Tanya Saracho to Make Film Directorial Debut with Adaptation of Her Off Broadway Play “Mala Hierba”

Tanya Saracho is in the (bad) weeds…

The Mexican-American actress, playwright, dramaturge, screenwriter and Vida creator is bringing her 2014 Off Broadway play Mala Hierba to the big screen, and she’ll be directing the film adaptation of her acclaimed project.

Tanya Saracho

In her film directorial debut, Saracho has teamed up with Anonymous Content to adapt the Texas border town set drama.

The film version of Mala Hierba  will be produced by AC Studios, with Dawn Olmstead, David Levine, and Whitney Dibo overseeing the project for outfit.

Former Vida EP Stephanie Langhoff, and Christine Davila, head of development and production at Saracho’s Ojala Productions, will serve as producers on Mala Hierba.

Originally opening at Second Stage Uptown nearly six years ago, the play unravels the coiffured life of a Lone Star State trophy wife who begins to see the cracks in her life of wealth and privilege as her first and perhaps true love reappears. The possibility of a renewed life together for the two women forces the Liliana character to make a searing decision about what she wants and who she is.

The stage production of Mala Hierba was directed by Jerry Ruiz and starred Marta Milans, Sandra Marquez, and Ana Nogueira in the primary roles.

The union with Anonymous comes just over a couple of weeks after the active Saracho launched the Ojalá Ignition Lab in conjunction with UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group.

Part of the acclaimed playwright and filmmaker’s 2020 inked development deal with the studio, the incubator program for Latinx voices will provide five writers and their own proposed projects with mentoring from experienced showrunners and EPs, including self-described “den mother” Saracho and an extended network to draw on for the future.

Since Vida, which won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, finished its three-season stint on Starz in May 2020, Saracho stayed in Britain during the pandemic to work with musician and Lovesick actor Johnny Flynn for an upcoming project.

Tanya Saracho Teams Up with UCP to Launch Writers Incubator Program ‘Ojalá Ignition Lab’

Tanya Saracho is turning the ignition on Latinx representation…

Nearly a year after signing a development deal with UCP, the Mexican American screenwriter and television creator and the studio have launched the Ojalá Ignition Lab.

Tanya Saracho

Under the umbrella of Saracho’s deal, the 26-week long incubator program will provide five writers and their own proposed projects with mentoring from experienced showrunners and executive producers, including self-described “den mother” Saracho and an extended network to draw on for the future.

The aim of the fully funded program is to foster a pilot script to completion with a commission by UCP at the end.

Applications for the program can be submitted until July 19. Those interested should submit a one-page television pilot proposal, as well as an existing example of their writing. Find more information here.

“You know, I keep starting things because there’s a need,” Saracho told Deadline of the lab, as well as the Writers’ Access Support Staff Training Program she helped kick off in March with former One Day at a Time EP Mike Royce and Day of the Deads Liz Hsiao Lan Alper, along with the WGA. “This is a legit writing lab and I’m so thrilled. I don’t know if there’s something like this out there — it’s a nurturing writers’ group.”

“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Tanya on her Ojalá Ignition Lab. She has always told diverse and inclusive stories, and this is a continuation of her inspiring work,” UCP president Beatrice Springborn said. “UCP is thrilled and honored to collaborate with these five fellows on their projects.”

“During Vida, those three seasons, having and all-Latin writers room, I realized that from the conversations in there that they had never been in a situation like that where they didn’t have to be an ambassador or had to defend their culture, their ethnicity, their race,” Saracho said of the origin of the Ojalá Ignition Lab. “In other writers’ rooms they might have had to do that, and there was something so beautiful about that because we could just create the story. We didn’t have to also wear the shield of our culture and have to figure out how to navigate that in maybe a writers room that’s more dominant culture.”

“So, that gave me the idea for this, to be a writers’ group that where there’s that cultural safety, cultural shorthand, and I don’t just mean Spanish because not every Latine speaks Spanish,” the EP added. “It’s like when you see yourself represented after not being, you know, after never seeing yourself represented. It’s just an alchemy like of safety that you can build and we haven’t historically as Latines been building that way because we’re not enough of us in this industry to be surrounded by the same.”

