Cerina Vincent – Stuck In The Middle
By: Kelly Kearney
Q) You play Suzy Diaz, mother of seven on Disney channel’s “Stuck in the Middle.” What are some of the similarities between Cerina and Suzy?
Cerina: Like Suzy, I do love children and when I was a kid I always imagined I would have seven kids. So, it’s kind of interesting that I have them but in a different form. I can also be over protective of my family and Suzy can get a little feisty when people are messing with her family and that’s definitely something I can relate to. She’s also emotional and she cries at the drop of a hat at things like commercials and that is something that is definitely me. It’s also where the lines get blurred for me because I wonder if that was always Suzy or did the writers know that that’s sort of who I am, and they threw that in there?
Q) There are not a lot of shows in TV with a large Latin cast. How does it feel to have a hit show that positively reflects Latin families in a time when our leaders are trying to do the opposite?
Cerina: Honestly, it is so meaningful and I am very grateful. I’m actually very proud of the entertainment industry in general and the diversity that’s on television now. I think that we do have a lot of influence, we meaning this industry, have influence over this country, its people and even the world. So, I am grateful to be a part of a show that has a Latino family and shows diversity, but bigger than that I’m happy that the industry as a whole is exploring it. I mean, we need to make some changes. Diversity is important, but I think we are on the right track.
Q) Season Three starts soon and to kick it off you’re doing a double holiday episode! I know the fans are excited about it so can you give us the scoop on what’s in store for the Diaz family this season?
Cerina: Yes! We start Friday, December 8th with a Christmas special called “Stuck at Christmas” and it’s a one-hour special that’s a lot of fun. I always wanted to do a Christmas movie and I’m really grateful I got to do it with “Stuck in the Middle.” It’s the usual big, crazy, family conflict but, of course, with a good family message at the end and all tied up with a lot of love. This season the kids in real life are growing and changing and they’re growing and changing on the show, too. We are exploring lots of different kinds of normal family conflicts and how to resolve them and going to some different and exciting places and locations. It will have all the same really fun Harley (Jenna Ortega) inventions that every episode has, as well as some new characters. Our writers are incredible so it’s been a lot of fun. They’ve done a good job.
Q) In the holiday episode, the Diaz family gets stranded on their way to Abuela’s house and the only way they can get back on the road is to join an “Iron Elf” competition. Explain what an “Iron Elf,” competition is because it sounds incredible!
Cerina: It’s like a big, giant, fun, Christmassy sort of relay race that we find ourselves having to sign up for so that we can get where we need to go. It’s, again, a lot of new characters and a lot of excitement and we come together as a family. Of course, Harley is always leading us into these crazy and wild adventures, but it’s always worth it in the end.
Q) Which of the kids are the most and least like their characters?
Cerina: Oh, wow that’s so good…They’re all so special and unique as people and they’re also all really great actors. I feel like Lewie and Beast (Nicolas [Bechtel] and Malachi [Barton]) are similar to their characters in some ways. Malachi is very athletic and is good at anything physical and he’s kind of like a daredevil kid and that’s like his character. Nicholas he’s like a thirty or forty-year-old man in a smaller body. [laughing] He is super intelligent and witty and quick with his dry sense of humor and I know the writers write for that. I would say Georgie (Kayla [Maisonet]) is a phenomenal actress. They all are, but she is nothing like her character. So, it’s fun to see her transform into Georgie. Jenna is extraordinary and also very different from Harley. Sometimes I feel like these kids are mine. [laughing] It’s a really special job and show for me. Sometimes you work on jobs and you have costars you are just so grateful to work with and other times maybe not so grateful, but this is different and so very special. I get to watch them grow up physically and grow as actors and people. I’m incredibly proud of them and the hard work they do.
Q) The chemistry between the Diaz family members is so enjoyable and relatable. Was that something that came naturally or did it grow over time with the long hours working together?
Cerina: For me, I felt like it came naturally and even the kids became siblings almost instantaneously. There are days where not everybody is getting along and then there are days when everyone is best friends just like a normal family. For me, personally, I instantly felt a bond and a love with all of them.
Q) What is it about this show that makes it so popular with the fans?
