As television’s primary (and possibly only) undocumented gay Filipino warehouse worker, Nico Santos of NBC’s Superstore is part a much-needed push for heightened Asian-American representation in Hollywood. However, Santos recently revealed that his character Mateo was never even intended to be Filipino. Or undocumented. Or gay.
“Mateo’s part … was specified as somebody of Latino descent. In the pilot, it was mentioned that he had 13 brothers and sisters and was like this tough family guy,” Santos recently told Vulture. “When I was reading the sides for it, I was just like, ‘I can definitely make this my own.’”
Thankfully for Santos, the producers of the show appreciated his “uptight, supercompetitive, shady” take on the character and decided to adapt Mateo to Santos’s orientation and ethnicity.
“They were like, ‘Your last name’s Santos, you’re not Latino? And I [had] to tell them a mini-history lesson of Spanish colonialism and why we all look Chinese but have Spanish last names,” he said.
(Side-note: There should be more stories like this, where Hollywood changes a character from straight to queer, instead of the 0ther way around.)
(Side-note #2: In what decade did this audition take place? How had these producers never met a Filipino person before?)
Anyway, the producers have since worked with Santos to create a comedic, poignant portrayal of an undocumented worker, which Santos said is “brilliant.”
“Everybody who’s Filipino who lives in this country directly knows somebody who is undocumented,” he said.
Apparently that includes Santos, who said that some of his own family members had entered the country as undocumented immigrants — including his “crazy” mom, who once went with him on a gay cruise.
“She was the most popular person in that boat,” he explained. “Because she was just literally going up to guys asking them what their jobs were, if they were like lawyers or doctors, because she wants me to be a doctor’s wife, and be like, ‘My son is very single.’ My mom is definitely crazy.”
Santos also provided a hilarious description of his first stab at dramatic acting, which honestly makes us want to take it up as a substitute for therapy:
“You have to be in so many takes,” he said. “So it was like crying, crying, crying, comedy, cut, crying, crying, crying, comedy, cut, go back to one.”
Anyway, the interview is here if you want to read about Santos’s experience of having to say a stupid, homophobic joke on 2 Broke Girls in order to keep his job. (P.S. What a shocker that a show which argued that “non-American accents are inherently funny” is not very socially progressive. Unfortunate, considering one of the show’s creators is the openly gay, Michael Patrick King.)