In the new comedy series Sunnyside, on M-Net (101) from Friday, 10 April at 22:00, disgraced New York City councilman Garret Modi (Kal Penn) is broke and mooching off his sister, Mallory (Kiran Deol), when a whacky group of immigrants approach him for assistance. They hope that Garrett will use his ties to help them to stay in the country legally.
Garrett, eager to cash in financially and use their issues to boost his career, agrees, hiding the fact that he currently has no political clout. But when one of his “clients” runs afoul of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Garret is forced to come clean. He vows to help the whole group become citizens for real, drawing on his knowledge of the political system to help them to ace their citizenship classes and sort out their issues.
Much of the humour in Sunnyside comes from the clash between basic humanity and the absurdities of the legal and political system that immigrants are up against while trying to formalise their status in the country. That’s where it gets real.
The real deal
Series co-creator, writer and star Kal Penn drew on his 10 years spent working in politics between 2007 and 2017 to give backbone to Sunnyside. During the Obama Presidency, Kal worked on the bill for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), targeted at granting legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and were educated there. While the bill failed by a narrow margin, it immersed Kal in immigration issues. “I obviously loved my time in D.C. And I am the child of immigrants, so I know those stories very intimately. But I love making people laugh. And I love that comedy has the opportunity to bring people together, especially when things are polarizing,” says Kal.
And his writer’s room didn’t have to look far for inspiration, either. “Every single one of our writing staff are either immigrants or the kids of immigrants, or married to an immigrant themselves, so basically from an immigrant family,” Kal adds. The cast’s own experiences and backgrounds have also been taken into account in the writing.