There’s something comforting about a bar where everyone knows your name. It’s why we are drawn to TV shows about local watering holes time and time again. And since we can’t realistically spend all our time bonding over beers at the local pub, thankfully there are TV shows where barstool banter can soothe our souls and provide much needed laughter and lightness. It’s why we loved Cheers for so many years, and why shows like How I Met Your Mother and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia kept us entertained for so long. And now it’s time to pull up a chair at the new bar in town: Abby’s.
The new NBC sitcom, starring Latina breakout star Natalie Morales as the titular Abby, is a must-see for anyone looking to laugh in the company of a diverse group of bar patrons, most notably the charming but tough bartender herself. Just as enjoying your time at an actual bar is dependent not only on the drinks you’re consuming but perhaps more importantly on the people you’re surrounded by, spending time at Abby’s depends heavily on the company, and the company at this bar is everything you would hope for.
The multi-layered and incredibly appealing personalities of the bar patrons start right at the top, with Abby herself. Abby is an ex-marine, who after serving two tours as a staff sergeant in the Marines comes back to San Diego and finds her true calling as a bar owner. According to a review by Variety, Abby is “spiky, wary, and fiercely protective of the space she’s created. Abby is also a bisexual, Cuban-American Army veteran, all of which the show divulges casually in conversation as would be the case in real life.” Talk about a modern upgrade from the extremely white cast of Cheers, a show that ended 26 years ago.
And Abby’s friends and customers are equally intriguing. They are funny, weird, witty, cynical, cranky but above all they are endearing and complicated in very real ways. They are exactly what you would want to be surrounded by at your neighborhood bar… though this is not exactly your run-of-the-mill drinking establishment.
This bar is different from the bars you often see on television most notably because it’s not a legal bar at all. Abby’s is less of a legal bar and more of an informal watering hole set up outside Abby’s home in San Diego. The show takes place in her backyard (thank goodness for the reliably gorgeous LA weather), but to complicate matters this yard doesn’t actually belong to Abby, but to her landlord who recently inherited the property after his aunt passed away. Clearly hi-jinx and conflict will ensue, as they should with any good sitcom that has loveably characters and true staying power. The sitcom’s formula might be somewhat predicable and the tried-and-true premise of a neighborhood bar bringing people together isn’t groundbreaking. But the star serving the booze is changing the game for broadcast TV sitcoms and is putting a Latina, queer actress and character front and center — exactly where she should be.
Here are 5 things you didn’t know about Abby’s Natalie Morales. You can tune in to Abby’s on Thursdays at 9:30pm / 8:30pm C on NBC. Episodes are also streaming online now.
This is Natalie Morales’ First Leading Role in a Broadcast Series
While Morales has appearing in other television roles before (she has had roles in BoJack Horseman, Grinder, Girls and Parks and Recreation), this is her first starring role in a broadcast series. And if you think about the even bigger picture, she is the first Cuban-American actor to anchor a broadcast network comedy since Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy. Leading up to this role, Morales recalls that she struggled to find quality roles in Hollywood. Latina women were always misrepresented or underrepresented in media, and it was hard to break into the industry as a Latina who didn’t necessarily fit the stereotype. “I was not really getting anywhere because I don’t really fit into the mold of what I had seen as a stereotypical Latina character on television. It was always one of three characters, or a combination of the three. It was always a maid, or a sexy seductress, or the Nuyorican/chola girl, right? So I wasn’t really getting very far,” she said in an interview with NPR. Finally, she decided to just be herself and she found roles that appreciated her for her talent and her Latina roots, and that allowed her to be all sorts of people, not someone limited by the stereotypes.
She is Proudly Bisexual and Penned an Honest Coming Out Letter
Natalie Morales is admittedly a private person. She prefers her privacy over fame and she likes to stay out of the spotlight when she is not acting or filmmaking. After a lifetime of denying her true self and her feelings towards men and women (and a very passionate but secret relationship with a girl during her teen years), Natalie recently came out to the public by penning a very open, honest and inspiring essay. In it she shares her stories, from her childhood to her more recent experiences. “I’ve been in relationships with all sorts of beautiful, amazing, inspiring human beings. I have been lucky to stand by them and to learn from them. Many of them have helped me open up to myself and to the world. A special few have given me true freedom to learn about myself and express myself without feeling judged and without the fear of losing them,” she said. She explains that she is not attracted to a specific gender, but to people, and that if you need to label her (though she prefers not to be labeled) she is queer. “What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight. That’s all. It’s not scary, even though that word used to be really, really scary to me.” She shared this truth, despite how much she values her privacy, to remind people all over the world that the familiar face they know and love on TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, and to empower people to celebrate who they really are.
Her Sexuality Does Not Define Her
While being a bisexual was certainly a big announcement for Morales, and her coming out essay was something she put a lot of thought into, her sexuality does not define her. And her character on Abby’s is also not defined by her sexuality. Abby is also a bisexual, but she slips that fact into conversation casually, as you might talk about it with a friend at a bar. It’s a huge deal that a lead character on a television sitcom is a proud bisexual (and a Latina!) but it’s an even bigger deal that this fact is not the main plot point or even a focus in any given storyline. It’s simply a part of the completed character that Abby is — it’s a part of her, but it’s not all of her.
She is A Vegetarian
These days it’s not such a huge deal or a shocking life choice for someone to be a vegetarian. But as a Cuban girl born and raised in Miami, Florida, deciding to be a vegetarian was a big deal to Natalie’s family. “My whole family was like, “What are you going to eat at Christmas?” All we do is eat,” she explained in an interview for Bon Appetit. “No one disowned me, but they just didn’t understand at all.” It wasn’t until she was living and working in Hollywood that Morales started to really think about what she wanted to put in her body, and she decided to stop eating meat. Giving up pork was, not surprisingly, the hardest change, given the fact that pork is a staple in Cuban cuisine and her Cuban household growing up.
The Part of Abby Was Made for Her
Morales is the first Cuban-American actress to lead a TV series, and the part reflects both her Cuban background as well as her identity as a bisexual woman. While she had to audition for the part, and it was not specifically noted that Abby was a Latina queer woman in the description, Morales recalls that the role also wasn’t desired as a “white person.” But after auditioning the show’s creator admitted that he wrote the role with her in mind. Since landing the role, Morales works with the show’s creators to evolve her character and her dialogue to represent her background and personality. “He doesn’t necessarily know what it’s like to be a Cuban woman — so my input was beneficial in that scenario,” she explained in a Vulture interview.