Cerina: I always loved watching “The Brady Bunch” and “Family Ties” and just loved all those big family shows. I feel like if you have a big family or even just a couple of siblings, you can relate to the Diaz’s normal everyday family conflict and bonds. I also think if you don’t have a big family, and sadly there are many who don’t, they can look for that in the show. I recently spoke to a mother of a child with Down Syndrome and she told me that her daughter doesn’t have those real-life experiences that other kids have. Not that she is limited, but in some ways she is. Her mother was saying she is experiencing all those kid life things through our show and I thought that was really special. I do think that every episode has a lesson and is meaningful and it circles back to love and connections that we all want, whether we are conscious of it or not. I also think Harley’s character talking to the camera kind of makes kids feel a part of something, like they’re in on a little secret. It gets them involved and I think that was a smart device that the show came up with. Consciously and unconsciously kids want that. They want to feel a part of something.
Q) Now, with Season Three on the way, what has been your favorite Suzy episode?
Cerina: Ooh let me think…We are still shooting Season Three so we aren’t done yet. It’s so hard because I love them all, but if I had to pick one I guess it would be the one from Season Two where Harley and I go to the retirement community to volunteer and wind up having fun instead. Selfishly, that’s my favorite because I have more to do and I love all the comedy and fun bits they wrote for my character. I also love when they give me some tender and connecting moments with the kids. So, that episode was my favorite. I got to do a little bit more since it was a Harley and me episode and I really loved it.
Q) The bulk of your work prior to “Stuck in the Middle” has been thriller/horror films like, Cabin Fever and It Waits. You obviously enjoy working with darker material so what was it about Disney and this show that appealed to you?
Cerina: Well, I wish it was like that where I was choosing roles. But often as a working actor in this business, some of the roles choose us. I’ve done a lot of comedy. I’ve guest starred in a lot of sitcoms and did a lot of half hour pilots that never got picked up and tested for a million things. I was in Not Another Teen Movie. That was my first big role in comedy, but then Cabin Fever was so big that it launched me into this horror genre, which was awesome. The same thing happened with “Power Rangers” and that sort of launched me into the cult fan, comic-con culture world. As an actor, we audition for everything and each role takes us down a different path. When I got Cabin Fever and it came out and shocked the world, it took me down a different path then say the path I took after joining “Power Rangers.” I had been wanting to do more family oriented work and as you get older, you can’t be the damsel in distress forever. So, I wanted to start playing more roles like the lawyer, the mother or the female cop – something that reflected where I was in my life and career. Before this, I couldn’t even get an audition to play a mom. This was my first and after seeing the material I thought, “Oh, this is mine! I want it. I know I can do this.” Nobody knew this sensitive, maternal, nurturing side of me because they’ve only seen me do these other things, but that’s a huge part of who I am and I wanted to explore that. I connected to it at the beginning and after the audition I called my agents and told them I was booking this show.
Q) Like most people in the business, you use social media to interact with your fans. What’s it like getting their instant feedback?
Cerina: I’ve been doing this for twenty years and when I moved to LA and started auditing I didn’t even have a cell phone. I had a pager! So much has changed. I mean back then auditions use to be faxed to a Kinkos and you had to pick them up! It’s totally different now, but I finally decided to embrace social media because for a long time I saw it as a huge waste of time. Instead of being out and creating, we are always looking down at our phones. So, I have a love hate relationship with it. [laughing] But to answer your question, I adore connecting with my fans especially with this show because they’re kids. It makes it special and I’ve met kids in person and at comic-cons and there is this instant response and trust when you play a mom on a show. They will just jump into your arms. It’s really sweet and most of the fans of “Stuck in the Middle” have been sweet warm and wonderful and if they’re not, I can call them out because I’m a mom now, right [laughing]?
Q) Besides “Stuck in the Middle” are there any other projects you are working on that the fans can look out for?
Cerina: I had a Thanksgiving movie that played on the Hallmark channel called The Thanksgiving House. I have a movie that just came out. It’s probably not that interesting for “Stuck in the Middle” fans, but it’s called Broken Memories. It’s about Alzheimer’s and I have a very small part in it. It’s a very special film and if you’ve ever known anyone with Alzheimer’s or known any caretakers of people with that disease, gosh it’s really moving and such a special film. I have a Lifetime movie coming out that’s also not really for kids, but I am working on a book for kids. I can’t say much on it now, but I’m super excited about it.
Q) What would you like to say to all your fans who’ve been a supporter of you and your work?
Cerina: First of all, thank you for supporting “Stuck in the Middle” because without the all of you, the fans, we wouldn’t have a show. It takes all of us to keep this going. It takes the fans loving it and commenting about it and getting excited about to keep Disney saying, “Ok, we’ll keep making it.” Without the fans we don’t have a job and I know that sounds totally cliché, but it is true. So, thank you!