by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
In October 2015, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” premiered on The CW.
The musical comedy follows the adventures of a young lawyer who ditches her high-anxiety life in New York, and moves to her hometown West Covina, where she tries to chase down her Filipino ex-boyfriend.
The show features a Filipino family played by Filipino actors — including Vincent Rodriguez III, who plays the male lead Josh, and Tess Paras, who plays his little sister.
“In terms of the entertainment industry, it’s very significant. I think we both know how big of a deal it is. It’s something you’ve been pioneering for, I have in my own way,” said Rodriguez III.
“I think in our careers, as actors, we’re always hoping to play roles that are Filipino, and getting picked with the real Filipino cultural experience,” said Paras. “So to be part of the first Filipino family, and to put that on television, I think that’s a real benchmark.
For the Bay Area raised Rodriguez, the chance at a showbiz life was inspired by a groundbreaking Disney film adaptation of Cinderella — that included a Filipino Prince Charming.
“My first experience of that was Paulo Montalban as Prince Christopher in Cinderella, opposite Brandy,” Rodriguez shared. “And of course, years later, I make my New York debut in a musical and who comes? Paulo Montalban. Gives me a hug and says, you were great brother… so it’s like full circle for me.”
The actor has never looked back, eventually sharing the screen with Paras — who has also been blazing her own path in Filipino American television history, playing an Aswang character on the show ‘Grimm.’
“As Asian Americans, to be in front of the camera or on stage, or to just keep working at our art… that’s something, as kids, it lit a fire under me,” Paras shared. “I’m going to be a part of this and make sure this grows, and make sure that television is really reflective of what life really looks like.”
The show has a strong Asian presence, taking place in heavily Filipino California suburb, West Covina — and even tapping none other than legendary Broadway actress and singer Lea Salonga to play a cameo role, as Vince and Tess’s aunt in a wedding episode.
“All the characters are very flushed out, and you understand where they’re coming from,” said Rodriguez. “We have this authenticity, and Rachel Bloom brings to this world…. really they’re just accurately trying to depict America and shy away from this stereotypes you see on television all the time.
The musical-comedy recently celebrated its one year anniversary and the launch of its second season last October, at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture in Los Angeles.
It show renewed for a third season earlier this year.
“This is a huge deal, and I’m honored to be here,” said Rodriguez at a show’s event. “I am Filipino, grew up in Daly City, California, 94015!
“I’m so proud to be part of the first Filipino family on television,” said Tess.
For Rodriguez and Paras, while they shine bright on the CW, they have one goal as they keep running with their runaway television hit.
They’ll do their best to make sure they’re not the last.