We first meet ELAINE as a happy and quirky 9-year-old Nuyorican girl who lives with her Mom, Dad, and three half-siblings in the welfare projects of Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY. Her best friends are her disabled Aunt Elizabeth and her father, Manny, a salsa-loving singer/musician. Elaine idolizes her father...until she realizes his secret drug addiction, which will lead her to grow up without him. As a teenager, Elaine will be forced to visit her rehabilitated father in Puerto Rico, where she will have to face her unresolved feelings for him.
Isabella Velasquez is a 10-year-old actress, singer, and songwriter from Miami Beach, Florida. Isabella is the winner of Univision’s Pequeños Gigantes USA and was among the ten final singers in Televisa’s Pequeños Gigantes 2020 (production halted due to Covid). Isabella is a Phil Collins' Little Dreams Foundation music scholar. She has performed at the Miami Beach Music Festival, Main Stage at North Beach Bandshell, Miami Children's Theater, and the Miami City Ballet. Her roles include Young Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty, Little Fiona in Shrek, Jr., and Angel and Soldier in The Nutcracker. When Isabella is not performing, she is a 4th-grade honor student, spelling-bee champion, award-winning swimmer, and big sister.
Elizabeth (20s-30s Latina) Born normal but diagnosed with Cerebral Hypoxia at a young age with extreme asthma, Elizabeth often requires care. She remains childlike and innocent in nature. Her mental age will never surpass 8. Elizabeth is Elaine’s Aunt and childhood best friend. They have played together their entire lives. Elizabeth spends her time in front of the TV and loves examining/memorizing the TV Guide. She watches daytime soap operas and game shows. She and Elaine have been best friends forever, but as Elaine grows out of her innocence and past Elizabeth’s mental age, Elizabeth will feel like a burden. Elizabeth would do anything for Elaine and in her simplicity is able to make Elaine realize things that no one else can.
Elaine’s big sister and the oldest of Carmen’s four kids, While Ana is not Manny’s biological daughter, he is the only father that she has ever know. Ana is not only the smartest girl in her family, but she is also the smartest in her entire school district. She was the valedictorian of both her Elementary School and Junior High School. At fourteen, with her working papers in hand, Ana becomes gainfully employed, and leads the charge for her family to work toward a better life—without short cuts. Ana serves as both an inspiration, and a tough act to follow to her little sister Elaine. She thinks she knows it all.
Maria Isabel is 15 years-old (going on 30) and born and bred in Puerto Rico. She is Elaine's older cousin and a wild child. She steals cars, smokes and is obsessed with her boyfriend Pedro. But Pedro's pregnant girlfriend is not too happy about it. Maria Isabel only speaks Spanish, except when she is singing English language pop songs.
Manny (30s) has a heart of gold. He is originally from Puerto Rico. He arrived in New York City (ten years ago) to pursue a career in Salsa music, but instead, he fell in love with Carmen--a single mother of three. Manny assumed the loving dad role to Carmen's three kids (abandoned by their biological father) before having one of his own--the apple of his eye, Elaine. Manny works hard as a school janitor by day and still performs Salsa at his impromptu outdoor music jams (Rumbas). Manny is hiding his growing drug addiction and will leave his family search of recovery in Puerto Rico. Three years later, a rehabilitated and pious Manny will be pressed to make up for lost time with his daughter...But Manny will be hiding something that he can never recover from--His AIDS.
Gil Perez-Abraham is a Latinx American actor born in Baltimore, Maryland. His family later moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he attended the University of Kansas, studying Political Science and Theatre. Gil moved to NYC on a full scholarship at the William Esper Acting Studio. Gil worked as a janitor at the school as part of his work-study exchange. Gil was cast to star in the Off-Broadway premiere of Pulitzer prize-winning Martyna Majok's three-person-play, Sanctuary City. Throughout most of the pandemic, Gil has been in London, filming his latest role as as a NYC cop in Matt Reeve’s The Batman.
