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Alonzo aims for authenticity on ‘Cristela’

Rick Bentley McClatchy-Tribune

LOS ANGELES – No matter what happens with her self-titled new ABC comedy series, Cristela Alonzo won’t be disappointed.

“When it comes to expectations, I really try to never have any. It’s something that mom always told me. She always said, ‘Don’t expect anything or else you’ll be disappointed,’ ” Alonzo says.

“Cristela” follows a young woman whose dreams of becoming a lawyer have been dampened by her traditional Mexican-American family. Her life begins to look up when a lawyer, who is the poster child for politically incorrectness when it comes to Latinos, offers her an internship at his firm. She’ll be working unpaid, but she sees it as the biggest break of her life.

Alonzo, who comes from the world of stand-up comedy, wants “Cristela” to be as authentic as possible. That starts with basing all of the characters in the show on family members or people she knows.

“It’s never about doing any kind of stereotyping. As long as you’re honest and right with something, with authenticity, you’ll never go into the stereotypical area that you can fall into,” Alonzo says. “I think that there should be nothing that’s off limits. If there’s a smart way of doing it, if there’s an honest way to answer the problem, then anything goes.”

When she was young, Alonzo was always encouraged in to be creative. Alonzo left home to chase a career in comedy – a career generally not pursued by other family members. Her career path was delayed when her mother got sick and she moved home to help take care of her mom.

A year after he mother died, Alonzo felt that because she didn’t have a heavy responsibility to her family anymore, she was open to return to her dream of being a comic. Her decision eventually paid off with appearances on “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and “Last Comic Standing.” Now, she’s starring in her own television series.

A lot of the material for the ABC comedy comes from that time in her life of helping her family.

“My mom, my family, was all about survival, getting by. And so any kind of luxury like going to college was an impossibility for us. That’s why I’m here right now. Every time an obstacle came up that scared the hell out of me, I still went forward because I knew that there was a chance that I could attain that goal,” Alonzo says. “My mom and I didn’t speak for a long while when I left home to pursue this because she couldn’t understand it, and unfortunately, she passed away before she ever saw any of this. But, I feel like she’s helped me get to this point, and I would like to think she’s very proud of what I’ve accomplished.”

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