All good things must come to an end and for the cast and crew of Hulu’s original series East Los High, graduation day came in the form of a Season 5 TV movie (now streaming) that brings closure to the story of the faculty and students at an East L.A. high school.
Created by Kathleen Bedoya and Carlos Portugal, East Los High premiered in 2013 on Hulu. Billed as the first English-language show with an all-Latino cast, creators, and writers, the series garnered five Emmy nominations representing a demographic often not wholly represented on television.
The series, which often included storylines about teen pregnancy, HIV, and domestic violence to name a few key issues, quickly found a loyal audience and gave former Barney and Friends child star Danielle Vega a whole new on-camera experience as Ceci, who started off as a high “mean girl” before becoming a teen mom and eventually a positive role model as coach of the school’s Bomb Squad dance troupe.
For Danielle Vega, born in Atlanta but raised in Dallas, East Los High was the culmination of hard work and following her dreams. Fun fact: Danielle is second cousin to singer Ralph Tresvant of New Edition. What follows is a recent conversation with the actress looking back at her time on East Los High.
What were your original expectations when you landed the role on East Los High?
I honestly didn't know what to expect after booking the role of Ceci. I was simply ecstatic that I was officially a working actor in California after moving to L.A. only a year before. I had auditioned for every female character that first season except for Ceci and had given up hope of booking any role in the project until I received a call from Blanca Valdez, the casting director at the time, who informed me of the news. I couldn't believe it! We started filming the following week, so everything happened pretty quickly. It was crazy.
Talk about your experience on the show. How did it differ from other projects you've worked on?
When you're fortunate enough to have worked with the same group of people for so long you really become close. You don't get that on smaller projects because you don't have as much time together. We are a big family, frequently spending time together off set.
The show was a very prominent Latino series, breaking boundaries and not mired in stereotypes. How important was that from your perspective?
Creating a show which portrayed Latinos in realistic roles was extremely important to the writers and creators of the show. They knew the setting needed to be right and it needed to display universal content. One of our consulting partners going into the first season was Planned Parenthood, so a great deal of our topics dealt with sex and consequences. The show is informative, entertaining, and set a trend in television.
What lasting memory do you take away from the series?
Truly every season had its highlighting moments, but definitely one very special memory I will take with me is the day I received a phone call from the executive producers of the show informing me of my Daytime Emmy nomination for season two. The accolades of congratulatory love afterward were quite humbling. I jumped around the house and screamed with joy. East Los gave me the opportunity to shine as Ceci and my work was noticed.
Story By: Jose Martinez