When it comes to queer television, LGBTQ+ people usually have to make due with one gay character, who has a revolving door of short-term love interests, per show. There are outliers, of course — The L Word, Queer As Folk, The Fosters, Sense8 — but for the most part, TV writers seem to think that gay people exist in bubbles where they're the only queer person around.
That's not the case with Vida, a new show that premiers on Starz next week. Vida follows the story of two Latina sisters who return to their old neighborhood on the East Side of L.A. after their mother, Vida's, death. The older daughter, Emma, has been estranged from her mother since Vida learned that Emma was gay and was not supportive. Yet, while making arrangements for Vida's funeral, Emma and her sister, Lyn, learn that their mother's roommate was actually her wife.
Non-binary actor Ser Anzoategui's plays the role of Vida's secret wife, Eddy. As someone who just lost her spouse and is now faced with losing her bar and her home, Eddy spends much of the first season grieving deeply, and she leans on her queer friends to help her heal. The heart and soul of Vida is built on this kind of community. And that's what makes it so different from the shows and the characters queer people are used to seeing.
Below, we talk with Anzoategui about the power of community in Vida and in real life.
So how has the experience been for you, working on this show?
"It's very transformative. It’s definitely a huge challenge to play the lead in an ensemble. This role is a huge role, and not only that, it's showing so much of what has never been shown. Queer, lesbian, from the East Side, you know, only those communities know what’s up. So it's a really beautiful thing [to represent them]. But it was very challenging because it was like, this is it. You know that Eminem song that goes like, 'This is your shot?' That’s what it felt like. You got one shot. So I was like Eminem, that was my moment.
"I was just like, cancel everything. Cancel my whole life until I'm done with this. I had to basically only have contact with essential people in my life, because I had to really focus on myself. You work overtime, you work at random times, you're shooting something that's really important at one in the morning sometimes. So, you know, you have to be on your A game. And in order for me to physically be able to do a two month commitment, working hardcore — it's like the Olympics for actors — I had to do a lot of healing and a lot of meditation, so I could work on my technique and be free when I'm on set and they call action."
That makes sense because there are these really intense moments in the show, especially with Eddy. There’s this whole episode where we get such an intimate look at Eddy and her grief.
"Yeah when Tanya [Saracho, Vida’s creator and showrunner] told me about that episode and also that I was gonna be nude, I was like “wait, what?” But I trusted Tanya, and I trusted that if she was asking me to do that, without giving me the script but telling me the journey of the character, that this is where this character needs to be going.
"She knew what she was doing when writing it. She knew that the scene in the bathtub was necessary to really hit Eddy’s grief home for the audience. So I gave my whole entire self on everything I could. I cried for hours and hours and hours and was grieving for hours. The reception scene after the funeral at the bar was like a 14 hour shoot."
I want to talk about the queer relationships on the show. The whole show is really queer, which is amazing because that doesn’t often happen. Usually we get one or two queer characters. But one thing that stuck out to me is when Eddy gets forced out of a queer bar and ends up at a straight bar that she and her friends aren’t used to and, well, you know what happens.
"Oh yeah, I know what happens."
So, the question I want to ask is: Why do you think it's important for us to have those queer only spaces, like the one Eddy was forced to leave?
"Well, I think when you have queer only spaces, you're able to just be free and you don't have to put up any walls. I’m not saying that when you walk into your space everybody always loves you and you’re always in a great mood, but it’s necessary for survival. It’s for our spirits and our souls. Because of the nature of the way things are with our society, I think that sometimes if there's a lot of straight people, it feels like you have to censor yourself. There's a huge level of trust that people do not understand unless they know what that's like to be able to just be yourself in front of others. Or to express a lot of stuff that you aren't allowed to in certain spaces. It’s necessary for the soul and spirit to just keep going.
"It’s so necessary for us to have our spaces and not be afraid that we're going to get our ass kicked, or we're going to have violence come at us ,or someone's gonna shame us. It’s really important to have spaces where people check themselves on purpose and have intention in checking themselves."
What I find really powerful about this show is that it kind of makes a queer space for the community on TV. It’s so very queer and everyone is also Latinx. People in both of those communities have very little representation on television. Do think this will be powerful for both communities?
"Oh yeah, I think it's going to blow people away. I think it's going to be cathartic for people in many different, unexpected ways. It's going to hit them in their feels. And if people decide to binge watch, it's gonna be dangerous. I was like a ball of putty on the floor just quivering when I watched it.
"Do you think there's enough queer sex in it?"
I mean, for me — never. There's never enough queer sex.
"Yeah, right? There is never enough."
But there are a few really great queer sex scenes, though. I was happy about that.
Right, right. I definitely think it [Vida] is going to be something revolutionary, and something people are going to want more of. And who knows what they're going to do next? It’s so exciting to think about the possibilities.
Vida premieres on Starz on Sunday, May 6.
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