“Vida” is a Starz original show that centers on the lives of two Mexican American sisters named Emma and Lyn and their struggles with dealing with the fallout of their Mother’s death and coming together to take on an apartment complex and bar she left behind in East Los Angeles.
Recently we had a chance to chat with Mishel Prada, who plays the older sister Emma, and learned what it was like to work on a show that has a diverse cast, diverse crew and diverse mindset.
Season one of the show had universal praise for its story and depth, also highlighted was their nearly 100% LGTBQ writer’s room and eclectic Latinx cast. Most recently the show won the GLAAD award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Season two starts this week on both the Starz channel and its companion streaming app.
Without further ado, let’s get into season two of “Vida”.
Hello Mishel! To start off, where do we find the sisters at the beginning of season two? Where is their mindset?
Well, after season one, when Eddy is in the hospital, Emma feels really responsible for that, and in some ways, she is, and carries the guilt of that. She’s just trying to figure out health insurance, or this or that, how to fix things. We see Lyn really step it up and be there for her emotionally [as] things are falling apart and really be there for [Emma]. And then they decide to be business partners, and in a lot of ways decide to kind of be a family. So then, we carry that into the beginning of season two.
Lyn has gone through this cleanse, limpia, with Doña Lupe, and she’s wanting to “really be good” as she says it. And as we start, we find her right back to where she said she was going to go away from, so it’s not working anymore. And that’s something that we see her realize, she can’t go back to where she was. Something has genuinely changed in her, and then with Emma, we see that she’s kind of back to where she was before, but she’s making very strong choices. Maybe even irresponsible choices in a way that she’s not used to. But she’s liquidated all her assets, except for her apartment, and we’re seeing what her relationships are like in Chicago.
What’s the process behind getting back into form of your character of Emma on this second season?
You know we finished season one, we shot season one almost to the date, a year. So, we went from right before Christmas eve, took off for break and then went for a week before shooting so yeah there’s a part where you’re like, “Oh, wow, do I know how to do this again? Is it something that I’ll understand?” Before I had done indie films, I had done a season of the “Fear the Walking Dead”, so I never really had to pick a character back up. [Emma] is a lot to take on. It was nice because it did feel that once we got back on set, it takes a few days to get back in that skin, but she was there, she was waiting for me when I needed her.
Could you tell me what it’s like working within a cast and crew that’s so diverse?
I mean, it feels exactly as it should be. It feels that I fully understand why this is so revolutionary and why it’s such a big deal, but when you’re actually filming, you’re like, “Why is this not more normal?” This Latinx story. This brown, gay story. Why not have brown queer people writing it? It doesn’t seem like it’s that crazy, but Starz really took a chance in making something that wasn’t completely the status quo.
And I think it’s a really beautiful thing because we really are in a time where I think we need to really show people – whether its new voices, or young women, show them they’re great, show them what they’re capable of. Because this show isn’t just about what you see in front of the camera, it’s behind the camera as well, it’s built from the bottom up and we need to really show other Latinx women and queer women what they’re capable of.
Going off that, is there any specific moments or general times you relate to the show being Latinx? Things that relate to where you come from and your experiences and that represent where you come from?
Well, the sets are so detailed and true to life, like even in season one we start with Emma making some leftover food and she’s emptying out an empty butter container that inside has like rice and beans. I mean, that’s the way it always was growing up. We used to have these little Danish cookie tins, and they never had cookies in them, it was always the sewing kit! You opened it hoping there was cookies in there, and it was like a sewing kit or pens or something. And sure enough on set, there was that tin and we opened it up and there were no cookies in there. So, there was a lot of love brought into it, I wish the camera could pick up.
I think that those things are really special and speaks specifically to the experience that I know. Even though I didn’t grow up around a Mexican American neighborhood, I grew up in Hialeah, which has more Caribbean and central Americans. But all those things are still kind of the same, which I find really cool.
Early in this new season there’s a scene where the two sisters are discussing their business plans and Emma remarks that they need to be more aspirational, to that Lyn says, “That requires a level of having our ‘shit togetherness’”. Could you talk about how that sister dynamic is evolving in this season? Will we see them get their “shit togetherness”, as they put it?
I mean, they’re going to try, but it’s not easy. Emma is not used to working with anybody truly. She does, but it’s people that operate in a very specific way, amongst very specific guidelines and everybody agrees that this is the way that things are done. Lyn does not operate by those rules and I think you know what Emma has also seen from Lyn, she mentions lending her money for a jewelry business, and that [she was] never following through. But the evolution that we get to experience between Lyn and Emma is that you start seeing that Emma needs Lyn.
There really is a lot that Lyn will contribute but I think it’s going to be about them finding value in themselves and not waiting to find that value in a man, her sister, her mother, or anyone else. I think once she takes the reigns, we really start seeing things kind of get, the “shit togetherness” happening.
Lastly, what should viewers expect to see with this new season of “Vida”?
I think people should expect to see is that they’re going to see this neighborhood opening up more, we’re going to have more characters. We have Roberta Colindrez and Raúl Castillo, who are incredible actors. Adrian Gonzalez is also joining our cast. Tonatiuh, who had a few small scenes as Marcos in season one, is now going to be much more involved in this world. So, we’re really seeing this world open up and we’re seeing this neighborhood and the dynamic within it open up.
In the broader picture I think people are going to be really excited to see that. And then each of these characters really kind of growing a new level of relationships [to each other]. We’re seeing how they interact in a different way and it’s exciting. It’s exciting to get to see that with all of these colors, with all of these flaws, stories and triumphs and fears; to really, really get to see something like this in hopes that other people can see themselves.
Season two of “Vida” is streaming now on the Starz app, and premieres on the Starz channel May 25.
This Latinx story. This brown, gay story. Why not have brown queer people writing it? It doesn’t seem like it’s that crazy, but Starz really took a chance in making something that wasn’t completely the status quo.