Since Vida, which won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, ended its run on Starz in May 2020, Saracho spent time in the UK during the pandemic collaborating with musician and Lovesick actor Johnny Flynn for an upcoming project, among other work.

But as she made clear Monday, Ojalá Ignition Lab has long been a top parallel priority for the macro mode of her career.

“A lot of these fellowships are just listings on name,” she said. “You’re listed on a list, and it’s amplified, or there’s an honorarium. This is the thing that’s so exciting about this project; this is legitimate development commission, like a very well-funded development commission, and we are working through the WGA to do all that that entails.”

“And so, it’s really exciting because that means we are valued and this is literal value because this is an actual commission,” Saracho said. “So, I’m excited for these five fellows to feel seen and value-supported and with money.”

Melissa Barrera to Star in the Netflix Survival Drama Series “Breathe”

Will Melissa Barrera make it through the wilderness?

The 30-year-old Mexican actress and singer has been cast as the lead in BreatheNetflix’s one-hour drama series from Blindspot creator Martin Gero and writer-executive producer Brendan Gall, and Warner Bros. Television.

Melissa Barrera

Barrera, who rose to acclaim in Starz’s Latinx series Vida, will portray a lone woman who must battle the elements and odds to survive after her plane crashes in the middle of the Canadian wilderness.

Barrera’s Eve is a razor-sharp Manhattan attorney who finds herself profoundly out of her comfort zone when her plane crashes and she must battle for survival.

Gero executive produces via his Quinn’s House production company, along with Gall. Warner Bros. Television is the studio.

Barrera most recently starred as co-lead Lyn in Tanya Saracho’s Vida, which aired for three seasons on Starz.

She next stars in In the Heights, the feature adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical, and also will be seen in a key role in the upcoming Scream 5.

She recently wrapped Sony Pictures Classics’ Carmen, the modern-day reimagining of the classic opera.

Tanya Saracho Launches Her Own Production Company, Ojalá Productions

Tanya Saracho is launching her own production company…

The Mexican actress, playwright and screenwriter, the mastermind behind Starz’s acclaimed series Vida, has launched Ojalá Productions, her newly created production company.

Tanya Saracho

Sarachohas hired a former executive from Warner Bros.’ content studio Stage 13, Christine Dávila, to help her run it.

Dávila has been hired as Head of Development and Production.

The hire comes a little more than three months after Saracho inked a wide-ranging development deal with UCP that also includes the creation of a lab and incubator program for Latinx voices by the activist former playwright and showrunner.

“It is a dream come true to be able to bring such a talented, energetic and accomplished Latina to help me kick off Ojalá,” Saracho told Deadline from the UK. “With Christine’s impeccable taste, undeniable intellect and boundless spirit, the possibilities are endless for us.”

“I’m grateful and truly invigorated to work with such an undeniable voice as Tanya’s,” Dávila said of the producer-writer. ‘Vidawas a game changer and there is a lot more where that came from. She is intentional and unapologetic, and committed to supporting Latinx talent in all aspects of the industry and in the most inclusive way.”

Besides the work the new company will do and Saracho’s participation in the recently launched Untitled Latinx Project group, Ojalá is a supportive amplifier all its own. Roughly translating to “God willing” and brought to Spain by the Moors, Ojalá is one of former playwright Saracho’s favorite words – which makes perfect sense for a new shingle.

It also dives into Dávila’s strengths not only as a creative executive at Stage 13 most recently, but also in her previous involvement as a member of the programming teams at the Sundance Film Festival, the LA Film Festival and the Morelia International Film Festival.

Directly prior to joining the WB pod and overseeing the likes of the Emmy-wining It’s Bruno!, Dávila laid the foundation for the stateside division of the moveable feast that is Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal’s Ambulante documentary festival.

Since the acclaimed Vidaended its three-season run on Starz this spring, Saracho put on a mask and gloves for protection against COVID-19 and leapt over the Atlantic for a professional sojourn. She’s presently in locked-down London working with musician and Stardust star Johnny Flynn on the Love Story pilot for UCP.

The concept is that the UCP show would focus on a single potentially heartbreaking tale a season, with the first installment centering on longtime Latinx friends who become entangled with the same musician.

