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Cisco's Journal:

A personal
perspective on the
Gonzalez family.

An Interview with Edward James Olmos

“Jess, to me, is a cross between Archie Bunker and Zorba the Greek.”
– Mr. Olmos on his character

Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos

Tell us about your character, Jess.
Jess, to me, is a cross between Archie Bunker and Zorba the Greek. He’s a fun-loving guy who’s very conservative. Of course, his family is ultra-liberal, so he’s constantly at his wit's end with all of [the other members of the family], and especially Nina, one of his daughters. It makes for a wonderful comedy, and at the same time, it makes for more provocative stuff when they get into problems.

What do you like about Jess?
The things I like about him are really fundamental. He’s fun-loving. He has a great robustness to his life. He’s bigger than life. Yet he has a great sense of balance when he gets down to the really difficult issues. The show itself is really – it’s so nice to do this kind of a program. I think that the closest thing I’ve ever done to it is a piece called “Mi Familia,” my family, which was a very, very wonderful piece of work done by – the same creator of this created and wrote and directed that piece too. So it’s got that same – those same values in it, which are very, very wonderful to work with.

How do you approach playing this character?
Basically, I think that there are some characters that you can just allow the truth of your character as a human being in your real life to come through. Spencer Tracey used to use that. John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda. They were themselves playing the different characters that they played. They had the feelings. Tom Hanks uses it a lot. Once in a while he’ll do a character, but basically, he's himself. It's pretty much the same way for me. I’m dealing with my own sense of values here and I use my own sense of emotions.

What do you think a viewer will take from this program?
I think someone seeing the show will take away a sense of family values. They’re seeing it through the eyes of a Latino family in the United States. It’s wonderful. It’s very simple, but very direct. The Gonzalezes are wholesome people. I don’t think there’s a malicious moment in any of the scripts. There’s no car crashes. There’s no drugs. There’s no violence per se. It’s drama, human values in drama, comedy. It makes for fun, thought provoking moments. I like it, personally.

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