos Lacamara (Nurses) are returning in their roles as parents Sonia and Ray Garcia. Alvin Alvarez, Jeffrey Licon and Bobby Gonzalez are back as brothers Larry, Carlos and George, as is Vaneza Pitynski as sister Lorena. John Leguizamo was also featured as the narrator and the voice of the adult Larry Garcia, but it's unclear at this time if he'll be involved in The Garcias.

The series aired on Nickelodeon between 2000 and 2004, and consisted of four seasons with 52 overall episodes.

“I feel like I’m seeing my actual children again. It’s wonderful,” said Maris during a roundtable Zoom interview with Garcias actors and Valdez. “I feel like I have the right to tell Bobby to cut his hair.”

The actors have never stopped running in to fans of the original series and those who have found Brothers Garcia episodes in unauthorized form on YouTube and other platforms. The series ran 50 episodes, plus a 90-minute 2003 telepic The Brothers Garcia: Mysteries of the Maya.

“It was such an exciting and pivotal part of my youth,” said Pitynski. “To be coming back for another generation of The Garcias is weirdly wild and exciting.” Pitynski now works as a digital executive for a record label, but she couldn’t turn down the chance to reunite with her TV family for Garcias.

Lacamara notes with pride that Brothers Garcia was a trailblazer in its depiction of a middle class Latino family. The resort setting of Garcias is by design as part of Valdez’s mission to bring other dimensions to the portrayal of Latinx culture beyond stereotypical tropes that proliferate of drug kingpins, gang members, gardeners, maids and poor-but-proud families.

The Garcias of San Antonio were comfortably middle class. In the present day, one of the Garcia children has hit it big in the new economy lottery, which makes the lengthy stay in a seaside mansion possible.

“We were the first show to show a middle-class Latino family. It’s still a rare thing,” Lacamara said. “And yet it feels so much more normal for everyone to see this these days.”

Licon came of age on Brothers Garcia, working on the series from age 14 to 17. It was quite a training ground on a show that had guest shots by such budding stars as Vanessa Hudgens, Danny Trejo (Dora and the Lost City of Gold), Solange Knowles, Penn Badgley (You) as Eddie Bauer, Brenda Song and Tony Plana, in addition to Ricardo Montalban, Margaret Cho, and George Lopez, who played Mr. Fender in a pair of episodes. Lupe Ontiveros (Selena), Kay Panabaker (Fame), and Camille Guaty (Prison Break) were also featured.

“I don’t think I fully grasped what we were accomplishing with the product we were putting out,” Licon said. “The response has always been overwhelming. People tell me it was their favorite show because they could identify it. I don’t think we realized how many people we were affecting.”

“The Brothers Garcia”; Courtesy of New Cadence Prods.

In 2018, when the cast got together at Valdez’s home, a group shot posted on social media went viral among fans. That inspired Valdez to take a straw poll of what viewers might want to see in a reboot. The overwhelming response was a present day look at “what happened to the Garcia kids,” Valdez said.

“I love getting to revisit a character and see where his life is now and the choices that led him here,” Gonzalez said. “I’m excited to have my family back and get a new daughter and wife.”

For Valdez, getting the rights from ViacomCBS and the deal with HBO Max set up was an odyssey (the original series has not been made available for streaming, although bootleg episodes are readily available online). This time around, New Cadence controls Garcias outright. That’s meaningful to Valdez, who gave the family the surname that was his mother’s maiden name.

"We want audiences to see that we are totally American and part of the 'new mainstream,'" exclaimed Valdez. "There are no themes of narcos, border walls, gang bangers or maids anywhere in this series - a fact that we are very proud of and hope that Hollywood will follow suit. We are extremely proud of the fact that this show will easily achieve 90+% positive Latino inclusion both in front of and behind the camera."

“This is truly, on so many levels, a family show,” Valdez said. “Everything for the family.”

"We are excited to be partnering with WarnerMedia, who believes in the project and ordered 10 episodes," added Sol Trujillo, NCP Partner and global media-communications and technology icon. "The themes of our new series are aspirational and universal. The Garcias will be in English and, of course, every episode will end with the trademark, 'Todo para la familia,' which means 'Everything for the family.'"

"This lil show began over two decades ago and when it wrapped I never thought I'd have the opportunity to bring Lorena's dramatics back to the screen," Lorena actress Vaneza Pitynski posted on Instagram. "And yet, here we are thanks to @hbomax and Jeff Valdez. I'm happy we're reuniting and getting the family back together, because as always, todo para la familia."

The Garcias will be shot on location in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, in a town called Puerto Aventuras. The eco-theme parks Xcaret, Xplor, and Xel-Ha will also be shooting locations, with each of these said to add a unique production value to the reboot series. The show is described as a "slice of life of an American family that just happens to be Latino." By shooting the series in San Antonio, Texas, and Mexico, the show juxtaposes an American Latino family in Mexico.

No release date has yet been set, but shooting is expected to begin in May.

Todo para la familia. Everything for the family!

Originally published: Friday, April 30, 2021.

H/T: The A.V. Club; Additional sources: Deadline, TVweb.

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