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One of a kind

Starting next week producer/director Gregory Nava will get back to producing his new drama American Family. It's been 18 months since Nava first produced the pilot for the drama, which is set around a Mexican-American family living in East Los Angeles. PBS executives saw the pilot that was originally commissioned by CBS and opted to order 12 episodes of the series. For Nava, American Family
is his first foray into series television, after directing a number of films, including Mi Familia
and Selena.

Are you tired of being described as the producer/creator of the first Latino series on broadcast TV?

I'm not tired of it. I think it's marvelous that it's happened and I'm very proud to have been a part of making it happen. I do look forward to the day when having a show from a Latino producer or writer is not unique.

Are we far from that day?

It's hard to say. It depends on the success that we have and other shows that are happening.

How did the idea for American Family
come about and how is it working in television rather than film?

The idea came up because people have always told me that the kind of human drama that I've done in movies needs to be brought to TV. I had always wanted to do a TV program because I thought it would be an exciting thing to do. So I received some wonderful offers about a year and a half ago and I decided that I was going to try it.

How do you feel about efforts by the NAACP, National Hispanic Media Coalition and other organizations pressing the networks to raise the levels of diversity in front of and behind the cameras?

I think it's a very, very good thing. You need to do two things. You need to do good work, which is what I try to do, and you also need to have groups that put pressure on people. Otherwise, there will never be change. If all you do is put pressure, then nothing is going to happen. So I think you need to both work to produce fine work and you also need to put pressure on these companies to make sure shows that reflect America are produced.

What does it say about Hollywood that there still are no Asian-American, Hispanic-American shows on the major networks?

I think it shows that there is a gap between what is happening in society and the [networks'] convictions [towards minority programming]. They've been slow to react to the changes of the country but they will eventually have to react to them.

Cable networks and PBS have been out in front on diversity. Why are the broadcast networks still in need of prodding?

Because of the nature of what PBS and cable networks are they can react more quickly than the major networks can react. And advertising and the Nielsens have to change so they reflect the new audience. There are 35 million Latinos in this country and the networks and advertisers are going to want to reach these people. A show like ours, hopefully, will help accelerate this process.

How has it been for you as a Hispanic American in Hollywood?

It's hard for anybody to have a career in entertainment, so I never like to complain about anything. Is it harder? I think it is, but by the same token I've also been very fortunate to have worked with a lot of wonderful people. This is my So I try to focus on what I'm doing, because if you start looking around and start dwelling on these other things, it just pulls you down.