'One Day at a Time's' Justina Machado kept pushing forward until a lead role finally came her way

The "One Day at a Time" star remembers "Love Hurts."

Justina Machado thought it wasn't going to happen. Landing a lead role in a TV show about a Latino family was like asking for two TV unicorns to magically present themselves. And when those unicorns showed up — back in the late '90s when Machado was cast as the lead in the comedy pilot "I Love Lupe" — they vanished as quickly as they appeared.

When "I Love Lupe" wasn't picked up, Machado said one of the reasons she heard from industry brass was, "They didn't think America was ready for a Latino family."


"I was so young back then, it was kind of a shocking thing to hear," Machado said when she stopped by The Times' video studio. "I just had to keep hustling. It's amazing that it's taken this long to have another lead role. I almost thought it wasn't going to happen. I have to be real honest… I always knew I'd be a working actress. But I started to believe that that wouldn't happen."

But it did.

Machado landed her first leading TV series role as a single mom and military vet on Netflix's critically acclaimed reboot of Norman Lear's "One Day at a Time." The re-imagined series centers on a Cuban American family living in Echo Park.

Machado, until now best known for her role on "Six Feet Under," said she was confident the show's Latino family spin would resonate because of Lear's involvement.

"This was a story that was universal," she said. "We weren't the butt of every joke. Our ethnicity wasn't what drives the show. It was this wonderful story about this family that is a loving family dealing with stuff that people deal with."

For more on our chat with Machado, watch the full interview below.

When her first pilot as a lead wasn't picked up, she was told America wasn't ready for a Latino family on TV. Things have changed. "It's about time," she says.

Twitter: @villarrealy