'Primo' mixed and matched uncles in cast

From left, Johnny Rey Diaz, Efrain Villa, Carlos Santos, Henri Esteve and Jonathan Medina star in "Primo." Photo courtesy of Amazon Freevee
1 of 5 | From left, Johnny Rey Diaz, Efrain Villa, Carlos Santos, Henri Esteve and Jonathan Medina star in "Primo." Photo courtesy of Amazon Freevee

LOS ANGELES, May 19 (UPI) -- Primo, premiering Friday on Freevee, is a family comedy about a single mother (Christina Vidal) raising her son, Rafa (Ignacio Diaz-Silvero), with the help of her five brothers.

Some of the actors who play Rafa's uncles asked to play other uncle roles depending on the characters' personalities they preferred.


Johnny Rey Diaz plays uncle Rollie, one of the goofier uncles. Originally asked to read for the more serious Jay, Diaz had a vision for Rollie and landed the role.

"He's a guy who's very present in the moment and he's also in his own world a little bit," Diaz told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "He skates through life in terms of what's right in front of him. He just makes sure that wherever he goes, his family's taken care of, as well."

Primo executive producer Michael Schur said he'd originally envisioned Rollie as a big, tattooed, tough guy. Diaz's take won him over.


"He played the part with this happy goofball energy, this smiling, loose, silly energy," Schur said in an interview before the Writers Guild of America strike. "It was so different from what I had imagined, it took me a second. He kept auditioning and kept being the funniest guy to audition."

Diaz said that Jonathan Medina, who ultimately played Jay, impressed him with his take on the role. Medina called Jay the pragmatic uncle, as he tries to help Drea organize their brothers' and Rafa's lives, including hiring them at his irrigation business.

"Jay is love," Medina said. "With Drea in the picture, there is no other authority other than her. This is a matriarchal society in the house."

Henri Esteve plays Mike, an uncle with military experience he sometimes tries to apply to the family. But first, Esteve got the audition for Mondo, a hippie-esque uncle whom Efrain Villa plays.

"I actually requested Mike when I got the Mondo audition," Esteve said. "I saw Mike's lines and I called my manager."

Mike's militaristic observations can come across as terse, sometimes even mean, but Esteve believes every family needs someone like Mike.


"I think it grounds everybody, keeps them honest," Esteve said.

Villa only auditioned for the role of Mondo, who seemed like a perfect fit to him. However, the mellow, possibly high Mondo we see could have gone different ways.

Villa said he provided many alternate takes so editor Sue Federman could craft the perfect Mondo.

"It was really cool to see the end product because in a lot of ways it felt like I was meeting Mondo for the first time," Villa said. "He is a really mellow, really chill, really grounded guy."

Carlos Santos also played the only role for which he auditioned for, uncle Ryan, who works a corporate job at a bank for which his other brothers make fun of him.

"Being the youngest was something that I totally gravitate to, trying to prove yourself constantly," Santos said. "I definitely knew what Ryan was going through when I started reading and auditioning for him."

Some of the uncles have costumes that help the actors get into character. For example, Ryan, wears a shirt and tie to his bank job.

"I hated it, but I felt like I had a duty to play my character right," Santos said. "I don't think I've worn a tie sincerely since 2013."


Mike still dons military gear for some of his outdoor activities.

"I put that stuff on and then I was like, 'Oh, this seems fun,'" Esteve said. "I get why people want to go do this, the accoutrement of it all."

Rafa and Drea were the only roles for Diaz-Silviero and Vidal, respectively. Diaz-Silviero said he could relate to the large extended family when he visited his own aunts, uncles and cousins, though they do not live with him.

"Rafa has a lot of chaos to sift through and a lot of opinions coming at him," Diaz-Silviero said. "It can be disorienting and inundating. At the end of the day, what it means is you have an entire net of people around you that love you and support you."

Vidal said she also related to the family in Primo, especially playing the mother, though her mother was not single.

"My mom was the glue and the wrangler of all of everyone, including my dad," Vidal said. "Everything's always done with good intentions, with love and support. So I can definitely relate to that."

Primo was created by author Shea Serrano, inspired by growing up in a family with five uncles. Some of Primo's uncles even have the same jobs as Serrano's uncles.


"The uncle Jay character in real life, he does run an irrigation company," Serrano said in an interview before the WGA strike. "That fits in perfectly because he does bring the uncles with him to work every once in a while."

All eight episodes of Primo Season 1 are available on Freevee on Friday.

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