Fans of One Day at a Time were devastated when the groundbreaking sitcom wasn’t renewed by Netflix for a fourth season. But hope was not lost. After #SaveODAAT trended worldwide on social media, Pop TV came to the rescue. Fast forward a few months, and One Day at a Time season 4 is set to premiere March 24, 2020.
We spoke to Isabella Gomez, who plays Elena Alvarez, about the fourth season of One Day at a Time season 4. Isabella discusses what fans can expect, her film projects and shares some personal stories about her struggles with mental health. ~Yanis Khamsi
What can fans expect from season 4 of One Day at a Time?
It’s the same Alvarez family. It’s the same heart, but because we moved to network television from streaming, episodes are quite a bit shorter. Right now I think we’re doing 21 minutes 30 seconds, which is kind of crazy. But other than that, you can expect a whole lot of grown ups all of a sudden. Elena’s graduating high school, Alex is in a relationship. It’s all very exciting.
You mentioned Alex being in a relationship — what can you tell us about his girlfriend?
She is played by the lovely Raquel Justice, and that little girl is just stunning and such a joy to work with. And of course, knowing Alex’s character, he’s got a cool girlfriend. She’s cool as a cucumber and they are such an adorable couple. It’s kind of disgusting.
I think a lot of fans are going to be very excited because there’s going to be some Afro-Latinx representation with this actress.
That was one of the things we wanted to do. A lot of people were wondering where the Afro-Latinos are in Hollywood, so we wanted to make sure to try to incorporate that and make it seamless, which was such a good way to do it.
Agreed! And there’s Ray Romano! What other guest stars can we expect?
Ray was here, Marla Gibbs was here, of course Raquel Justice. Reggie Watts, I called him “Watts” the whole time, so I don’t know how to say his first name. But he is hilarious. it’s been really fun. I think there’s more coming though but they won’t tell us who.
I can’t wait to find out, I hear Elena and Syd are going trick-or-treating for Halloween this season. Any hints on what their costumes might be?
Let’s just say it’s very “Elena,” what they chose for their costumes and it’s very… practical.
I love Halloween, and although I believe you’re never too old to go trick-or-treating, won’t others ask if Syd and Elena are a bit too old to go trick-or-treating?
Well, first of all, who cares. I feel like Elena and Syd are not people who really care about what other people think. But also, you’ll see there’s kind of a twist in the way they are doing Halloween. What else can we expect from this couple? I don’t think people will be disappointed.
Has there been an episode or story line you really connected with on a personal level?
There’s been a lot. I think one that really resonated with me was all the mental health stuff, especially once Elena started having anxiety attacks last season and realized she herself has anxiety. I just recently got officially diagnosed. I’ve had it forever and it’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life and I definitely can attest to Latinx culture being a little “taboo” about it, especially when I’m back home in Colombia. I was very excited to get to portray that in a way that was a little lighter and more approachable for people, so they would be open to learning about it.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us. What would your advice be to other people going through mental health issues?
Well, what’s interesting is I’ve grown up in the acting industry, so a lot of my friends have anxiety and/or depression, and that was never weird. I’ve never felt like I was different or wrong for having it. I just got into therapy a few months ago and that was a little bit harder in the sense that my family had the whole “Why are you telling strangers your problems when you can talk to us” mentality. What I would say about that is, only you know what you need and there are professionals in this industry for a reason. Therapy has changed my life in the short amount of time I’ve been in it. I love going to therapy, and if I could go every day, I would. I think everybody should be in therapy regardless of their mental health, because it’s just good to be able to talk stuff out with a non-biased person who can help you process your feelings without needing anything from you or wanting anything from you. I’m very pro-therapy.
I can’t agree with you more. One Day at a Time is very pro-therapy as well. Some of the best scenes in the show are Penelope and her therapy group.
They’re some of my favorite scenes too. We always talk about how somebody needs to write a spin-off for the therapy group because they are all incredible.
You met one of your best friends, Ariela Barer, on the set of One Day at a Time. She played Carmen, Elena’s best friend, in three incredible episodes in season one, but we haven’t seen her since. Will we see Carmen again?
We would have loved to have Ariela back every single season we’ve done, but because Ariela’s a genius, she’s been busy on her other TV shows. She just wrapped Marvel’s Runaways, and she’s already booked another pilot. So it’s more that and the scheduling of things than anything else, because trust me, every single season we all talk about how much we would love to have her back. So we’ll see.
Here’s hoping. Ariela says the two of you didn’t click at first, but by the end of her three episode run, you had become quite close. How did you go to being such close friends in such a short amount of time? Especially since the two of you have admitted to being very different from one another.
I think Ariela and I just take our jobs very seriously and we knew that to portray best friends, it would be best if we had chemistry, so when we started headbutting a little bit in the beginning, we just knew that we had to push through it. And it wasn’t anything crazy. It was just like you said, we’re very different people, especially back then. I mean, we were 18 years old. We were babies, so it was just figuring out how to navigate each other. And I think of course there’s all these preconceived notions of what “Young Hollywood” will be like. I think that might’ve been it. We just kept hanging out and learning more about each other and realized that we are kind of soul sisters.
You two are #friendshipgoals. You and Ariela worked again together on a short film she directed, called Jelly. What can you tell us about Jelly and the role you play?
I’m going to just say that she cast the movie with a lot of her friends and had them playing opposites of what they normally would be cast as. We all know in this industry once you have been put in a box, people won’t really see you outside of that and you’ll get less opportunities to stretch your acting bone. So Ariela had a lot of us playing very opposite of what we normally do, which was a ton of fun. She wrote it, she directed it and she’s such a star. She’s such a badass. so it was really cool to be there for her.
I’m curious, if you were the same age as your character Elena, would the two of you be friends? How would the two of you get along?
