NOTE: I wrote this blog on Sunday and posted it on Monday, if you're wondering why I'm mentioning that Labor Day is tomorrow, considering that today is Labor Day. HERE IT IS:
I’m sitting at the San Antonio airport, waiting to board my flight back home to Los Angeles. It feels strange to be back here because San Antonio is the city where the show (Cristela) was resurrected from the grave.
Last time I was in San Antonio, I was there to work at the LOL Comedy Club. I had just been told a couple weeks earlier that our script had not been picked up to a pilot. I was back on the road, doing stand-up and remember landing in San Antonio and turning on my phone. I had a bunch of missed calls and emails from my managers and my executive producer from the project, Becky Clements.
I called them back immediately and was told to sit down because they had news to tell me. I didn’t sit down because I thought, “What news could possibly make me that emotional that I would want to sit down?”
At that point, Becky started telling me she had come up with this idea that would maybe allow us to use some money to shoot a pilot presentation. It was a long shot but she thought we could make it work. She, along with my other partner Kevin Hench and I, decided to go for it and throw this “Hail Mary” to see if we could get anywhere with it.
Six months later, I’m sitting at the same, exact spot I was at when I had that phone call. I’m at the San Antonio airport, having just taken part in the People En Espanol festival where I screened the pilot and did a Q&A to promote the show that is airing this fall on ABC.
I still can’t believe it happened.
People keep asking me if I’m excited and the truth is, I’m not sure. I can tell you I’m more terrified than anything else. This is such a different world from anything I’ve ever done. It’s a world that frankly, I never imagined myself being a part of.
I’m a big believer in that regardless of whether it’s good or bad, everything happens for a reason. This week is one full of reminders of where I used to be, where I come from and how I got to where I am right now. Being in the San Antonio airport and sitting at that same spot I sat in when I first learned about the pilot felt like that moment had just happened. I got giddy and I felt proud.
Tomorrow is also Labor Day, which happens to be the anniversary of the first time I did stand-up. First joke I ever said was something like, “Look, it’s Labor Day and I’m working. Just like a Mexican.” That was eleven years ago. I remember being so nervous and excited. My first time doing stand-up went great and I kept telling myself that I would stop doing it when I stopped having fun. Eleven years in, I still can’t believe I’m doing it. And I can’t believe where stand-up has taken me.
From doing open mics in crappy bars where I had to compete for people’s attention over Monday night football to having a sitcom named after me, well…the road is unbelievable.
I come from a family where the only dream we had was to survive. To think that I have been given this amazing opportunity that only a handful of people get; it’s hard to process. It’s like winning the lottery.
I hate to say it because I don’t want to jinx it but the show is going great. One thing I like to stress is how important everyone working on this show is to me. This show couldn’t exist if it wasn’t for them. We have an amazing cast, crew and writers. It’s important to say this. Being in the position I am with this show, I have seen how hard everyone works and I appreciate them so much for everything they do. From the writers that help create the world to the crew that makes the world a reality and the actors that bring the characters to life, it takes hundreds of people to make it happen.
This doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like I’m getting the chance to create something special with an amazing group of people.
In that special group of people is a woman that leads me to my next big reminder that happened this week that reminded me where I came from. That woman is Maria Canals-Barrera who plays my sister on the show. First of all, this woman is super special to me in a way that people can’t understand. When I first saw her, I knew she was my sister. Maria is married to a wonderful man, David Barrera. David Barrera and I grew up in the same town, San Juan, TX. We went to the same high school (different years). He was the big theater guy when he was in school. I was the big theater nerd when I was in school. The fact that we’re both from the same tiny town, live in LA, and are still acting is amazing to me. David was at the taping this week and brought his older brother along. His older brother still lives in San Juan. After the taping, I went to meet David’s brother and we started talking about our hometown. He asked me where I was born and I told him I was born by a mid-wife near Nebraska St and 3rd. When I mentioned that, his jaw dropped. He asked me about the mid-wife that helped my mom with my birth and we quickly realized that their aunt was the mid-wife that helped my mom! And her name was Cristela. My mom had named me after the mid-wife because she had been so helpful to our family. When we all realized what we had just learned, we couldn’t stop freaking out over it. The fact that we were talking about it on a stage in Los Angeles after taping a show called Cristela was even more mind-blowing. David and his brother started telling me about their aunt, how great she was, how helpful she was, how spiritual…and at that moment, I felt like my mom was with me. The show became even more important to me. This show is named after me. And I was named by my mother, after David’s aunt, Cristela. That moment made me feel like I was instantly closer to David and Maria. It made me feel like my connection to Maria felt even more like a sister than ever before. Not only is she family on-screen but now she is family in real life. It’s incredible to think that my past is now part of this show on such a deeper level.
We have ten more episodes to tape and after that, it’s a question mark. I don’t know what the future holds but like I said earlier, everything happens for a reason. Whether this show fails or succeeds, I’m just glad I got to be on this ride…if even for a second. All I know is that I am living something that very few people get to live…and I am so grateful for that. So grateful.
Tomorrow is Labor Day. While everyone else is barbecuing and partying, I’ll be in a room with the fellow Cristela writers, celebrating my 11th year stand-up anniversary working on scripts. It’s funny. I started my stand-up career by joking about working on Labor Day, just like a Mexican.
Cut to eleven years later, and I’ll still be working on Labor Day, just like a Mexican. I guess some things never change.