Vida May Be Over, But Creator Tanya Saracho Knows How Her Show Lives On

Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
Ugh, I’m so proud of this season,” Vida creator Tanya Saracho happily sighed during an April phone call with Refinery29. Now that Saracho’s Starz dramedy has wrapped with Sunday night’s series finale, “Episode 6,” the whole world can understand why the writer was brimming with joy. 
Vida’s swan song — which runs a super-sized 53 minutes — quickly puts the Hernandez sisters through their emotional paces before saying goodbye. At the center of “Episode 6” is the long-awaited showdown between Emma (Riverdale sister Mishel Prada), Lyn (In the Heights’ Melissa Barrera), and their abusive long-lost father Victor (Jesse Borrego). Lyn is desperate to believe Victor has changed after nearly killing her mother, the late Vidalia (Rose Portillo), years prior. Neighbor Doña Lupe (Elena Campbell-Martinez) reveals that Victor is an even bigger monster than Lyn and Emma originally thought: the reason Victor attacked Vida is because he found a young Emma exploring her sexuality with another girl. Victor jumped into a rage, and Vida protected Emma from her father. 
Advertisement
That traumatic secret explains why Vida had Victor deported and then sent Emma to live with her grandmother. Vida was never the villain of this story. After four years of making the wonderful world Vida, Saracho hopes we remember her boundary-smashing series for more than its finale twist. 
“I hope that when we look back at Vida, we see it as a marker on the timeline. Like, 'Then there was Vida. And then this changed,'” Saracho began, “'Then more Brown queers thought they could write about their experience or more female-centric Latina stories, where the Latinas are not that nice or kind — they’re just complicated and real'.” 

The sisters had some ugly moments. Ones where you’re like, 'Gosh. Why do you hate your mother so much?'

Tanya Saracho
The Hernandezes are unapologetically unkind throughout Vida’s three seasons. Lyn returns to her hometown of Boyle Heights prepared to blow up the life of her ex-boyfriend Johnny (Carlos Miranda), who has a girlfriend and a baby on the way. Emma is, as is often said, a complete ice princess, particularly to Eddy (Ser Anzoategui), the woman revealed to be Vidalia’s surprise widow. Even Saracho joked about the early cruelty of her characters, saying, “The sisters had some ugly moments. Ones where you’re like, 'Gosh. Why do you hate your mother so much? Stop calling your mother a cunt! This is crazy!'” 
Many series may have tried to sand down these exasperating edges, particularly since Vida is led by Latinx women. When you look around the modern Latinx TV landscape, you realize how many fictional Latinx women are defined by their superhuman near-angelic qualities. Jane the Virgin’s Jane Villaneva (Gina Rodriguez) was so hellbent on being “a good person,” she often infuriated the people around her. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) is the perfect detective, whose hobbies essentially boil down to avenues of increasing her perfection. Even Amy’s “badass” coworker Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) is a secret supreme softie with an expertise in ballet. 
Advertisement
Saracho obviously shattered those Nice Girl expectations with Vida — and confirms she never got “any pushback” on her choices since beginning the project in 2016. Lyn and Emma may have started legitimates repairs on their fractured sisterhood by the series finale, but they are nowhere near a flawless relationship. Neither of their professional nor personal lives are particularly pristine either when “Episode 6” comes to a close. Former Starz boss Marta Fernandez gave Saracho the permission to go as messy as she saw fit.
“The key for me at Starz was the woman who gave me the gig, Marta Fernandez, who kept me as the only voice — meaning Starz didn’t give me a babysitter. They didn’t give me a co-showrunner, ever,” Saracho, who got her first “showrunner” and “creator” credit with Vida, explained. “Marta got it. She fought for me. She was like, ‘She can do it.’ She knew before I knew.”  
Now, Saracho wants Vida to remind the next generation of writers that there are no limits on their stories — they go as dark as they want, with whichever character they want. “We don’t know yet what will happen, but it would be amazing if these three seasons made a dent in the timeline,” Saracho said. “Where, if you were like, ‘Oh, I see the timeline of Latinidad in Hollywood and it was Vida those three years.’ Hopefully, you would be like, ‘That’s where Carlos Miranda got his start — that was his first thing that he did. And now we see Ser [thriving].’ Hopefully it will be one of those shows.” 
Advertisement
Related content:

More from TV

R29 Original Series