If you are familiar with the fictitious name “Noa Hamilton” then you may be one of millions who watched The Baker and the Beauty, the romantic-comedy series that debuted on the ABC Network this past April. It was a bold move to introduce a new show to viewers during the height of COVID-19, where it was competing against an oversaturation of pandemic news coverage.
However, fans can argue it premiered at a time when we needed it most. I celebrated a milestone birthday by quarantining in the company of the fictitious Garcia family. Since their arrival on screen, the hard-working, fun loving Cuban clan has filled living rooms with vivacious energy that did not disappoint. Last week’s announcement of The Baker and The Beauty’s cancellation hit audiences who connected with the series especially hard, and was the topic of my conversation with Nathalie Kelley, who plays the leading role of Noa Hamilton on the show.
The network’s decision not to renew due to low ratings has prompted a Change.org petition to renew the show or have it picked up by another network. I signed this petition at 600 signatures; the numbers keep rising in hundreds of thousands, people asking for it to return for a sophomore season. Is there power in numbers? We certainly hope so, as Kelley expressed during our chat: “Shows like, The Baker and the Beauty are necessary because if you don’t see yourself on screen — you become ignored.”
And The Baker and the Beauty was a show that made its audience feel seen. This exceptionally charming tale of family and love intoxicated me from its first episode in May, when I wrote about the Latin explosion. It was clear this gem was different from anything we were seeing on primetime television. The Latino characters are not drug traffickers, maids, or sexy temptresses. The ensemble cast depicts the picture of a family that looks like yours and mine. The Baker and the Beauty is a representation of the people in the middle, working dreamers that live across the US today.
In it’s brief time on air, the romantic comedy quickly created a buzz — but not necessarily due to a strong marketing push, as the network neglected to use its huge engine to promote visibility. Instead, several cast members utilized their platforms to engage with fans, particularly Nathalie Kelley and co-star Lisa Vidal. You just need to scroll their Instagram feeds to see how vested each are in their audience. Engagement creates connection and viewers have been feeling it, especially now, as ABC announces the show’s cancelation.
Nathalie’s down-to-earth, sweet, and warm personality shined through our Zoom call. Her genuine responses were delivered with unrivaled passion and sincerity. While sitting there speaking with the actress, I realized we were both extremely disappointed not to be given a chance to see how the story unravels. Fans may never see what transpires after the cliffhanger of its final episode.
The show seems to have a committed fanbase that was rooting for you. Why was the show canceled?
The ABC Creative Team has been greatly supportive but the numbers were just not there; they decided to cancel. Networks want high ratings which we did not demonstrate in the short period we were on air. The show averages a couple million viewers but we have an average of 60 million Latinos in the US. We make noise about wanting representation in film and television. I ask myself, where are our Latinos tuning in? Why didn’t we have a larger group of us watching this show that displays a beautiful story of our culture?
I’m so proud we’ve received incredible support from so many fans and actors from the community. Eva Longoria, Zoe Saldana, and Ana Brenda Contreras have been so vocal about their support. So many are raising a hand to spread the message by signing the petition for renewal or finding another home. I cannot understand why we could not see more of my Latinos watching this beautiful story.
You were born in Lima, Peru to a Peruvian mother and Argentinian father, migrating to Sydney, Australia at 2 years old. Australian nationality with South American heritage. You seem to identify with both cultures. What valuable lesson(s) have you learned about playing both a Latino and American character?
It has been a journey to understand the privilege it is to have the option to pick and choose when to play a white girl or Latina. My soul and blood is Latina; showing up for my community in any way is a priority. I’m using the ability to switch my on screen identity as an opportunity to raise awareness. There is a wide range of how beautiful we all are, diverse histories, cultures, and we should celebrate all of those sides. I want to make a call to speak out against racism of any kind. Latino writers, directors, producers it is important for you to tell all our stories.
The show revolves around a Latino working family. The Garcias came from Cuba, raised three children, and grew a small business, a bakery in South Florida. The show’s storyline portrays a normal cast of characters sharing everyday struggles similar to mine. I can relate but why do you feel this show is important, not only to the Latino community but all minorities?
The show depicts the best of our culture. We are funny, passionate, lively, supportive, and loving. This is who we want to embrace, the good in people. We have some of the greatest human nature has to offer. It is important to see ourselves on screen to help promote compassion and empathy. Whether we know it or not, telling these stories is significant. We need all types of shows to encourage different perspectives. Minorities are underrepresented in many aspects of society. The time has come to shine a spotlight on all cultures, not just on the stories of a few.
What is your hope for the future of diversity in film and television, as it relates to the Latino community? What would you like to see improve?
I’d like to see more variety in the storylines about who we are, including casting more Latinas from every corner of the world — indigenous, Afro-Latina, showing all our beauty. The entertainment community has to make a universal effort to display true diversity.
Is there a quote or mantra you would like to share with BELatina to describe how you feel about the importance of keeping The Baker and the Beauty on air?
The two things in life you can’t have enough of — and that best defines our community — is love and laughter. The Baker and the Beauty is about the love and laughter during the good and tough times life throws at all of us. It is a picture of our resilience. There is something that appeals to everyone.
I could not have asked for a better interview or words to end this inspiring chat with Nathalie Kelley. She demonstrates the emotion and forceful determination our Latino community requires, in order to help us push past the stereotypes we’re used to seeing on our television screens each day. Let’s celebrate love and laughter. Help keep shows like The Baker and the Beauty alive by signing the petition!