Exclusive: Why we should watch the groundbreaking multi-cultural series, Casa Grande

Madison Lawlor as Hassie Clarkman and John Pyper-Ferguson as Sawyer Clarkman standing outside having a heartfelt conversation in the Paramount+ series, Casa Grande.
Madison Lawlor and John Pyper-Ferguson in the series, Casa Grande .Pic credit: Barbara Kinney

The new groundbreaking series Casa Grande, now streaming on Freebee, is attracting attention because this drama about five families seeking the American Dream is not only multi-cultural and bilingual, but it also features stellar acting.

The hour-long serial narrative drama follows an ensemble cast through the intertwining lives of various families in the farmland of Northern California.

It is multicultural and done in both English and Spanish. There are five episodes in the first season.

This is an upstairs/downstairs story transposed from turn-of-the-century English countryside to rural America.

The series uses the framework of conventional character drama to explore universal themes of class, immigration, culture, and family.

Casa Grande’s narrative examines the compelling, everyday realities and conflicts between California’s overworked and underpaid farmworkers and the wealthier families who own the Farms and reap the profits, asking the question “What will mankind endure for a taste of the American Dream?” 

Read on for more about what the ensemble cast thinks of Casa Grande and why they believe viewers will find this multicultural show irresistible.

Monsters and Critics: James, why did you want to be part of this amazing show? I mean I really loved it.

James Marsters: One of my favorite albums is a Bruce Springsteen album called The Ghost of Tom Joad. And it’s all about drawing a connection between The Grapes of Wrath, which was a migration out of Oklahoma in the 30s to California, and that connection between the migration that’s happening from the south right now, the Latina community coming into California and the Western states. 

The harshness of the journey that it takes to get to California and having gotten to California how hard it is to… the struggle to create a life I just thought it was genius to take an upstairs/downstairs kind of show where there’s a rich community and the community under them.

An upstairs/downstairs. Both sides are human and there’s the gulf between them. 

I love that we could update that into Northern California. I was just entranced that we could explore such a tapestry of characters that are colliding with each other for different reasons, whether it’s family or whether it’s class, or whether it’s the difference between people who are immigrants and people who are not. And all of them are human.

There’s a gulf between them, but none of them are the wrong ones. None of them are the others. None of them are the villains. They’re just sometimes hurting each other and sometimes helping each other.

Madison Lawlor as Hassie Clarkman sits on a sofa, crying, with her hands clasped together on her lap in the Paramount+ series, Casa Grande.
Madison Lawlor in the series, Casa Grande. Pic credit: Barbara Kinney

M&C: For John and Madison, what are some of the takeaways that you hope people will get or you think people will get?

Madison Lawlor: I think that the one thing I love about storytelling is that it can create empathy for lots of different people whose lives you haven’t lived.  And I really hope that this story can create empathy, and I also think it highlights privilege really well, where you don’t understand the things that you don’t have to worry about sometimes.

I think for my character specifically, she doesn’t know – and she’s not in tune yet with worldly issues; she kind of sees the world through rose-colored glasses and she can kind of only see her shortsighted perspective, her 18-year-old perspective on things. 

And I think this a kind of coming-of-age story for her where she’s really getting exposed to what the real world is like.  And I hope that it can make people think larger about life and beyond themselves a bit.

John Pyper-Ferguson:  It’s interesting that you asked us together because I find that between the two characters, between the choices that Hassie makes and the choices that Sawyer has made, they’re very similar yet they choose a different path when they’re younger.

And so, between them, it becomes what is the search for happiness or what is the search for joy, or what is it that drives you into the opportunities of life? And what are the weights of love?  What are the weights of wealth? What are the weights of choosing your partners?  And what – if you have too much ambition, what can happen to you from that, or what are your ambitions?

So, it’s really asking you to take action, but whatever action you take there’s going to be a result.  It might not be the one you’re looking for.

Madison Lawlor:  Yes, it’s about the consequences of your actions.  I suppose that’s sort of the theme of Sawyer and Hassie’s dynamic. 

