He’s a former Obama staffer behind a network show about immigration, yet creator Kal Penn insists his new NBC sitcom isn’t political.
“The show can mean different things to different people but my hope was just to tell funny jokes and write funny characters,” told the Daily News.
But even Penn can’t get around the fact that his new show, ”Sunnyside,” airing Thursday, is set in President Trump’s home borough, and will air on the network where Trump achieved his reality TV fame.
Penn, best known for his three big screen turns as Kumar in the “Harold and Kumar” stoner series, stars as Garrett Modi, a former Queens councilman who has suffered a very public fall from grace thanks to a viral video of drunken and boorish behavior.
Alienated from virtually everyone and with no other job skills, Modi finds himself by helping immigrants in his historically-diverse home district of Sunnyside as they navigate the process of becoming American citizens.
Diana-Maria Riva, who plays Griselda, a Dominican immigrant who survives by holding down countless jobs, said immigration is just a backdrop.
“Does it play notes to the political songs we’re hearing from our president,” she asked, “Yes, but that doesn’t make it a political show. It isn’t just about the plight of the immigrant, it’s about the plight of the human being.”
Riva, a first-generation Dominican, is one of five immigrant actors starring in the show.
Showrunner Matt Murray said presenting immigrants as hard workers striving to make good America is not meant as a political point. But it would not disappoint him if “Sunnyside” does for immigrants what “Will & Grace” and “Modern Family” did for the gay community.
Murray said those shows changed attitudes about gay people “simply by being in people’s living rooms every week and having people think, ‘Oh, I like them.’”
The idea for “Sunnyside” was actually born five years ago when Penn’s manager asked him about his dream project.
By Stuart Miller for NY DAILY NEWS
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