When Party of Five signed off the air in May 2000, fans of the show that turned Neve Campbell, Matthew Fox, Scott Wolf, Lacey Chabert and Jennifer Love Hewitt into household names said goodbye to the Salingers. Now, 20 years later, creators Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser have brought the series back with a new family and a very current spin. The Freeform show that premiered January 8 is shining a light on immigration in the United States through the lens of the Acosta family whose parents get deported to Mexico.
In their breakout leading roles, Brandon Larracuente, Emily Tosta, Niko Guardado and Elle Paris Legaspi (who will leave you in tears after her courtroom performance in the first episode) play the four oldest kids left to navigate life with their parents living across the border. “It's the most meaningful project that I've been able to take on. It's made me a much more proud Latino. I mean, I've always been proud of my heritage, but now it's like I want to go out and scream it from the rooftops,” Brandon, who won the hearts of many over in 13 Reasons Why, tells HOLA! USA. “It's the amount of diversity on the show, not just the cast. We're all Latino, but we come from different parts of the world and also the crew. To see that come to life and to see how we can all collaborate on something together; it was just very inspiring for me.”
Emily, who came to the US at 12 from the Dominican Republic to pursue her American dream of becoming an actress, really hopes the show resonates with all. “Yes, it is a show about immigration and deportation, but it's also a show about this beautiful family dynamic that we have going on,” she says. “I think it's really important for the audience to understand that at the end of the day, all you have is your loved ones to rely on in the good times and in the bad. The strength in that unity is something that our show portrays and embodies in such a beautiful way.”
Keep reading to learn which Latinx actors they look up to, how Brandon stepped out of his comfort zone for this role and when the sibling rivalry comes out off set.
HOLA! USA: You are going to inspire the Latinx community with these roles. Who do you look up to in Hollywood?
Brandon Laurracente: “I don't have any idols because I found that when you idolize somebody or something you're always disappointed. I do have people that I look up to who I've either worked with or I've seen in the public eye. A big one of mine is Benicio del Toro. He's been a working actor for years now, and I appreciate his work and what he does, not only on camera but off.”
Emily Tosta: “America Ferrera is a big one not just because I love her as an actress, but also she's so badass. She's paved the way for other Latinas. She's always embracing her culture and is always talking about the importance of being yourself and being authentic to your roots. She's amazing.”
Niko Guardado: “I'm going to go with Oscar Isaac just because I don't see in a lot of the films he does him speaking Spanish. And that's the side of the culture that I'm on - the non-speaking.
Elle Paris Legaspi: “For me, I don't really have an idol that I look up to. I really look up to these guys because they're always there for me, and I look up to the people that they are.”
Emily, you mention you moved to the states when you were 12. What was it like for you coming to this country?
“I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and my mom and I came to this country, we immigrated when I was about 12 years old. We kind of just came here to follow that American dream. We kind of took the risk and were like, ‘Hey, let's just go to the United States and see what happens.’ English was not my first language whatsoever, and acting is very different in Santo Domingo than it is in this country. I think that was a barrier at first, but I think with education and just learning the language or just faith and perseverance and working hard, we got through it.”
Speaking of, faith is a big part of the show. Who do you all lean on for support?
Emily: “God and my mom, I would say is what I lean on for support the most. I think having faith is so important, just having something that you can either pray to or rely on. And it's always been really important with my family. My mom has always instilled those values upon me and my sisters since we were very young.”
Brandon: “I agree. God and my family. My close family, people who I can call when I'm in distress or I need just somebody to pep me up, you know?”
Elle: For me, it's the same exact thing. God because without him here, I wouldn't be in the position that I am right now, and my parents because they're always supporting me every step of the way.”
Niko: “God and my family. I'm super close to my family, my parents and my sister, but really my brother has been like my partner in crime for so long. I think we both lean on each other for a lot.”
The show focuses on the family unit. Niko, off screen have you guys created this family dynamic as well?
“Yeah 100%. We screen tested and felt chemistry. Then the pilot, when we were filming that, we just bonded over stuff that you do with friends, like board games, talking about this, watching movies and all that. And it's been truly one amazing ride that's just beginning.”
“I think the rivalries come out when we play board games.” [Especially Monopoly] It's a sensitive topic. We don't talk about it.”
Brandon, your character Emilio was pursuing a career in music. Any aspirations to put out an album?
“No, I think I'll just stick to acting. It was cool to be a part of this project because it challenged me in many ways. I mean, I had to sing, which I don't do often besides in the shower. And also I was forced to learn how to play guitar. It's really pushed me in my limits as far as what I thought I could do as an actor.”
You got engaged to Jazmin [Garcia] in November. How is wedding planning going?
“We're just enjoying engagement for now, taking it slow.”
Party of Five airs on Freeform on Wednesdays at 9 pm EST.