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Portland Native Gloria Calderón Kellett’s New Locally Set Amazon Prime Series Brings Diversity to the Holiday Rom-Com Genre

Before “With Love’s” premiere, we caught up with the TV producer to discuss its odes to local Latino families, its food culture and how she crafted a five-episode feast of holiday sentiment.

Portlanders who pine annually for that elusive snowy Christmas will find one in With Love’s first episode. The new Portland-set miniseries from Amazon Prime Video (out Dec. 17) follows three generations of the Diaz family’s romantic triumphs and travails across five holidays.

But that’s the only kind of “white Christmas” Portland native Gloria Calderón Kellett is interested in portraying. Mining her family’s Cuban traditions, the veteran TV producer and former co-showrunner of Netflix’s One Day at a Time looks to upend the dearth of holiday rom-coms portraying not only Latino and Black families but also queer and nonbinary characters within those families.

We caught up with Calderón Kellett to discuss With Love’s odes to Portland’s Latino families, its food culture and how she crafted a 20-character, five-episode feast of holiday sentiment.

WW: Tell us about your Portland youth.

I was born at Emanuel Hospital, lived on Cornell Road. Then, we moved to Beaverton, where I went to St. Mary of the Valley all through grade school. I could walk to Washington Square. I was performing. I sang at Beaverton Mall. I did a Beaverton Mall commercial in, like, 1988.

What did you do in it?

It was, like, [starts singing TV jingle]: “Beaverton Mall/the main attraction!/Beaverton Mall/on the boulevard, yeah!” I was wearing a Coca- Cola sweatshirt.

Truly the height of malls.

The height and the end of malls. But yeah, I sang in a little troupe called Sugar and Spice. I sang with the Portland Opera [as a child]. I was first runner-up for Miss Preteen Oregon [laughs]. It was a lovely place to grow up. There’s a thriving Latino community in Oregon!

There’s a joke in With Love about how the Diaz family is 97% of all Oregon Latinos.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to set the show in Oregon is, whenever I tell people I was born in Portland, they’re like, “There are Latinos in Portland?” And I say, “Yes, we’re everywhere!” My parents moved to Portland in 1964 with a bunch of other Latino families, Cubans primarily. There were about 30 to 40 families that I grew up with that were all Latino.

Are the show’s Portland specifics, like the Burgerville on MLK, references from your youth?

Well, my Burgerville in Beaverton isn’t there anymore. I want to say it was one of the very first Burgervilles—a standalone little white building. I know they shut it down in 2019 because my brother and I were very emotional about it. After school, my grandpa would pick us up from St. Mary’s and take us. They were doing locally sourced before everyone, so if it was berry season, it was those berries on the sundaes for like a dollar.

How did you come to the show’s holiday-by-holiday structure?

It was last Christmas, and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to see my family. That was very sad, but at the same time, I was watching a lot of my usual rom-coms. When Harry Met Sally is my favorite movie of all time. I love Love Actually. I love Elf. I was feeling these good feels, and it occurred to me, “Wow, Christmas really is white.” It’s crazy to me there aren’t more rom-coms that include people who look like me and my loved ones around the holidays. I pitched that to Amazon in January 2021 and they were like, “Can you make it now?!”

There’s such breadth and depth to your representation goals here. How did you approach it?

While I am Latina, I’m still a cis straight lady. There are a lot of things that my LGBTQ loved ones have been so kind in walking me through. And then, they’ll come to me with Latino issues like, “OK, can we ask you about this without being offensive?” And I say, “Yes, you can. I’m glad you brought that up!” I just feel right now people are afraid to talk about anything, and I’m here for the conversation. I get that it’s complicated right now. Is it Latino or Latinx or Latine? I get it, man! It’s complicated for me, too! We don’t know what to call ourselves! Holy shit, how is the rest of the world supposed to do it? And I relied so much on the queer writers in the room to get the language right. They were so generous with their own experience.

SEE IT: With Love begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Dec. 17.