If you’re familiar with ‘90s series Party of Five, which followed the aggrieved and orphaned Salinger siblings who were forced to grow up too quickly after their parents’ fatal car crash, you’ll be excited to know that the series is getting a reboot. The name is the same but there are different storylines, character names and a modern twist.
The revived coming-of-age drama tells the tale of the Acosta kids, moments after their parents are abruptly deported to Mexico because they don’t have the appropriate documents to continue living and working in the US.
The party’s over
In the pilot episode, the family’s lives are turned upside down. One minute, Javier and Gloria Acosta (Bruno Bichir and Fernanda Urrejola) are hard-working and caring parents running a restaurant in their neighbourhood. The next, immigration officers storm into their eatery to take them into detention. Their 24-year-old aspiring musician son, Emilio (Brandon Larracuente), is required to return home for good to care for his 4 siblings while their parents’ future hangs in the balance.
“There was no reason to bring Party of Five back just to tell the same story,” says executive producer Amy Lippman, who created the original tear-jerking drama with her screenwriter husband, Christopher Keyser. With millions of families separated by deportation in the US recently, it only made sense for the producer duo to revisit the series. “All of the themes of the original show – which was kids raising themselves trying to figure out how to remain a family without parents around – are now playing out on the front page of newspapers. The story that we told 25 years ago was no longer fictional; it was happening every day around the country. It seemed, in many ways, a more urgent story to be told,” adds Amy.
Stepping up to the table
Initially, it isn’t in Emilio’s plans to return home. He’s having the time of his life touring the country with his band. So, it’s a bit of an inconvenience when he puts his rockstar dreams on hold to keep his family afloat. No more late-night partying or hooking up with random women. He is reduced to running the family business, changing his infant brother Rafael’s nappies, scolding his teenage twin siblings, Beto and Lucia (Niko Guardado and Emily Tosta), and, of course, trying to keep tween Valentina (Elle Paris Legaspi) out of trouble.
“The consistent echo from one series to the other is that we maintained the same personality traits in the new series,” says Amy. “We have an older brother who isn’t family-orientated and doesn’t see himself as a father figure. The oldest girl [still] isn’t maternal and she’s struggling to juggle the responsibilities of being a mother. The other brother is failing at school and he isn’t successful with girls, but he sure knows how to be a caretaker. Those are qualities we gave our new cast as well because it served us very well in our storytelling many years ago,” explains Amy.
Tackling tough issues
Because deportation is a sensitive subject, the Party of Five producers hired a team of Latinx writers, who understand the challenges that immigrant families experience when they are torn apart. “We made an effort to try to represent the real points of view and the emotions of people who’ve been through this specific tragedy,” says writer Gabriel Llanas.
Amy further explains that the youth drama isn’t a political statement. Their point is to tell the Acosta parents’ story without scrutinising or justifying their decision to enter the US illegally. “We’re saying, ‘This happens in society. Let’s look at the fallout.’ We don’t want to go in with a strong political agenda, we just want to tell what [it] is like for these families,” adds Amy.
Watch Party of Five S1 from Friday, 2 October on M-Net (DStv 101) at 21:00
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