Tag: raul castillo

Mixtape (FOX) pilot preview: Life Bursting Into Songs

“Track I : Sam & Nellie” written and executive produced by Josh Safran (Quantico, Smash, Gossip Girl). Also produced by Megan Ellison (Her, Zero Dark Thirty, Foxcatcher, American Bluff) & Sue Naegle (Outcast). Directed by Jesse Peretz (Girls, GLOW, Divorce, Nurse Jackie, Juliet Naked). For FOX,  20th Century FOX Television & Annapurna Television. 66 pages. Third Network Draft. 1/09/2018.

Description: a romantic musical drama that looks at a disparate group of interconnected people in contemporary Los Angeles through the lens of the music that defines who they are. Mixtape captures the different stages of love, exploring if time can heal a broken heart and if love can withstand life’s tragedies…

With Raul Castillo (Looking, Seven Seconds, Atypical), Callie Hernandez (La La Land, Too Old To Die Young, Graves), Madeleine Stowe (Revenge, 12 Monkeys, The Last of the Mohicans), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Without a Trace, Broadchurch, Blindspot), Jenna Dewan Tatum (Step Up, Witches of East End, American Horror Story), Jahmil French (Degrassi: The Next Generation), Megan Ferguson (Bad Moms, Heart of Dixie), Campbell Scott (House of Cards, Royal Pains, Damages, The Amazing Spider-Man), Evan Whitten & Christina Milian (Grandfathered)…


You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Smash, Rise, La La Land, This Is Us…

Likely timeslot: Somewhere midseason with a limited run


Every Song Is A Love Song“. That’s with those words that Mixtape starts… and ends. And a very beautiful and emotional demonstration ensues from our hero Sam. I’m not gonna lie and there’s no suspense anyway if you’ve seen those 5 stars up there: I fell in love with this script as you fall in love with a song. So everything in this review will only be displays of affection. I will keep it short, by the way. I hate it when songs are too long. But also, I’ll be walking -or more like dancing- on eggs here. There are things that has to be kept secret and I don’t want to spoil any surprise to anybody. That’s part of the reason why it’s so good. You never know where it’s going, like you never know what life is bringing upon you, good or bad. And when you finally get a sense of what’s really going on, you’re just happy to see it play before your eyes. Mixtape is not just another musical drama. At the core, it’s a love letter to music where life burst into songs.

Let me tell you first about the structure of this very unique pilot (and future show). It is broken up into five parts (acts), with every one of them containing one song: Nellie’s Side A, Sam Side A, Nellie Side B, Sam Side B, and finally their mashup; this development illuminates the overarching metaphor that weaves throughout the pilot: music is life, life is music. And there’s a lot of love and loss in between. It’s quite simple and very clever at the same time. I don’t remember anything like it before. Of course, every song expresses the feelings of the character who sings. That’s how we get to know them better, their profound fears, and desires, and pains, and sometimes joys. That’s how every musical works. Every song is a big number, with or without dancers, while life happens. The reference is obviously La La Land. They’re aiming at something as modern and somehow timeless too. Those songs are not originals and not even hits but more like the perfect song for the situation, even if it has to be a lesser known one from a famous or not so famous artist. If the directing is as good as the writing, we’re gonna have a lot of fun my friends, music lovers and others.

The characters happen to be very well-written too and their stories are both intimate and universal, as they should be. Nellie seems to be living the American Dream: she’s beautiful and her hot boyfriend’s band is catapulting into massive stardom. Nothing can get to her, until, on the eve of her third anniversary, fantasizing about being proposed to, her life explodes as her punk boyfriend dumps her. Her own dreams of becoming an artist have derailed along the way. Now, her life turns completely upside down. Meanwhile, Sam, a scrupulous and shattered widower, aspiring songwriter and secret romantic, who has been forced to move into low income housing with his son after his wife’s death, spends his time balancing jobs and fathering his bright-eyed son. He’s helped by his aunt and now neighbour, a warm, pragmatic woman in her fifties that loves him like her own daughter. There’s other women in there: Joanna, a young professional with everything always under control, the most rational person ever, and yet she’s a little guarded, as if always prepared for the worst; and Margot, an actress who carefully controls how she presents herself to the world, but is secretly exhausted by having to do it. All those characters are very human, attractive and appealing, fragile, sometimes shattered, simply beautiful. And that’s all I can say. Just know there’s a twist. It’s also this kind of show.

Again, Mixtape is a love letter to music where life burst into songs. I don’t know if it can be successful, it’s probably too ambitious to become a huge instant hit, but it doesn’t look like a one-hit wonder either. This script is pure beauty and artistry. Those characters need to be heard. Between La La Land & This Is Us, it may be the best thing network television will bring us next year. Prepare your eyes, your ears and your hearts to it!

The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez (ABC) pilot preview: a Latino Revenge with a supernatural twist


Created by and executive produced by Charise Castro Smith (Devious Maids). Also executive produced by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters (Agent Carter, Resurrection, Dollhouse, Reaper). For ABC & ABC Studios. 62 pages.