Tanya Saracho Among Top TV & Film Creators Demanding More Latinx Representation in Hollywood

Tanya Saracho is calling for more Latinx representation in Hollywood…

The Mexican playwright, screenwriter and actress is among some of the top creators in television and film who are demanding for change when it comes to Latinx representation as Hispanic Heritage Months comes to an end.

Tanya Saracho

In an open letter to Hollywood more than 270 Latinx showrunners, creators, and television and feature writers, including Saracho, Lin-Manuel MirandaGloria Calderon-Kellett, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Steven Canals, John Leguizamo, Linda Yvette-Chavez, Carolina Paiz, Marco Ramirez, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and more are calling for systemic change in the entertainment industry.

The letter begins: “As we come to the end of Hispanic Heritage Month in the midst of a global pandemic and continued racial injustice, many of us in the Latinx community have found it difficult to celebrate. Inspired by the activism of the Black and Indigenous communities, many of whom also identify as Latinx, we stand in solidarity with our fellow Black, Native and Indigenous writers, co-signing their WGAW Open Letters and echoing their demands for systemic change in our industry.”

“As Latinx Showrunners, Creators, TV and Feature Writers, we are incensed by the continued lack of Latinx representation in our industry, especially among the Black and Indigenous members of our community,” the letter continues. “Our stories are important, and our erasure onscreen contributes to the persistent prejudice that prevents real change in this country. This prejudice is not as overt as the one that keeps immigrant children in cages and separates families at the border, or as violent as the racism that is killing our Black, Brown, and Indigenous community members at the hands of police.”

“But when we are onscreen, we’re often relegated to stereotypes or villains. And as a recent​ ​New York Times OpEd​ states, ‘White elites cannot muffle a huge, vibrant community for decades and not expect consequences. For Latinos in the Trump era, these consequences are deadly, from Hurricane Maria to the Walmart shooting in El Paso and the pandemic, as well as soaring hate crimes.’”

The letter points out that the Latinx community makes up 18.3% of the U.S. population but it is not reflected in film and TV. There are only 4.7% feature writers and 8.7% TV writers that are Latinx. As Latinx writers move up to Showrunner level, the stats only get more dismal. “By refusing to tell our stories AND by refusing to put us in charge of telling them — Hollywood power brokers are complicit in our exclusion,” the letter remarks.

This is even further supported by a recent study from CAA and Parrot Analytics, which shows that even though television shows are a lot more diverse than they were three years ago, not all racial and ethnic groups were equally well represented in scripted debuts. Latinos and Hispanics remain significantly underrepresented despite being one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country.

While there are shows like One Day At A Time that having managed to get multiple season orders, there have been other Latino-fronted shows in the past years, like The Baker and the Beauty and United We Fall — that have been canceled before getting the chance to find their footing beyond one season.

The letter can be summarized with three words included heavily throughout: “We are tired.”

The open letter does not mince words with the demands and draws out exactly what needs to be done including creating stories for and about the Latinx community by Latinx creators; greenlighting Latinx-fronted projects; respecting all aspects and intersections of the Latinx cultural representation; and hiring Latinx creators for non-Latinx projects.

The letter, which was posted on social channels with the hashtag #EndLatinXclusion, closes with “Stories are powerful. Stories change the world. Let’s get on the right side of history so we can continue to create needed change and tell captivating stories together.”

This initiative was launched by the Untitled Latinx Project (ULP) founded by Saracho. It’s an all-Latina advocacy group formed to increase representation of Latinx created stories for television. The goal of this call to action was uniting the professional community of Latinx writers, creators and showrunners.

Read the letter in full here.

Tanya Saracho Signs Development Deal with UCP

Things are developing nicely for Tanya Saracho

The Mexican screenwriterand Vida creator has signed a development deal with UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group.

Tanya Saracho

As part of the deal, Saracho will develop and create original content for television, as well as podcasts via the studio’s UCP Audio extension. She’ll also establish a lab and incubator program for Latinx voices.

“To say that I’m immensely enthusiastic about this union is not enough. This partnership with UCP is a vital opportunity to keep amplifying the voices and stories that matter to me – those brown, queer narratives which have been missing from the landscape, and which are so important to tell,” said Saracho.

