TV: Sitcom is a ‘Welcome’ change for Justina Machado

Even if you don’t know Justina Machado by name, you probably recognize her as Vanessa from Six Feet Under or Stephanie from Private Practice. Maybe you recently say her on the The Fosters, the series about the lesbian foster moms or as Pedro Zamora’s sister Milly in the biopic Pedro.

The minute you see her or hear her voice, she will be familiar to you. With her new NBC sitcom “Welcome to The Family,” in which she plays Lisette, the mother of college bound father-to-be Junior, Machado steps fully into the limelight. The series allows her to be funny and show off her funny side for a change, something she enjoys. Justina spoke with me about “Welcome to The Family” in advance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Justina, you are playing Lisette in the new NBC sitcom Welcome to The Family. What was it about that character that made you want to portray her?

I didn’t read the script, I read the sides (condensed script) first. I thought it was amazing. She was funny. It also had to do with her being a well-written character. I like that. It just fit well. I read it and I automatically got it, I understood it. This is the person I want to play. It was just that simple

Lisette isn’t just a mother, she’s also about to become a grandmother, and a young one at that. How are your maternal instincts?

I don’t have maternal instincts. I don’t have any kids [laughs]. I am the oldest of five children. There’s quite an age gap. With one of my brothers there is only a year. But with my sister there is 14 years. I also have twin brothers and there are 17 years between us.

I went to Lane Tech High School (in Chicago). When I was a senior my mother gave birth to the twins. I used to come home after school and relieve my mom so that she could go to work. I waited until my stepdad came home from work and he would take over. I loved it. I’ve always loved taking care of little babies. I don’t have so much patience now that I’m older [laughs]. But I loved it when I was younger.

Do you think Lisette would feel differently about the situation if it was her daughter who was pregnant as opposed to her son being the father?

Wow, that’s a really good question. I would hope that it wouldn’t be any different because, male or female, they’re still 18 years old. You still worry about the rest of their life ahead of them. I’m trying not to put myself in it (the answer) and think of what Lisette would do.

I know how Justina would feel but I’m thinking that Lisette would be for it and would feel the same way, the way she is with Junior. This is what the situation is, this is what you’ve chosen to do, I can’t do anything about that, you’re 18 years old, she’s 18 years old, so what I have to do now is support the both of you. I’m thinking that’s what she would do.

GS: In Welcome to The Family, Lisette comes across as a peace-maker, especially in comparison to her husband Miguel (Ricardo Chavira). Are you the levelheaded peace-maker in your daily life or do you have a temper like Miguel?

It’s funny because the character has grown. She’s a peacemaker but you will also get to see the quirky, crazy side of her, where he has to come in and level her out. She might come in and level out his temper but he has to level out her kookiness. That is something fun that we’ll get to see with them. In real life, I’m both. I have a hot temper but I’m also a peacemaker. I think that from being the oldest in a family, I’m a peacemaker. I think that (my) temper is in check now. It’s not as crazy as it used to be – back in my Chicago days [laughs].

Speaking of Ricardo, he co-starred in Desperate Housewives, a show in which you appeared in a couple of episodes. Was that the first time that you’d met Ricardo or had you worked together prior to that?

Prior, because Ricardo was in the second season of Six Feet Under. He did three episodes. He played Freddy’s (Freddy Rodríguez) cousin, the one that we found having sex with the construction worker. Remember that episode?

Freddy thought that I was having an affair with him and then he walks in on him having an affair with the construction worker [laughs]. I’m sure Ricardo is going to love that I reminded everybody about that [laughs]. So, I had worked with Ricardo. Also, Latin Hollywood is a small world; I would have met him eventually.

I’m glad that you mentioned Six Feet Under, which was a serious show. Welcome to The Family, on the other hand, is more of a modern sitcom. As an actress who has been in sitcoms and in dramatic series, do you have a preference?

I don’t have a preference, as long as it’s good and awesome. I do enjoy doing something lighthearted. I am enjoying that. Because most of my career has been dramatic (work) and I’m enjoying going to work and laughing every day.

Speaking of dramas, you were recently seen on the show The Fosters, which features a pair of lesbian moms raising foster kids. A show such as that has a large viewership within the LGBT community and I was wondering if, as an actress who has appeared in movies, on TV, and on Broadway, if you were aware of a queer fan-base.

When I was doing Six Feet Under, I was very aware. I am super excited and proud of it. One of my brothers is gay. It’s really important for me to do everything for that.

That’s why I did The Fosters. That show is amazing. It’s freaking brilliant and beautiful. Anything for the LGB T community, I’ll do it. I’m also really proud that I have a fan base. What’s a better fan base than gay men, are you kidding me [laughs]? And gay women!