Alma is faced with a dilemma. Alma, a 6-year-old New Yorker, has tickets to a Saturday baseball game with her grandfather. Alma told her uncle that she would help him with a dance recital on Saturday.
“I promised I’d help him. She says, “I made a promise,” and takes a moment to reflect on her choices. “OK, I understand what to do.” She tells her grandfather the good news — a promise is a promise. He tells her, “I understand.” It’s important to keep your promises.”
Alma, the animated PBS Kids series featuring a biracial extended and a Puerto Rican family, is Alma. It premieres this week.
Some of the stars behind Fred Rogers Productions have been there. It was started by Sonia Manzano who played Maria and won 15 Emmys for her work on “Sesame St.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” helped produce the theme song.
“The most important thing is that my kids understand that everyone has a brain, and that they can use their brains to think. Manzano says it’s that simple.
Each 11-minute episode is for children aged 4-6. It aims to help them find their own solutions to problems, express themselves, and appreciate the different perspectives of others.
Alma quietly adds more ingredients to her mom’s mofongo recipe in one episode. It tastes terrible and Alma needs to be honest about it. One is when she defends her artistic vision in a mural. The third is when she tries to cheer up her brother.
“Alma’s Way”, isn’t just set at the Bronx. It’s also grounded there, with authentic-looking homes, multicultural residents and elevated train tracks. Even the city transit authority was asked by the series to allow the use of a similarity of the 6 train (and the announcer’s request “Stand clear from the closing doors please.”).
Ellen Doherty is Fred Rogers Productions’ executive producer and chief creative officer. “I believe that more specificity just leads to greater relatability because the more real, more true characters feel, it is more interesting,” she says.
Manzano, who voices the grandmother, wanted it look like the neighborhood she loved and the people with whom she grew up. Alma’s nose was one of the details she considered.
She says, “I didn’t want to be pompous and turn up. I wanted to be round. I wanted to have an Afro-Puerto Rican vibe in her.” “This is the first time I’ve seen a Hispanic person with an Afro-Puerto Rican vibe.
Summer Rose Castillo (9 years old), the daughter April Hernandez Castillo is her voice. She has acted on TV shows like “Dexter”, “ER” or “Law & Order” as well as the role of “Freedom Writers” in the movie.
Summer Rose won the audition by rapping about her school. Manzano believed she had “swag”. She recorded her vocal parts in a studio her father built at her home. They now live in the Bronx.
It’s difficult to find the right actress. Manzano says that we didn’t want someone too polished, but that we wanted someone who could do the job.” “So she was perfect.”
Summer Rose says that she enjoys drawing, writing and singing. Miranda is one of her greatest dreams. She says, “It’s important for people to see ‘Alma’s Way’ as a mirror and feel like Alma looks exactly like them.”
You will find music everywhere — there is salsa, bomba, plena, and bomba along with other Latin styles like Cuban son, Colombian cumbia, and Colombian cumbia. Miranda and Bill Sherman were given the task of writing the theme song. They came up with a wonderful mix of Latin music, hip hop and rap.
Miranda says Manzano that Miranda can communicate in four words the same amount of time it takes 20 others to do the same thing. “And in the theme tune, you have to like stuff in what the show’s about.”
Alma is often shown watching adults struggle with a problem. For example, Alma may see a mom telling her child that a piece of clothing she bought was too small. Then she applies the advice to her life after thinking about it. She may identify a problem and work through it.
Doherty said that the show was created to assist children transitioning from kindergarten to kindergarten or the first grade.
There are more times in the day that they need to solve problems, and there may not always be an adult around to help them. She says that in those moments, they need to be able to think about what is happening.
Doherty said that she was inspired by two things. First, seeing a commercial for a credit card company that stops time helped Alma to think about her situation. Second, “Fleabag” encouraged Alma to speak candidly to the camera.
The show’s parents are human and can lose keys or accidentally include a favorite toy in the wash, but they always have a hug. Its creator hopes that parents and children will enjoy it together.
“I hope that the show will be like a good novel.” Manzano says that when you finish a book, the characters are still there in your head.” “I hope there are conversations between parent and child.”