Vida’s Tanya Saracho on Working in a Room Filled With Latinx Creators
Vida is the TV show of my queer Chicana dreams. Watching it is like an extremely on point targeted ad on Instagram — like wait, how did you know I needed this very specific thing? It’s like that but with spot-on Latinx storytelling about the messy lives of Mexican-American sisters, Emma and Lyn, who come back to East LA after their mom, Vidalia aka Vida, dies, and take over the bar their mom owned and managed. In its second season, Vida continues to explore the nuances of queer and Latinx identity, grief, power, family and delivers the hottest queer sex scenes on TV.
All-around queer chingona Tanya Saracho is the mastermind behind the show. Saracho, an award-winning playwright and former TV writer for shows Looking and How to Get Away With Murder, is only one of the few Latina showrunners in Hollywood — and she’s killing it with a show for Latinxs, made by Latinxs. She hired all Latina directors for Season Two and leads an all-Latinx, majority women, writer’s room. Saracho is actively cultivating a space for Latinxs and queer women to shine in an industry that has kept them out for so long.
Saracho is a big deal, but she’s even bigger deal to me because she grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where I’m from. Anytime I hear people from the Valley are doing big things, it makes me want to whoop and jump for joy because those are my people doing shit and succeeding. When I spoke to Saracho over the phone, I told her I was from the Valley and I was relieved to hear her be as excited as I was about the fact and exclaimed, “What part?!”
“Any one of us who’s bisexual, or pan, or queer have had to sit through drunken conversations exactly like this one, even from supposed allies and especially within same-sex spaces that are supposed to feel safest for us.”
Vida continues to nail those markers in Season Two, especially when it’s both gay and Mexican, like the dreamy vaquero wedding in episode three. I recently got married and wrote about wedding planning for this very website and our entire vision for our celebration was a gay Mexican ass party. And I recognized that joyous joteria in Vida’s queer wedding. My heart skipped a beat when Carla Morrison’s “Eres Tu” started playing and two brown queer men in cowboy hats were walking down the aisle because that’s the song my wife and I first danced to as a married couple. I loved that there were glammed up queers, genderqueer people and drag queens alongside señoras who are probably someone’s tias and how this actually happens out in the real world too.
Saracho says every detail in the wedding, from the bright tacky party space to a custom made cowboy hat cake to the scene where everyone was dancing to legendary hit La Chona, was crafted and built in the writer’s room. “That can only happen in a room filled with Latinx and in a room that has gone to a lot of gay weddings too… That can only be done, that specific, if you have people who have skin in the game.”
Conversations where assumptions about who we choose to sleep with or how we choose to adorn our gender is met with blank stares or derision.
“We created [Nico] in the lab. She’s the perfect soft stud,” gushes Saracho. Saracho and Colindrez have worked together before in the theater world. Colindrez plays a version of Nico in Saracho’s play Mala Hierba. Saracho knew she wanted Colindrez involved in Vida. “She’s just so good and extraordinary and I don’t think there’s anyone like her,” she says. I couldn’t agree more. I learned about Roberta when Riese couldn’t stop talking about her on I Love Dick and then I watched the show just for her gay cowboy artist scenes and then couldn’t stop talking about her either.
Words by Yvonne S. Marquez
Vida’s Season Two finale airs on Starz