 “I’m also elated and looking forward to establishing a lab and incubator program aimed to nurture, amplify and empower intersectional Latinx voices,” Saracho added. “And on a personal level, it is greatly gratifying to find a home where I already feel so seen and supported.”

Saracho most recently served as creator, showrunner, and executive producer of Starz’s critically-acclaimed Vida, which aired its third and final season this spring. The series featured all Latinx directors in season one, and all Latina directors in seasons two and three, including Saracho, who made her television directorial debut last year. The series had an all-Latinx writers room for seasons one and two, and in season three, the room was composed of all Latina writers.

Vida won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and was also honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition with the 2019 Impact Award. The series won the Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and made its season two premiere as an Official Selection of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

“Tanya came on the scene like a comet with such a strong point of view and a drive to tell culturally diverse stories that push boundaries and open our imaginations. Oh, the places we will go with Tanya’s deep curiosity, experience, commitment, enthusiasm, joy and fervor to tell the diverse stories we haven’t explored on television yet. We are such fans of her work on Vida and are thrilled to partner with her,” said Dawn Olmstead, president, UCP.

“One of our goals at Universal Studio Group is to provide access through on the job training and opportunities to empower the next generation of culturally diverse storytellers. Tanya’s program fully embodies that intention and we look forward to supporting her as she mentors aspiring Latinx writers,” said Bonnie Hammer, chairman, Universal Studio Group. “This is the first of many programs we will be backing across our three studios.”

Saracho was recently honored by the LGBTQ California Legislative Caucus as their 2020 Pride Month Honoree. She received the Rising Star Award at the Outfest Legacy Awards, and was awarded the New Voice Award by Final Draft.

She’s the founder of Teatro Luna, the first all-Latina theatre company in the country, as well as the founder of ALTA (Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists).

Saracho’s other television writing/producing credits include Devious Maids, Looking and How to Get Away with Murder.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Among 300 BIPOC Artists to Sign Open Letter Demanding Change from the “White American Theater”

Lin-Manuel Mirandais addressing the “White American Theater.”

As protests and rallies against racial injustice and the killing of black lives continue throughout the world, the 40-year-old Puerto Rican composer, lyricist, singer, rapper, actor, producer, and playwright is bringing the theater world into the spotlight, to address systemic racism against black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).

Lin-Manuel Miranda 

An open letter addressed to “White American Theater” and demanding change was published earlier this week. 

The letter was filled with ugly truths that those who’ve worked in the theater industry have experienced for decades. 

Among the 300 BIPOCs who signed the letter were Miranda,Viola DavisSandra OhUzo AdubaSterling K. BrownCynthia ErivoYahya Abdul-Mateen IIDanai GuriraAndre HollandConrad RicamoraTanya SarachoAnika Noni RoseJessica HagedornLeslie Odom Jr.,Katori Halland others.

The letter bluntly calls out the industry: “We see you. We have always seen you. We have watched you pretend not to see us.”

“We have watched you exploit us, shame us, diminish us, and exclude us. We see you. We have always seen you. And now you will see us.”

It continues to drag theater’s history of tokenism, white privilege, patriarchy, blatant racism, bias and hypocrisy: “We have watched you amplify our voices when we are heralded by the press, but refuse to defend our aesthetic when we are not, allowing our livelihoods to be destroyed by a monolithic and racist culture.”

“Join us in demanding change for BIPOC theater artists at http://weseeyouWAT.com. #WeSeeYou #TomorrowTherellBeMoreOfUs,” Miranda tweeted, sharing the letter and a petition with everyone.

The open letter comes as the protests following the killing of George Floyd and other black lives continue around the globe. It also comes when there seems to be a reckoning in all industries when it comes to racial inequality. 

Gloria Calderón Kellett Taking Part in Latinx-Themed Panel for Virtual ATX Television Festival

Gloria Calderón Kellett is representin’…

The 45-year-old Cuban American television writer and One Day at a Time co-showrunner will be taking part in ATX Television Festival’s virtual edition, which has been appropriately titled “ATX TV…From The Couch!” 

Gloria Calderón Kellett

Calderón Kellett will take part in a conversation about Latinx representation on the small screen, alongside Vida creator Tanya SarachoPose’s co-creator Steven Canals and Diary of a Future President’s Ilana Peña.

