1 of 5 | Loren Escandon attends the premiere of "Casa Grande," at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on May 1. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, May 15 (UPI) -- The stars and creators of Freevee's Casa Grande say their bilingual drama about wealthy Northern California farm owners and the Latino immigrants who work for them is an entertaining story that also explores family dynamics and class division.
All five episodes of the limited series -- which has notes of the contemporary western Yellowstone mixed with the tragic love story Romeo & Juliet -- are streaming.
"Our job as actors is to tell stories that are a reflection of the society we live in. This is our society. Our society looks like this group, sounds like this group, but has so many diverse stories that do not belong to just one group," actress Loren Escandon, who plays Ximena Morales, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"The things that we are tackling in this show are global issues because they are human stories and human stories don't belong to anybody."
Her co-star, Daniel Edward Mora, who plays Rafael Morales, added: "These are real people. You don't have to act. You just have to be."
One of the elements Mora loved about Casa Grande was the relationship between Rafael and his employer, Sawyer Clarkman, played by John Pyper-Ferguson.
"Despite the differences in socio-economic strata, Pyper's character and myself were, many times, allowed to relate just as men. There were moments of compassion and understanding. They were subtle, but they were there," Mora said.
"I loved that our positions and our bank accounts had no bearing on us understanding each other."
Christina Moore plays wealthy Susanna Clarkman, Sawyer's wife and the matriarch of what she describes as a "very twisty family."
"In this particular project, more money, less happy," she said. "It's an actual reverse."
The actress looked for ways to relate to her selfish and manipulative character.
"We're all motivated by something. I, personally, think that Susanna is just misunderstood, although her behavior is quite questionable" she said with a laugh.
The show was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of the actors were happy to be working and around other people in a remote location with gorgeous views.
"You couldn't have kept me away from this job," Moore said. "It was well-written and beautiful and all of those things. [But]. I just also wanted to leave the house."
Javier Bolaños plays Mael Morales, whom he calls "the Romeo in this forbidden, crazy love story."
"When I read the scripts, just seeing all the scenes with my [TV] family were so close to my real life," Bolanos said.
"The way we talk, all of the conversations we have, it was very similar. It was good to finally be in a story where it is like, 'Oh, Latinos finally being shown just as a really strong family unit.'
"And the same with Christina -- it was the middle of COVID, and it was so exciting to get to go and play with all of these actors."
Madison Lawlor plays Hassie, Susanna's daughter and Mael's girlfriend.
"She saw the world through rose-colored glasses because she was extremely privileged, and never really had to face these challenges that even people she loved were facing," she said, referring to Mael's family who treat her like one of their own.
"We're really catching her at this period of time where she is understanding so much hidden truth behind her own family and recognizing she is different than those people she considered family," Lawlor added.
"She's embracing the subject of her born family and her chosen family and maybe not being OK with the people who raised her."
Karen Bethzabe's favorite aspect about her character Natalia Cortez is that she is not portrayed as a victim.
"She was somebody who, probably, bad things happened to her and she left her country and she came to the United Stats, but she did not have the victim mentality," Bethzabe said.
"That was so refreshing to me. Sometimes immigrants are presented as victims -- these poor people suffering. The reality is we all navigate problems and dysfunctions and hardships, but at its core, these people who come to this country have great courage."
Kate Mansi plays Hassie's adopted sister Hunter.
"This is a multi-dimensional, character-driven story about endurance -- what these migrant workers will endure for a chance at the American dream, what each member of the [Clarkson] family does internally, externally to feel seen, and how lonely and invisible we feel in moving around in that dynamic," she said.
Hunter tries to make a seat for herself at the table and contribute to the way that her family runs its business.
"It's an empowering story about not letting anybody limit you or put you in a box and being relentless and fighting for what you want and your goals, " Mansi said.
Cast member John Pyper-Ferguson attends the premiere of Amazon Freevee's "Casa Grande" at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on May 1, 2023. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo