Alma’s Way, an animated series centered around 6-year-old Alma Rivera, a proud Puerto Rican girl growing up in the Bronx, premieres on PBS Kids Oct. 4. The show is created by Sonia Manzano, who played “Maria” on Sesame Street.
Alma’s Way is inspired by Manzano’s childhood, and she said every character is based on a real relative. It targets children ages four to six. Fred Rogers Productions produces the show.
Speaking at a TCA event in late summer, Manzano said PBS Kids content head Linda Simensky approached her about creating a show that takes place in a Latin home. “I of course made that more specific and made it a Puerto Rican family in the Bronx, because that's where I was from,” said Manzano. “The topic of the show was left up to me, and I decided to make it a show about thinking. I was struck by the fact that I had met a lot of kids who were very young and were already turned off to school and learning because they thought of schools as places where they just had to take in a lot of information and memorize and learn things at the same level as their peers and at the same moment as their peers.”
Alma’s family includes her Mami and Papi, younger brother Junior, her Abuelo and their dog Chacho. Each episode showcases different aspects of Latino cultures through language, food, music and customs. Manzano described the show as walking “that bicultural tightrope that is America, that is the Bronx.”
Puerto Rican, Cuban and Colombian music spices things up. Lin-Manuel Miranda does the theme song.
Summer Rose Castillo voices Alma. “I'm a lot like Alma because she's a little girl and she's from the Bronx. She's Puerto Rican, and I'm Puerto Rican,” said Castillo. “And she loves to explore her world, and I do too. I love to go hiking with my family, and I also like to figure stuff out as well.”
Manzano joined Sesame Street in 1971 and stepped down in 2015. She said Sesame Street was an influence on the new show. “I learned from Sesame Street that humor takes you a long way and that sincerity takes you a long way,” she said, “and kids really want to live in the real world.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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