Calderón Kellett, Saracho, Canals and Peña, some of today’s hottest Latinx content creators, will be “Celebrating Authentic Stories,” the title of their panel. 

They’ll talk about celebrating and continuing the push for positive Latinx representation, as well as how decision-makers within the industry can amplify Latinx voices.

 “ATX TV… from the Couch!” marks the first virtual event for the fest and will include industry-forward panels with showrunners and executives, sneak previews of upcoming series, and virtual events such as television trivia and a music showcase. 

The virtual event will take place June 5-7. It will be free to access via ATX’s official YouTube channe l, with the option for viewers to donate to select organizations providing COVID-19 relief regionally and nationally.

In addition to the Latinx panel, the festival’s virtual line-up will include conversations with cast and creatives from Freeform’s The Bold TypeNBC’s hit drama New Amsterdam, and The CW’s mystery-drama Nancy Drew.

The ATX Television Festival will also include a Scrubs reunion with the show’s creator Bill Lawrence, as well as cast members Zach BraffDonald FaisonSarah Chalke, John C. McGinley, and Judy Reyes. The cast was previously confirmed for ATX Season 9 in Austin, and rescheduled their in-person reunion for the 2021 festival.

Starz to Premiere Season 3 of Melissa Barrera’s Series “Vida” in April

Melissa Barerrais breathing more lifeinto Starz’s lineup this April…

The network has announced that Season 3 of its original series Vida, starring the 29-year-old Mexican actress/singer, will premiere on Sunday, April 26 at 9:00 pm. 

Melissa Barrera

Six episodes of the East L.A.-set drama will air week-to-week on Starz in the U.S. and Canada and on StarzPlayacross Europe and Latin America.

The show created by Tanya Saracho was renewed for a third season less than a week after its Season 2 premiere in May 2019; the show has continued to boost Hispanic viewership numbers at the Lionsgate-owned network. 

The new season wrapped filming in Los Angeles in November, and was written by an all-Latinxwriters room and helmed by Latina directors Jenée LaMarqueand Saracho.

In addition to Barrera, Vidastars Mishel PradaSer AnzoateguiChelsea RendonCarlos Mirandaand Roberta Colindrez

The upcoming season returns with Emma (Prada) and Lyn (Barrera) riding on the heels of success. The bar is booming and their love lives are actually flourishing… until the Hernandez sisters discover a long-buried family secret that ruins their hard-won peace. They find themselves face to face with old ghosts and new enemies, all while deciding if they can continue together as a family or if they should move on alone, for good this time.

Vida, which won last year’s GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy series, centers on Emma and Lyn, sisters who return home to their old neighborhood after their mother’s death to discover very little is as they thought it was, taking on issues of gender, gentrification, economics, representation and family.

Saracho returns as showrunner and executive produces the series.

Chelsea Rendon to Appear on New Season of Showtime’s “Shameless”

There’s a little Shame in Chelsea Rendon’s game…

The Latina actress has landed a recurring role on Showtime’s long-running series Shameless.

Chelsea Rendon

The 10th season of the William H. Macy-fronted series from Warner Bros. Televisionpicks up six months after last season’s finale with Frank (Macy) using his leg injury to collect as many prescription drugs as possible and his exploits leading him to an old friend. Meanwhile, Debbie (Emma Kenney), emboldened by the $50,000 left to her by Fiona, has stepped in as the new matriarch, ruling over the Gallagher household with an iron fist. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) navigates his relationship with a newly affectionate Tami (Kate Miner). Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) has to decide what to do with his life as he finishes military school and heads back to the South side. Liam is committed to learning more about black history and culture under the tutelage of V (Shanola Hampton) as Kev (Steve Howey) faces an identity crisis. Gallavich returns this season as Ian (Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) rekindle their romance in prison as both cellmates and lovers.

Rendon will portray Anne, the charismatic — and dangerously fun — new coworker of Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) at Captain Bob’s. Early on, the two have contentious relationship but then she shows Carl a different perspective on being poor on the South Side.

Shameless returns on Sunday, November 3 on Showtime.

Rendon stars in Tanya Saracho’s critically acclaimed Starzseries Vida as well as theSundancedrama The Infiltrators from Cristina Ibarraand Alex Rivera.