Madison Lawlor as Hassie Clarkman as and Mael Morales as Javier Bolaños look into the camera with surprised looks on their faces, in the Paramount+ series, Casa Grande._Pec credit: Barbara Kinney
Madison Lawlor and Mael Morales in the series, Casa Grande. Pic credit: Barbara Kinney

M&C: For Christina and Kate, talk a little bit about from different sides of the coin, when you’re doing these parts, are you thinking about family? Are you thinking about what you would be like if you were in their shoes? 

Christina Moore:  I absolutely think that one of the key-key themes of this project is family.  Because I think there is your chosen family, there’s the family that you were born into.  I think there’s your family of origin.  I feel like Suzanna’s back story and her parents and how she came to be with Sawyer largely affect every decision she makes.  

One of my favorite things about playing a “bad guy” is that it’s similar to what James had to say, is I just think Suzanna is terrifically misunderstood. 

I think you have to… you have to have empathy and sympathy and you have to like your character, and you have to believe that the decisions they are making are the ones they absolutely have to make.  I can take a step back and see where Suzanna fits in this tapestry, and she’s gasoline and poison, and just generally a dick. That’s half the fun.

Kate Mansi:  For myself, I think that it’s an interesting way in for Hunter because when you bring up the topic of family, she’s adopted and she’s feeling a real fight and is scrappy in the ways that she goes about it. But there’s a hierarchy in her family that she’s trying to solidify her place in.

I think that both fuels her and also it drives her, and it’s one of the most interesting things about her, I think.  Because she’s so… struggles so much to find her place in this family and to fight the ideas that other people put onto her about who she’s supposed to be in her place in this family.

M&C: For Ali and Ava, why do you want my readers to delve in, to join this world?  

Ava Rettke:  I think that Casa Grande offers an incredible mirror of the reality of our country, that’s not often shown.  And I feel like within their characters, they’re so rich and dynamic, and that kind of transcends their circumstance. They have such universal character traits that they have their tenacity and their endurance.

I’m very excited to have our audiences dive into this new world that we don’t really see that often and connect with it, and really relate to it.

Ali Afshar: It’s going to be a story that’s bilingual; 20-30 percent of it is in Spanish. It’s got elements that no other shows have in it. I think for viewers and readers, it will be something very unique, very true, and very timely.

Miller Dalton as James Marsters looks camera right at something in the Paramount+ series, Casa Grande
James Marsters in the series, Casa Grande. Pic credit: Barbara Kinney

 M&C: For Madison, James, and John why do you want my readers to watch?  What excites you and what do you think will excite them?

John Pyper-Ferguson: There’s something incredibly unique about how this project came together, and it really started with Ali, Ava, and Loren. They had an idea, they went for it, and they produced it on their own which rarely ever happens. Then they create five episodes; and then tried to find a home for it, and found one, with Amazon Freebee. So that was the beginning of it.

Then they created this story that really hasn’t been examined in this way with the two languages, with the two families, with the upstairs/downstairs of America. And that in itself makes you want to check it out. 

Madison Lawlor:  Yeah, I think to riff off of that, I think this story offers some really valuable perspective, and I think a great array of humanity and human stories in these complex characters. I think there’s a lot to be learned from all of these characters.

So, I hope that people can take away something educational, and I feel like – and some empathy for whatever anyone is going through, I hope that people can see themselves in different characters and different versions of the story.

James Marsters:  Also, it’s just damn good. It’s all in the execution. It’s one thing to say that you want to have a rich tapestry and explore the lives of characters that people don’t normally get to see.  It’s one thing to try to address issues that a lot of writers shy away from. 

But you have to do it well. And the thing that I notice when I watched the show – I just did it about three days ago; I got to see all six episodes – I couldn’t wait to watch the next one. The acting is really good.  The writing is really good.  The execution is excellent. So, what I would say to your audience is “I dare you to watch one episode and then I defy you not to want to watch the rest.”

Casa Grande is currently streaming on Amazon Freevee, formerly IMDb TV. No subscription is required. In addition, anyone can watch Freevee programming for free through Prime Video regardless of their Prime membership status.

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