Still a looker in her late 40's, Puerto Rican Abuela is a mentally abusive mother of 11 adult children (including Carmen and Elizabeth) and subsequent grandmother of 27 (including Elaine). While Abuela has a couple of favorite grandchildren, those only serve as a stark contrast to the others she constantly disparages including Elaine. Abuela lives in the same housing project as her daughter Carmen and so her mental abusive, and passive-aggression is unavoidable. Abuela is in her second marriage but is also having an illicit affair with a married man that owns a neighborhood bodega. All, but one, of her eleven children left her house before age 18…the one child left is Elizabeth who was born disabled. Abuela has always taken special care of her “Ellie”, realizing that she will have to do so for the rest of her life. Elizabeth may be the one humanizing factor in Abuela’s actions.
Elaine’s big brother. As Carmen’s third born he is closest in age to Elaine, Though he is not Manny’s biological son, Manny is the only father that Danny has ever known. Manny taught him a deep passion and love of baseball. Danny has the nice gene...which his Mom often mistakes for the possibility of him being gay...which she is lovingly accepting of.“...but I’m not gay!” Danny is not gay. He is mild mannered , soft spoken and empathic— which is in stark contrast to his older, much tougher brother, Ben. Danny gets along with everyone, and though girls like him, most of his love interests are Ben’s exes… who Danny empathetically consoles after Ben has broken their hearts.
Abuelita is Elaine's paternal grandmother in Puerto Rico. She loves Manny and Elaine more than anything. She thinks her son can do no wrong and blames Carmen for Manny's past drug problem. Abuelita is a pentecostal church-goer. Although she seems very sweet, she does have her fierce side.
Elaine's Mom. 31 to 35 years old, Hispanic female. As fertile as they come—The Puerto Rican Erin Brockovich meets Dr. Ruth. No Spanish accent please, Nuyorican accent preferred. Despite having been raised by a cruel mother herself, Carmen is a loving and fiercely protective mother of four. She never graduated high school, and has lived on welfare since her first husband abandoned her with their three children. She met Manny soon after that and gave birth to her fourth child, Elaine. After discovering Manny's secret drug habit, Carmen must let him go. Left to fend for herself and her young family, Carmen must find a way to raise her kids and keep her faith. Carmen is loving, superstitious, believes in miracles and aliens, funny, avoids conflict and loves to give advice.
Karina Ortiz is an award nominated Dominican American actress born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Her family relocated to Washington Heights when she was 5 years old to accommodate better healthcare provisions for her special needs brother and a wider array of opportunities. It was at college where she was finally able to pursue acting and received her BA in Theatre from The City College of NY. She performed on Off-Broadway stages in NY and around the country as the leading role, Angelita in "Platanos and Collard Greens." Soon after, she booked her first co-star role playing Mercedes, the sister of Dr. Ruben Marcado (Lin-Manuel Miranda) in NBC's "Do No Harm." Credits include "Blue Bloods", "Royal Pains," "Turn: Washington's Spies" and more. She is known for her recurring role as Margarita on "Orange Is The New Black," and her role playing Lupita in Nat Geo's "The Long Road Home" garnered her a 2018 Imagen Awards nomination.
Elaine's oldest brother. Ben is “Rough Around The Edges” in comparison to his other siblings. While Ben is not Manny’s biological son, Manny is the only father that he has ever known. Manny taught him a love of baseball and all things sports that will stay with him forever. Ben is a talented athlete thanks to Manny’s coaching and guidance, but when Manny leaves Ben will task himself as the “protector” of his family. He grows to be 6’4 and tough—even in the rough arena of his Brownsville Brooklyn NY projects. He is feared by many, but also one of the funniest people you could ever meet. If he studied the craft of stand-up comedy, Ben may have been the next Eddie Murphy— but Ben doesn’t study. As a teen, Ben will make money by buying stolen goods from the neighborhood crack addicts. With his earnings he is able to buy a car, big jewelry, the flyest clothes and DJ equipment. Another of his purchases is an Uzi machine gun— to ensure his family’s safety. Though he teases his siblings constantly and can be mean, Ben is fiercely protective of his family.
Goji is Manny's supplier. He is sly and dangerous. Goji has worked the streets since he was a kid. He did some time at Ryker's Island prison and came out even more determined to run his Brownsville streets. Goji will offer Elaine money in exchange for hiding his guns.