I think we’d be friends. I don’t know if we’d be close friends. I think, funnily enough, even though she’s younger than me, I would love to get coffee with her like, every other week, and just learn. Instead of listening to podcasts it’d be like, “Hey, what’s new in the world, what do I need to be caught up on?” So I think that would be it.
I understand, Elena is perfection, so I’d feel inadequate around her. I would just say one wrong thing and it’d all be over.
Oh my God yes! That’s the thing, she is so cool already and knows so much that I think I’d be intimidated by her. (Laughs) But she can also be pretty disarming. It’s just she’s so headstrong about certain things that I feel like I would be intimidated to say the wrong thing around her.
Glad I’m not alone! I have a theory about Elena. She doesn’t let a lot of people in, and when she does, like with Carmen, she is devastated when they leave. I think it’s because much in the way Alex is close with Lydia (Rita Moreno), Elena was very close to her father Victor when she was small. Is this something you and the writers have discussed?
We’ve definitely talked about it. Elena and Victor were really close when Elena was younger and you know, “first born daddy’s girl,” I think that was definitely their relationship. I personally worked that into my work for Elena — the idea is they were super close, and of course him leaving the family and then him leaving Elena at her quinceañera obviously impacted their relationship a ton. Of course I think that would feed into Elena being a little bit more guarded around people. But also, she is such a believer in the good that people can do, that any guarding comes from her head, not from her heart.
I know you love movies. One of your earliest favorites was High School Musical. I think a lot of Elena’s fans would be surprised to learn that you identified more with Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) than Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens). Why Sharpay?
I think she was just freaking cool. She was confident, owned her talent, knew what she wanted and fought for what she wanted. She was the star of the show usually, which I wanted to be so badly when I was little. Her songs are more upbeat, her outfits were gorgeous, and she was just more fun. My cousin lived literally next door when we were little and the High School Musical era was happening. She loves Gabriella, and we would always go to war about that. I think it was just a fun rivalry we had. It was something about Sharpay’s confidence and if you look back at a lot of the stuff now, had Sharpay been a man, I think she would’ve been interpreted very differently. But because she was a woman, then she was kind of the antagonist. But I’m a Sharpay girl through and through.
I’m a Sharpay fan too. I love characters with strong motivations, and Sharpay is a prime example. She’ll do whatever it takes to get Troy (Zac Efron).
Your old social media handle was @chavelua, and your Instagram bio still has “chava,” in it. What do these words mean?
In Colombia if your name is “Isabella,” the nickname is “Chava.” My grandpa, who passed when I was two-and-a-half or three, used to call me “Chavelua.” I’ve always really liked that. And when I went to create an Instagram, @isabellagomez was taken and so it just happened to be @chavelua.
You’ve spoken a lot about having vivid dreams in the past, do you still dream vividly and if so what do you dream of?
I used to lucid dream and when I could do it, I would try to fly. And then I stopped using my ability to lucid dream. I don’t know what that’s about, because I thought if you could do it you could always do it. So I would fly and then I would not be able to fly anymore, so you can imagine how those dreams ended.
A lot of your fans are high school students, and many of them struggle with feeling like they don’t fit in. Can you talk about the period of your adolescence where you didn’t fit in?
Well, I definitely like partying, I’m Colombian. (Laughs) But I was never into drugs. When I was younger, people started having sex really really young, even in middle school. I never felt pressured to join, but I definitely lost cool points because of it. People thought I was a bit of a nerd because of that, but also because I was acting, people had very conflicting ideas of me. They were like “Acting’s really cool but she doesn’t want to come out and drink and like make out so what’s that?” That never bugged me, ever. My junior year of high school was my first year of high school out in L.A. I didn’t have a ton of friends, and most of the year I just had lunch in my car by myself. A lot of people think that’s a really sad story, and saying it out loud, I understand how it seems so, but it was totally my choice, I knew people, and I had lunch with them a couple of times, but I wasn’t interested in the conversations they were having. I didn’t feel stimulated, I didn’t want to partake in those conversations and at that point I had booked One Day at a Time and I was very much in work mode. Would I have loved to have been super popular? Sure. But it was fun.
I love that. I always tell children that age to throw themselves into something they’re passionate about. Once you’ve done that, especially in the way you did it, then it doesn’t matter if the kids in your algebra class aren’t that interested in you or you’re not that interested in them.
Totally. And I think it’s also hard to remember when you’re in that stage of life, because it seems like that’s all it’s ever going to be. High school is such a small part of a lifetime, and after you’ve been out, it doesn’t really matter.
You shot A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish for Netflix in Vancouver. How was that? Are Canadians as polite as we’re portrayed?
(Laughs) They were very polite. It was quite the experience. It was my first movie! I was very used to filming in front of a live audience after a week of rehearsals, so it was kind of strange. But I had a ton of fun. Laura Marano is such a sweet baby angel, I am obsessed with her. And I had actually known Gregg Sulkin because Ariela and Gregg were in Runaways together. The only thing was, it was freezing and we were outside in tights, so that was the only downside.
You’ve said you didn’t feel like a comedic actress before One Day at a Time, but you’ve proven yourself wrong. You’ve had reservations about singing and dancing, but you nailed it in A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish. Your song “Toys Toys Toys” was big on my holiday playlist. I think you’ve proven that you’re better than you thought you could be, and your star is just going to keep rising.
Thank you so much for your kind words that’s really sweet of you.
Season 4 of One Day at a Time begins streaming on Pop TV on March 24, 2020.
You can follow One Day at a Time on Twitter @OneDayAtATime and on Instagram at @onedayatatimepop
You can follow Isabella Gomez on Twitter @isabella_gomez and on Instagram @isabella.gomez
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