'One Day at a Time' Cast and EPs Preview Season 4: Romances, Election Storylines and More (Exclusive)
Dale, One Day at a Time fans, dale!
The beloved family comedy returns for its fourth season on Tuesday after being canceled by Netflix and revived by Pop TV -- and the cast and creators couldn't be more thrilled.
"It's wonderful," executive producer Gloria Calderon Kellett told ET's Deidre Behar recently on the set of the revived sitcom. "The fans were so you know incredible. [Fellow EP Mike Royce] and I were both on shows that have been canceled and people don't care. And so to have the show get as much love as we got and to have the fans really rally behind us, and then have Pop come and save us, it was really wonderful."
Calderon Kellett and Royce developed the show based on Norman Lear's 1970s sitcom of the same name, reimagining it around the Cuban-American Alvarez family. The series developed a faithful fanbase on Netflix, who rallied in its support after the streaming service canceled it last March. The revival on Pop, however, means an entirely different format for the show -- which will now be airing weekly episodes rather than dropping bingeable seasons on streaming.
"At the beginning it was like, 'Ah, we're going to miss that five to six minutes, we're going to miss that time," Calderon Kellett recalled of moving the show to cable, which means trimming episodes to accommodate for commercials and act breaks. "But after the first episode, I remember I was sitting with Justina [Machado] and Rita [Moreno], and we were like, 'We don't miss the time.' We told a complete story... And all of us were surprised, honestly."
"It has to be tight and punchy. Because we don't have as much time as we used to," Moreno added, agreeing the show has gotten "even better" in the fourth season. "I remember thinking, 'Oh, this is not going to be easy.' [But] it's a joy... We are deliriously happy."
A major benefit of the new format, Calderon Kellett noted, is the ability to let fans digest one half-hour at a time, rather than binging an entire season.
"It lets them breathe a little bit. It lets each episode sort of stand on its own. And, you know, we really interact with our fans. We love our fans, on Twitter, on Instagram, so to be able to talk to them about each episode individually, it's more what Norman did. And it's really more how you sort of break into culture a little bit more."
"I remember Norman was talking to me [around] I think season 1, about how he loved the fact that All in the Family was an event," series star Stephen Tobolowsky noted. "That it was once a week and people would come and sit around the TV... In a way, this makes Norman's dream come true, which I love."
Coming back after their uncertain time off has given the show a "renewed vigor," star Todd Grinnell also told ET, and Calderon Kellett said she was most excited to dive into a whole new batch of adventures for the Alvarez family.
"The amount of stories we have for this family, are endless. [The new format] does allow us to be a little more topical in terms of what's going to be happening this year," she explained. "So this is Elena's (Isabella Gomez) senior year, Alex (Marcel Ruiz) is a sophomore. We're gearing up to the 2020 election; we are doing a really interesting episode talking about this election and what it means to this family. That's going to be a really special episode. We're really, really excited about that one."
Even the premiere episode is a topical one, as Ray Romano guest stars as a census taker, putting the focus on how important it is for under-served communities to be counted. "It really affects how much money goes into your districts, and traditionally Latinx people under report, because of fear," Calderon Kellett explained. "You do not have report that you are a citizen or not. And it's really important that people do it.
Other topics in season 4 will include aging, friendship, sexual health and of course, romance. "I think it's hot, for several of our characters," the EP teased. "The kids are getting older. Everyone's getting a little romantic this year. "
That will include a new romance for Penelope (Machado), after the single mom worked hard in season 3 to prove that she was just fine on her own. "We do feel like this character is a woman who is very self-sufficient," Calderon Kellett explained. "But just because you're self-sufficient and a feminist doesn't mean you can't and still don't want love and romance in your life."
"You're going to see her be involved with somebody that she's really into," Machado teased of her mysterious season 4 romance. "I don't think that we've seen Penelope be really into somebody for a minute.... They have a lot of fun together, and they're perfect for each other."
As for the younger Alvarez generation, it seems Elena's relationship with Syd may hit a few speed bumps this season, as the pair start planning for college and are forced to figure out what that means for their future.
"I feel like this couple in particular would maybe try long distance," Gomez speculated, noting that if Elena achieves her dream of attending Yale, that would mean a major cross-country move. "I have to say, they're rock solid, but they're young. And they have to learn some stuff. And a lot of times you learn through making mistakes... That is all I'm gonna say about that."
Season 4 will also find Alex with a love interest "finally," Ruiz said with a laugh. However, the actor teased, the Alvarezes certainly won't make things easy on his new girlfriend, Nora (Raquel Justice). "All the personalities in my family, my mom, Elena... And especially [Lydia] being jealous, of course! There's a lot to deal with."
Lydia, of course, has her own issues in the romance department, as the season 3 finale saw her running off to Cuba with Dr. Berkowitz (Tobolowsky) after previously telling him they could only be friends. But will anything come of their tumultuous relationship? Moreno said she's rooting for them, while Tobolowsky warned things get "much more complicated" for the pair in season 4.
"I think one of the dear things about One Day at a Time is that it really takes love seriously," he noted. "And I think my relationship with Lydia takes love very seriously. In all of its facets."
For his part, Grinnell teased that there's "big stuff" coming for Schneider and Avery this season, which he finds "really exciting, professionally and personally" -- due in part to the fact that his real-life wife, India de Beaufort, plays his on-screen love interest. "It's super fun that we both get to come to work together."
As for the One Day at a Time fans who are rooting for something romantic between Schneider and Penelope, Grinnell admitted that he love their "platonic friendship" just the way it is.
"Gloria Calderon Kellett and I are old friends, and we're both married to other people. And we're super close friends, and we just have this amazing platonic friendship. We always have," he explained. "She and I have discussed that... We don't really see that on TV a lot. So it's nice to kind of explore that with Schneider and Penelope and just have it be best friends."
"But, you know, who knows?" he added. "They could be married in season 7 and I have no idea. We'll see."
For now, season 4 is shaping up to be a major one. "Penelope finds love. Alex has a beautiful new girlfriend. We're getting ready to send Elena off to college," Machado recounted. "And we have a bunch of great guest stars. A lot of friends that came to play with us. A lot of great friends that we're very excited about."
Those visiting stars include Romano, Criminal Minds alum Adam Rodriguez and plenty more to come. But who is on the cast's dream guest list? Calderon Kellett dropped names like Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello, while Machado said she'd love to reunite with her Six Feet Under co-star Freddy Rodriguez.
But there's one name they could all agree on -- in a "chill and professional way," of course: "Lin-Manuel [Miranda], obviously," Calderon Kellett said. "But he knows. We text about it, but he's very busy."
Too busy for Abuelita? "Lin-Manuel, get off your culito," Moreno teased. "Come on, man."
One Day at a Time season 4 premieres Tuesday at 9:30 pm PT/ET on Pop TV.
See more from the upcoming season in the video below.
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