'One Day at a Time' Boss Talks Origins, Future of Hollywood Immigrant Fundraising Effort

Co-showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how an initiative, which grew on social media to receive support from 70 TV shows, began and what she sees as the future of the movement, ahead of Saturday's rallies calling for families to be reunited.
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Gloria Calderon Kellett

One Day at a Time executive producer and co-showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett joined forces last week with Vida executive producer Tanya Saracho to help families separated at the United States-Mexico border. The movement began Tuesday, June 19, when the Netflix and Starz show bosses both took to social media to challenge others to donate to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). The organization provides legal services to help immigrant families separated due to the Trump administration's policy.

As the days went on, the effort spread and a number of teams behind various TV series declared their support and donated to the cause. The Handmaid's Tale, Jane the Virgin, Grand Hotel, Queen Sugar and Superstore are among the shows that have taken to social media to announce their support. Vida's network Starz also donated $10,000 to RAICES.

"We're 70 shows now. We can't believe it," Calderon Kellett told The Hollywood Reporter about the positive response to the movement. "Every day there are more, so it's beyond our wildest dreams."

While President Trump signed an executive order that ended the policy on June 20, more than 2,500 children already had been separated from their families, and efforts are still being made to reunite children with their parents. As the fallout from family separations continues, more than 600 Families Belong Together protests will be held on Saturday, with the main rally set to take place in Washington, D.C.

Calderon Kellett spoke with THR about the conception of the viral Hollywood movement, why it's important for her to use her platform to discuss the issue of family separation and what she sees as the future of the fundraising effort.

How did this movement to end family separation at the border begin?

Tanya Saracho and I are close friends and we were both just talking about how depressed we were and how we're turning on the news every day and it's very depressing — and, especially, this is kids. This isn't even political. It doesn't feel like it's political, anyway. This is terrible what's happening to these children and we're like, "What can we do? We're both showrunners. We're both running shows. We're busy. We can't got down there. What can we do?" And we were like, "Well, we can give money." She had the idea, it was Tanya's idea, like, "Hey, maybe our shows can amplify the message so that it's not forgotten." We're in a time where there's a new story every day and so a lot of times these big stories get forgotten and this was one where we just wanted to make sure that these kids were reunited with their families. We were like, "Well, let's amplify it through our shows and maybe we'll challenge other shows, and maybe a couple of shows will give some money and that can help with the legal fees of those that are being detained to just get there kids back and that's really how it started. It was really just a simple thing of uniting with your [writing] rooms and taking a photo to say we stand with humanity. Not the political agenda. More, what was done down there was quick and misguided and we think that any version of kids being separated from their parents is not a good one. We're so grateful and it's so nice to see all these people come together. All these parents and people that just love children coming together.

How did you learn about RAICES?

Tanya's the one that told me about it. I said, "What's the right organization?" I give to ACLU. I'm an annual giver to them anyway. I was considering doing that. She said, "There's actually people that are doing this right in McAllen." She's from McAllen, Texas. It just felt like here's somebody who's really boots on the ground. Really there doing this work. Let's try to amplify that and give them money. There's so many grassroots [organizations]. We've chosen them, but we're happy with whoever wants to give legal services to anyone. If they can give to ACLU or they can give to RAICES. This has been going on for a very long time. It's just amplified in this moment, and now it's one of those things where once you know something, you can't un-know. We know this now, so let's fix this problem.

Were you surprised by the number of shows that announced their support for the movement on social media?

It was so fast! I thought we could get the word out, but not the speed in which people said yes. I've had people email me saying, "What can we do? How can we do it? Our show's not in session, but what can we do?" That makes you feel like, "Oh, OK. We're not alone in this. There's people who care, who want to do what's right in this time." I'm mind-blown and so moved by everybody coming together, and Tanya and I are in contact every day and our hearts are bursting that hopefully we can reunite these families quickly, although it's complicated and I know it takes much more time. We're so grateful to the real heroes here, which are the lawyers and those working at these youth detention centers to try to make it a humane condition for these people. We're just trying to amplify their message and help them with the funds and supplies that they need.

You reached out to many different writing rooms when trying to find support for the cause. How did you choose who to contact?

Who we knew. We just kind of started there. Who knows who in such writing rooms. That's really how it started for us. I know Jennie [Snyder Urman] on Jane the Virgin. I recur on that show. They're so lovely and warm and wonderful always, so I reached out to them. Grand Hotel, Brian Tanen, Tanya and I both worked with him on Devious Maids. I've worked with Eva [Longoria] a ton, so we just started with people we knew and then it grew to all these people we know. And now it's great because I've just done a bunch of panels and I'm meeting more people every day, and their willingness to also participate has been really heartwarming.

Why do you feel that it's important to use your platform to speak out on issues, especially the issue of family separation?

I am so grateful I have a job that's really cool and that I get to tell people stories, but the reason I'm a storyteller is, in general, to sort of try to give humanity and try to show the universal things with which we have common humanity. Which is really true to the work of Norman Lear [who developed the original One Day at a Time]. Norman has always talked about a common humanity and that he wanted his shows to reflect that. To reflect how we may be different, but we're more the same than we are different. We love our kids, we love our families, we want them to be safe. This is an issue that's happening now that once I read about it — I have children — the thought of this happening and my children being taken away from me because I'm seeking political exile or some type of asylum, it's just not right. My parents came to this country during 1962. The Operation Pedro Pan was the name of the program that brought them here and strangers in the United States from various churches, mostly Catholic charities, came together to support getting these kids out of Cuba and into the United States so that they can be free to pursue a life here and so I feel so grateful. It's really paying it forward for me for the strangers that helped my parents get out of a very terrible situation in Cuba. This seems like the right thing to do. There are kids in cages. That's crazy. I don't think anyone looks at that and goes, "That's what we should do."

What do you see as the future of this movement, particularly with the families that are still separated and events like the upcoming protests this weekend?

What we're hoping is that people don't forget. We're hoping to get every show, there's 500 shows and we only have 70-plus, so we're coming after you, shows. We'd love for Hollywood to show that we care and that we're using our platforms to amplify the message that families and the unity of families and the reunification of families is important to us, as long as it takes to reunite these families. It's gonna take a long time. People who are much smarter than I have informed me that this is a long process and that there's a lot of work to be done in immigration in general and so I leave that to them, to those in the know, because I do not know about the legalities of all of this, but we are hoping that the financial gains that are raised here help to reunite these families and then they can be dealt with as they must be.

Do you or anyone from One Day at a Time have plans to participate in the protests on Saturday?

We do have some people going. I'm out of town because I didn't know there was going to be a protest, obviously. I think some of our actors are going to be there. It's a hiatus week for us— we're three weeks on, one week off — so our one week off the actors tend to disperse and have a much-needed break, so we're trying to gather the troops, as they say.