Gloria Calderón Kellett (“One Day at a Time,” “With Love,” “Jane the Virgin”) sat down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “On The Edge,” a new podcast spotlighting stories of opportunity, discovery, and courage. In the newest episode, Kellett talks about demeaning roles early in her acting career, her decision to become a writer, her personal relationship with obesity, and starting new and important conversations about disenfranchisement and representation. “On The Edge” is a capsule podcast series that is part of the “At Home With The Creative Coalition” podcast.
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Highlights from “On The Edge” featuring Gloria Calderón Kellett —
On taking on difficult cultural issues as a writer:
“Well, first of all, I think it’s more interesting. For me, as somebody who consumes entertainment as a source of comfort, to be able to learn something, to be able to have empathy for a different situation, a different way of life, a person whose story is nothing like mine, to have been able to do that for years really does create empathy. Those stories create empathy. So, going into this, I wanted to be a storyteller because the stories I was seeing reflected about my community were so ill-advised and were not true, or, at least, were not my experience of what was true. So, I had already been doing that work. I entered through dominant culture shows. I was on mainstream network shows for many years and loved it. Loved it. Really enjoyed writing, I got to work in comedy, drama, and procedural even, and it was interesting to see the different effects that each of those had. How each of them used storytelling to make points about certain things, whether it was allegory or right there in your face, and it’s a really powerful medium, this type of storytelling that we do. And I think TV and film is a way to talk about things that you might not be able to talk about in your home. And, while entertaining, if you can also give people tools and talking points, and ways of reflecting on something that they haven’t been able to reflect on in that way before, that’s really exciting. That’s exciting for culture shift. That’s exciting for allowing people to see inside another perspective and realize, like ‘Oh, I had different views about that, and now I feel differently.’”
On her personal relationship to obesity and contributing to the conversation around weight:
“It’s in my family. I have a lot of obesity in my family. I think that obesity is tied to intergenerational trauma, as well. So, it’s mental health and the chemistry of what happens in bodies. And so, I had already been reading cognitive behavioral therapy books about brains and addiction and how to break brain addiction, because it’s huge in my life. It’s a big, big part of my life. And I’ve seen how it’s slowed people down and robbed people of joy and made them not feel great about themselves, as well. And I’ve had my own weight struggles over the years. Up and down and whatnot. And like, ‘Why am I eating the same that this person is eating, but they’re a thin person and I am not? And what is happening differently in my body in relation to the generations prior to me?’ So all of that was already something that was interesting to me. So then for it to be the topic of conversation it was like, ‘Oh, this is great.’”
On why she decided to transition from acting to writing:
“I started out as an actress, and all the parts were gangbangers’ girlfriends or gangbangers’ sisters. That was it. That was all I got auditions for. And I would go in and they were like, ‘No, no, we need an accent. You don’t understand, her parents are from another country.’ I said ‘Yeah, my parents are from another country. They came here speaking no English, this is what I sound like….’ That’s really why I became a writer. It became very clear that the people with the pen didn’t know what they were talking about in terms of my community, and the only way that I was going to be able to change it was to be on the other side. That was the only way I could change it! I wasn’t getting parts that I wanted anyway. The auditions I was going out for were so demeaning. So I was like, ‘I don’t want any of these roles anyway. What am I doing?’ I might as well try to create roles that I would like, and then maybe one day I’ll get to play those and, if not, at least I’m able to add to the narrative an authentic voice of who we actually are… We are 20 percent of this country, and we are five percent of what is on television in speaking roles, and those are still largely marginalized roles. Of that five percent, 40 percent are criminals. So, again and again, it’s like, that’s why we’re treated a certain way… We need to adjust, so that people start seeing the humanity of these people. I mean, it’s shocking to me that we are still in the place that we’re at in terms of our representation.”
On what she’s learned during her time as a writer:
“I think that, being cognizant of disenfranchised, marginalized voices. Once I started doing that work, things felt more meaningful. It all felt more meaningful. Because all of this is entertainment and storytelling and joy. I mean, I peddle joy, 100 percent. My work is joyful. But, if I can sneak some broccoli into that joy, if I can get something in there that teaches you something or makes you feel differently about something or starts a conversation in your own home about something, that’s a lot more exciting to me as a creator. Because then it’s not just me presenting, like ‘Here!’ It’s then building the conversation with the audience, which social media at its best does. It starts conversations that we can continue to have. I think social media can also be a dumpster fire as well, of people just yelling their ideas at each other, but sometimes, it can be a space where people are trying to connect and trying to learn from one another and grow. And that’s when it’s really exciting to me.”
More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. The Creative Coalition harnesses the unique platforms of the arts community and entertainment industry to make positive impacts on social welfare issues. For more information, visit https://thecreativecoalition.org. On The Edge is graciously supported by Novo Nordisk Inc.