Starz’s Sister Act Returns

At The Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, producer Tanya Saracho illustrated how the industry is beginning to embrace the presence of women behind the camera.

“All my directors were female; both of my [directors of photography] are female; all my editors are female,” Saracho said of Starz’s dramedy Vida, on which she serves as showrunner and executive producer. “My composer and everybody’s mostly Latina and female.”

The Mexican-born writer and showrunner is one a new wave of women of color helming scripted series across multiple platforms. Saracho’s Vida — which follows the lives of two estranged Mexican-American sisters who are reunited in their old neighborhood in East Los Angeles after the death of their mother — will return to the premium service later this year.

Multichannel News recently spoke with Saracho about the sophomore season of Vida and to get her perspective on the emergence of new and successful creators of color and whether the momentum can be sustained. Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.

MCN:Are we in a sustainable golden age for minority and female producers, or is this just a trend?
Tanya Saracho: I don’t know if were having a moment or a trend. We’ve always gone in cycles regarding [inclusive] content — every so often we’re excited and say it’s great to see this and that show on the air, and then it goes away. So I feel like we need a few years to know. We need to see more of these shows to come out for proof; right now, we’re the only Latinix-themed show on prime cable. We do have [FX comedy series] Atlanta, [HBO comedy series] Insecure and other [diverse] shows and I’m hopeful, but I’m not optimistic that we’re there yet.

MCN:Has the expansion of distribution outlets both on traditional television as well as streaming services accelerated the development of diverse and inclusive shows?
TS: I would not be here if it hadn’t been for the amount of shows that have broken through on television, and I feel like I benefited from that. Nobody knew who I was and no one knew the actresses and actors in the show, but Starz was like, “we want the show,” and now we’re here. I don’t know if this is something that gets to stay for a long time. We need to stay and produce more. Everyone hopes. Now I want to see.

MCN:What makes the second season different from the first?
TS: Now we get to tell the story. Season one was an introduction; now we’re in the actual, day-to-day telling of how they’re going to lift this bar and their relationship as sisters.

MCN:Are you working on any other projects?
TS: Yes. I recently started a mini think tank for writers on a new show. It’s an Afro-Latina-themed show called Brujas, about modern-themed witchcraft; not like Harry Potter witchcraft but more the practice of praying. We’re working on it for Starz, so hopefully in a year or so, we’ll be talking about it. empty, and you take it from there.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.