Description: Eva Sofia Valdez is an immigrant who rose from rags to riches and became a celebrated Miami entrepreneur and a champion for immigrant rights. But her success is fueled by an insatiable ambition that could destroy her family, a vendetta against the lover who betrayed her, and ghosts from the past who threaten to reveal the dark sacrifices Eva Sofia made to attain the American Dream…

With Gina Torres (Suits, Firefly, Huge, Matrix), Christian OchoaRaùl Castillo (Looking), Eric Close (Nashville, Without a Trace, Dark Skies), Melora Hardin (Transparent, The Office), Christina Pickles (Friends, Get Real, St. Elsewhere), Debra Mooney (Scandal, Everwood, Kirk), Angèlica Celaya (Constantine), Alison Fernandez (Law & Order: SVU), Marta Milans (Killer Women), Zabryna Guevara (Gotham), Jeimy Osorio

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Since Jane The Virgin broke out (sort of) two years ago at The CW, networks fantasize about having their own latino-fueled soap opera. Ugly Betty is long gone now but creator Silvio Horta tried to rekindle the flame last year at NBC with pilot The Curse of the Fuentes Women, which was a funny and sexually-charged proposal that didn’t go to series (read the preview). ABC is back at it this year with The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, that you could easily billed as a “latino Revenge with a supernatural twist” or, as the network prefers to call it “McBeth with a Cuban twist”. Classier. But it means the same thing: “we want to sweep the latino american community off their feet and most importantly off their spanish speaking channels like Univision & Telemundo, which draw big ratings every night”. Needless to say, it’s not that easy and the charm of telenovelas lies in their cheap setting, cheap dialogues, cheap actors (as long as they are beautiful), cheap everything… The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez won’t be cheap (even if ABC Studios can be sometimes) but it has its own weird charm and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of us fall in its trap, at least initially.

My main problems with the show are its title (that still can change – who wants to watch something called The death of… honestly?) and its longtime perspective that doesn’t go very far. Listen: it starts with a flashforward –Revenge style- where, you guessed it, our heroin Eva Sofia Valdez dies. There’s blood all over her white gown. She was just shot in the gut by an unknown assailant after she put the Monrose Rum Distillery on fire. Of course, she can survive this and maybe she will if the show works but then, the title doesn’t make any sense, even though sooner or later the woman will die, like every one of us. Then we jump to present day and it’s only “six months earlier”! And Eva Sofia’s daughter Isabel’s voiceover makes it clear: “This is the story of my mother“. So my question is: how can a show last more than one 22-episode season when its heroine -whose full name is on the title- dies in the end of it? I know, I shouldn’t give myself a headache over this, but you have to admit this title needs to change. Badly.

So, what works in there? Many things. On paper. I’m not sure this mix of genres can translate that easily on screen. That’s the real challenge for the production team and the director (and the cast of course). The writer decided to take a dangerous and risky road. Remember NBC supernatural daytime soap Passions (1999-2008)? There’s a bit of that. Kudos for trying. The pilot is unusual and definitely weird, especially when the supernatural elements are introduced at some point. It’s sort of ridiculous, but the kind of ridiculous that makes you want to watch more. Just to see how far they’re ready to go. We’re not in a straight supernatural environment. We’re in Florida nowadays, in the world of the rich and the famous, and everything changes the day three very strange women enter Eva Sofia’s life. Are they witches? That’s what we are led to believe. For sure, they’re bitches. They don’t only bring black magic to the table and a possible curse to our heroin, they also add humor when all those people start to treat themselves a little bit too seriously. A breath of not so fresh air. They are not “Wilhelmina-funny” but they fell from the same tree. That’s pretty much the only supernatural element, if you consider that the cliffhanger is more in the realm of mental illness… And that’s debatable!

In the funny side of things, there’s a gimmick used by the narrator that works -and which will probably go away in the subsequent episodes- where she shows/tells two versions of the same scene: “what he/she wanted to say/do” Vs. “What he/she really said/did instead”. Not incredibly new but a nice little addition to the story. The rest is classic and efficient telenovela/soap opera tricks where everybody’s a bit of bitch, lie to each others, spy on each others, sleep with each others… You got the two very different sons of Eva Sofia, the successful one and the nerdy one, both are very sexy of course. The nerdy one happens to be in love with his brother’s wife, which is a shame since he cheats on her and she knows it. Eva Sofia wants him to be the new mayor because the only other candidate is her enemy (boring Eric Close) since he dumped her 30 years ago, back in Cuba where she comes from. I’m not sure it’s reason enough to be so full of hate, but why not? At least, Emily in Revenge had better reasons to do what she did… But we don’t have the full picture yet. Many secrets have yet to be told. Eva Sofia is an interesting character for multiple reasons. First, did I tell you she is 50? It’s very unusual for an heroine on television to be 50. Kudos to ABC. Then, she’s not nice. At all. She probably was when she was young. But now, she’s crazy. Like mentally crazy, I guess. She’s on fire. And manipulative. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she killed someone. And if she haven’t done it yet, she will. It makes her instantly stand out from the crowd. She’s modern, like Annalise Keating is on How to Get Away With Murder. Gina Torres can have a lot of fun with this and be at the top of her game.

I wouldn’t call The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez a slam dunk for ABC -maybe because it’s weird and weirdness can often be confused with ridiculousness- but it’s very on brand for the network with a guilty-pleasure dimension that may be a better fit with Lifetime. It’s not as funny as it should be, but it’s crazy enough to draw attention and give people reasons to stay a little bit longer. I don’t think it can be “the Empire of the latino community” but it’s safe to assume there’s an audience for it.