‘Cheer’ nabbed 6 Emmy nods. Coach Monica Aldama says the group text is poppin’

Navarro College cheerleader La'Darius Marshall, left, and coach Monica Aldama in the Emmy-nominated Netflix series "Cheer."

In an impressive showing that could only rival Morgan Simianer’s twists while being catapulted into the air, the Netflix docuseries “Cheer,” which tumbled full force into the zeitgeist, landed six Emmy nominations on Tuesday.

The six-part series, which premiered in January and followed the grit, hardship and triumph of the Navarro College cheerleading team in the small town of Corsicana, Texas, was nominated for outstanding unstructured reality program, as well as for cinematography and directing for a reality program, among others.

The Times spoke with the team’s coach, Monica Aldama, from her Navarro College office about the impressive showing. (The following has been edited for clarity and condensed.)

The 2020 Emmy nominations are being announced Tuesday morning by host Leslie Jones, alongside presenters Laverne Cox, Josh Gad and Tatiana Maslany.

How did you get the news? And please tell me what the group text is like right now. Is Jerry losing it?

I was watching the live feed and once they got done with all the big announcements, I hopped on over to the website and I was looking through each category, trying to figure it out. And every time I saw our name, I was so excited. I counted four, I couldn’t see them all. Then Netflix let me know that we had six. We still have our group chat, the entire team from that year. Everyone’s so excited, and, you know, just kind of blown away. And of course Jerry is getting excited!


With"Cheer” scoring six nominations, how would you say that compares to nationals?

It’s obviously huge because to me, it’s a symbol of an accomplishment that you’ve worked really hard [for]. It definitely compares to Daytona in that manner as far as something that we worked really hard for, so people are recognizing that work that we’ve done, and especially [director Greg Whitley’s] team — they’re really the ones behind all of that hard work. It’s not the same nerves and craziness that you’re feeling in those two minutes hoping that everyone hits their routine. But it’s definitely as thrilling, as far as recognition.

With a little more hindsight, how would you describe the whirlwind of the popularity this show achieved? I feel like it must be like cheerleading, being like flung into the air, and like, hoping you land OK.

You’re absolutely right, it’s like being thrown into the air. We were not prepared at all for the success of the show. I’ve been working on this for a long time, and because it is cheerleading, I didn’t think that there would be a huge audience as far as people outside of the cheer community. So I was just hopeful that our community and the cheer world would watch the show and appreciate it because they understand what we do. So we weren’t ready at all for basically the whole world to watch it. And honestly, I don’t think we even had a moment to catch our breath for several weeks. It just happened so fast and it was just one thing after another.

Docuseries like “The Last Dance” and “Tiger King” are a hit with viewers and critics, but the Primetime Emmys haven’t caught up to the zeitgeist.

The Navarro College team in Netflix's Emmy-nominated docuseries "Cheer."

In what ways did your life change and how vigilant did you have to be in making sure it didn’t change too much?

It did change. I think the good thing — it was good and it was bad — was the fact that it came out when we were about to get ready for competition. It was a push because we weren’t expecting it. We had a lot of PR to do, a lot of interviews and stuff like that, so we were trying to balance our time appropriately so that we didn’t get behind. But we were so focused on what we were working on, once we would go into practice, it felt like everything was just normal, as it’s always been every year. It didn’t feel like we had all these eyes on us and all this pressure on us, from people wanting to know what was going on and what we were doing. Definitely things were a little bit different. We had to have more security around, cover the windows in the gym because people were coming and filming — just some things that we kind of had to get used to. But honestly, the fact that we were pushing ourselves so hard for competition and working a lot of hours, it really kept us in our bubble and kept us grounded and focused.

Did you find that you were extra concerned and protective of what this sudden fame would do to your kids?

Absolutely. We are all in this together. We didn’t know what we [were] getting ourselves into. But there’s been so many blessings from it, especially for the kids with just different opportunities, and I’ve seen their confidence grow. I’ve just seen them blossom. I haven’t really seen a lot of negativity. And thankfully, because I definitely would be pushing back and wrapping my arms around them, protecting them from that.

Netflix’s surge was led by multiple nominations for shows including “Ozark,” “The Crown” and “Hollywood.” HBO’s “Watchmen” was the most-nominated program.

How have you been coping with how this pandemic has upended your world, the sport?

It’s devastating, as far as when it first hit. It canceled our season and so our competition was canceled. And we were just coming off of our spring break practices, which we were doing very well. I felt like we were ahead of where we needed to be. I always give them those last few days off so they can kind of rest before we start back up on that Monday, but those last few days when they were off... is when things kind of took a big turn and the NBA was starting to get canceled. Every day felt very anxious and almost a panic setting in. I could kind of see what was happening. And by that Sunday, our competition had been canceled. It happened that fast. It was very sad, very emotional, because it was such a sudden end and we had planned on having several more weeks of memories to make with each other. And we were suddenly having to tell each other bye.

I know personally for myself, I took that entire week to just to mourn it and be sad and allow myself to be sad. Then I had to pick myself back up and start moving forward and thinking about the future and working on this year’s team. It’s a constant change from week to week and what we’re planning for in the future and then what’s happening. I’m used to knowing everything that’s going on and always having a plan, so I’m trying to allow myself to relax a little bit and not get so uptight about the daily changing. My kids will be back here, the new team, in just a few weeks, and we’re going to plan practices appropriately to properly social distance and put ourselves in smaller little pods, just kind of take it week by week. Our long-term goal is to be able to compete next spring. So we want to make sure that if we have to sacrifice some of the things that we normally do in the fall to make sure we get there in the spring, then we’re willing to do that. We just want to be safe.

For now, how will you celebrate the big day? Will there be a special Zoom session with everyone?

I was just chatting with Andy [Cosferent, assistant cheer coach] about that, so it’s in the works. We don’t really know what we’re doing yet. We didn’t want to jinx anything by planning ahead of time. We were just kind of waiting and seeing how things played out. But we’re definitely going to have some kind of celebration.