Mentoring is one of the most important experiences a young person can ever have. Which is why veteran playwright and television writer Tanya Saracho is grateful to the I Have A Dream Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that all children have the opportunity to pursue higher education, fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.
Saracho, who identifies as queer, serves as creator, showrunner and executive producer of the critically acclaimed series “Vida,” and is humbled by all of her success.
“It takes one person to nurture and that’s the reason why I am here,” Saracho says at a recent fundraising gala where she was honored. “This organization is incredible. It makes a difference, if you have someone hold your hand through things and encourage you at a formative time, that can truly change their life.”
Saracho has already had an amazing career. She was named Best New Playwright by Chicago Magazine and has had plays produced at New York City’s Primary Stages and 2nd Stage, as well as Victory Gardens Theatre, The Denver Theatre Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Goodman Theater, Steppenwolf Theater, Teatro Vista, Teatro Luna, Fountain Theater, Clubbed Thumb, NEXT Theater and 16th Street Theater.
Saracho’s television credits include “How to Get Away with Murder,” HBO’s gay best friend series “Looking,” “Girls” and “Devious Maids.”
“Vida” returns for a second season May 23 on Starz and will feature all Latina directors, including Saracho, who will make her television directorial debut. As was the case in season one, the series will have a writing staff comprised of all Latinx writers.
Saracho has been thrilled with the reception fans have given the series, which is expanding to 10 episodes in season two.
“When we first started out, we were introducing our characters to the world, and now we can get a bit more in-depth,” she says. “So, now, we have the luxury of a little bit more space, so people can sort of really live in their stories and we can introduce new characters.”
Named one of “TV Scribes to Watch” by Variety in 2018, Saracho was recently awarded the New Voice Award by Final Draft. “Vida” also won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition with the 2019 Impact Award. The series won the Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and will make its season two premiere as an Official Selection of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
Look for the two sisters, Emma and Lynn, to find a way to work together to bring this bar back up from the ashes and have it running again, Saracho says. “It’s hard to make a living owning a bar and when it’s a family-run business it can get even more challenging.”
Non-binary actor Ser Anzoategui, who plays the still-grieving Eddy on the show, is dealing with the after effects of her homophobic attack and is in the hospital.
“Broken ribs, a hip that’s displaced, all beat up and that shakes your spirit, too,” Saracho says. “She is dealing with where is she going to convalesce. She is figuring out what part she plays with this family. Is she part of them? Does she have the right to be there with them? It’s all about negotiating the first part of the season and then accepting them in a specific way.”
Saracho doesn’t believe audiences have accepted seeing more non-binary characters on television.
“I don’t think people understand gender nonconforming, non-binary identities. Ser allowed us to cast them as female. I have not seen much depictions of non-binary people. There are not enough narratives out there.”
Saracho would also love to see more non-binary actors hired too.
“It would be great to see more creators and show runners dare to put non-binary characters and stories onscreen. They exist, people need to look. Hopefully, people will be more inclusive about their storytelling.”
Saracho is ambitious, hard at work for her upcoming project for Starz, “Brujas,” which is about four Afro Latinx witches, that is currently in development.
“I also want to shepherd other projects,” she says. “So like a Native American ‘Vida,’-esque series with a full Native American cast. I am from the border of Texas, I would love proper border narratives that tell a story. I feel like everything there is such an enigma, and unless you are from the area, and know the two-tongue reality, you don’t really understand. I have so many stories I want to tell.”
Saracho is also involved in activism, working with America Ferrara’s immigration organization.
“The world is becoming less tolerant and we must fight back with love.”