The Party of Five reboot is here and it follows the five Acosta children as they navigate daily life struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are deported back to Mexico.
The new iteration of the series stars Brandon Larracuente as Emilio Acosta, an aspiring musician and the eldest son of Gloria and Javier Acosta.
Emilio crossed the Mexican border into the United States nearly 25 years ago with his parents in hopes of a better life.
Although Emilio is the oldest, he’s the least responsible of the siblings and had been enjoying living away from home and all the freedom that came with it — until his parents were deported and he quickly had to act as the head of the household.
This version of Party of Five is still a story of a young family bound by adversity but retold through the lens of current-day themes and cultural conversations in the United States.
Global News spoke to Larracuente about his character Emilio, the potential pressure in shooting a reboot, the contrast between his experiences on Party of Five and 13 Reasons Why, in which he played Jeff Atkins, and much more.
Global News: Can you tell me a bit about Emilio?
Brandon Larracuente: I play Emilio Acosta and he’s the eldest sibling out of the five. Prior to meeting him in the pilot, he’s a musician, an aspiring musician who has moved out of the house a couple years before to pursue his dreams because he had a big falling out with his father. His father really didn’t support his dreams of being a musician. He wanted him to work at the restaurant and to get a real job. That caused a big rift between the relationship, which is why when we first meet him, he’s not living at home. Then what happens is in the pilot, because of their sudden deportation, now he’s forced — despite him really wanting to — become the sole caretaker of the family.
Did you feel a lot of pressure with this role considering this show is a reboot?
No, because I know it’s the same title and same creators, but really, for the most part, it’s a completely different story. I think what really took some of the pressure off was the fact that I never went back to watch the original. I just wanted to bring something new and fresh into this without trying to replicate something that was already done so well many years ago.
Episode 1 is really emotional when your parents get taken from the restaurant by the police and Valentina calls all of the siblings. Do you feel the reboot speaks to the climate in the United States right now?
I think it does. Amy and Chris and the rest of the writers, they were constantly getting storylines from the headlines. They were pulling them straight from the headlines every single day. We were all trying to keep up to date with what was going on in today’s political climate as storylines came to us. I think it does a really fine job at humanizing an immigration issue that many people really aren’t aware of and just don’t want to talk about.
Your character has to step up for your family while your parents are not around. Have you ever had any real-life situations where you’ve had to step up like that or felt a lot of pressure to take responsibility?
I mean, considering I’m the youngest out of my two other siblings, being the oldest was a bit of a stretch for me. I do think that Emilio and I are very similar. He’s not afraid to step into that leadership role and he wants to take that whatever problems he has by the reins and attack it head on. I think that’s where he and I are very similar. But as far as the personal things that have happened to me, I think that his struggles are very different from mine. I think that’s where you’re building the character and trying to relate to him as much as possible and that comes into play here.
What drew you to Party of Five?
For me, it was the script. When I read the pilot, that’s what really, really drew me. I must’ve read the pilot about four or five times before I even went into the first audition because I was just so enthralled by the writing and the purpose behind this project.
Do you have a background in music? You’re really good at singing in the show.
Thank you, I do not have a background in music. Well, that’s kind of a lie. My first ever on-stage performance was theatre and it was this play called Carmen in New Rochelle, New York. I had done musical theatre for one year in high school but it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue as a career in the music route. But I have sung onstage before and prior to the show I usually just I kept it in the shower (laughing).
Was it nerve racking to have to take on the role of a musician?
Absolutely, I think taking on this role, not only the singing aspect but also the guitar aspect and having to learn how to play guitar, it really challenged me not only as an actor but as a human being. I was able to finally comprehend how much work goes into a musician’s life. It pushed me to be better and I wasn’t really aware of how much I could handle until I was forced to kind of do the whole acting, singing and guitar route. It really challenged me and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
How was the atmosphere on set? On-screen it really plays off like the cast is extremely close.
We really clicked from the first time that we stepped into the testing room and we had a mix and match and we all will put it together. Since that day, it clicked and we’ve been building on that wonderful relationship ever since then. It’s very lax on set and we never get too serious and when it’s time to get to work we quit joking around. For the most part, we’re always just trying to find ways to have fun and pass the time during the long hours on set. Whether it’s grabbing dinner on the weekends or just engaging in a group chat, constantly sending each other articles regarding what’s happening around our political climate nowadays and just trying to stay informed. And like you said, I think that translates really well on screen.
How does your experience from Party of Five contrast with your experience on 13 Reasons Why?
They’re very similar, but also very different in many ways. They’re both two projects that tackle serious issues that people don’t really want to talk about. They create conversation, which I think is wonderful. Being able to take part in two projects that are so meaningful and have a huge impact is special. It’s just as meaningful for the crew members and cast members who are part of it and everyone is equally excited to be a part of something so special and so groundbreaking. It kind of makes the job that much more enticing and I’m really, really happy and proud to show up to work every single day for both projects. I got really lucky because that’s not always the case.
What do you hope viewers take away from Party of Five?
I hope that no matter who watches, they leave learning something and they leave empowered. Pary of Five does have some political aspects to it regarding the whole immigration process and deportation but really, the show’s about family. I think that that’s something that anybody who watches, no matter what political side you stand on, can definitely relate to.
What’s next for you in 2020?
I’m kind of weight my options right now. I really want to get into directing this year. I have a short that my fiancée and I have written together. I’m going to direct that sometime this year, depending on our schedules. We have a project in the works for a New York Times bestseller that we’re trying to develop. We also have an original that we are developing and we just hired a writer for that. I’m going to kind of dabble in everything, not just acting. I want to be three dimensional and not just one dimensional.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)