To me, nothing is cozier than '90s shows following a tight family unit, but Freeform will soon tackle this formula with a more serious angle when Party of Five debuts in January. Loosely based on the 1994 TV series of the same name, Party of Five depicts five siblings left to raise each other after their parents are deported to Mexico. Viewers still have a little while to wait before the series premieres, but even before then, the Party of Five cast has an important message about family that will have fans already reaching for tissues.
Created by Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser, also the minds behind the 2020 reboot, the original Party of Five followed a group of young siblings recovering from the loss of their parents in a car accident. In the Freeform drama, oldest child Emilio (Brandon Larracuente) is left to take over the household when their parents are detained and eventually deported from the U.S. Emilio, Beto (Niko Guardado), Lucia (Emily Tosta), Valentina (Elle Paris Legaspi), and their infant brother Rafael must rely on each other to survive this transition, but each character reacts to the change differently. Despite their individual struggles, Emilio must learn how to encourage a united front in order to avoid authorities' further involvement in their family.
"We chose a family that looked very middle class; we wanted to show that these families are not that different who are experiencing deportation," Lippman said at the Tribeca TV Festival panel following the first episode's premiere. "They aren’t migrant workers; these are families that look similar to everyone else. Part of America thinks these people are different, but they love their families the same way we all love our families."
Speaking to Elite Daily before the panel discussion, members of the Party of Five cast emphasize that this depiction of family is universal to any kind of viewer. Despite the family's major external conflict, cast members promise the show will also explore the everyday ups and downs of sibling bonds. Above all, the actors hope their performances show the importance of family, no matter what that family looks like.
"Family’s always the most important thing," Guardado says at the festival's red carpet. "Family doesn’t necessarily mean blood either. [There's] family that comes into your life, like these people that are on the carpet with me, and no matter what, you always have them. Just always stick by family and you shouldn’t be able to go wrong."
Legaspi agrees: "I hope that [viewers] understand that family is everything."
"Families argue," Tosta adds, referring to the siblings' dynamics on Party of Five. "We are teenage kids trying to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, so I think you’ll see a lot of growth and a lot of learning lessons."
Like any family, the cast frequently communicates via group text, but they also use this as a way to keep up on real-time updates of the ongoing immigration crisis that has been separating families.
"We are constantly keeping each other informed and educated on the things that are happening in the world, especially in this country with the immigration system that we have," Tosta says. "We’re always sending each other news articles and always keeping each other in the loop and trying to speak to families and trying to be as educated as possible so we can tell this story from a very authentic, educated place."
The series plans to follow immigration legislation closely, so the decisions made in the real world may affect their characters in future seasons. "The first season will premiere before DACA is finally decided in the Supreme Court," Lippman revealed at the panel. "Whatever is real the day we write it is how it will happen, because the situation is so volatile."
It's too soon to say how Party of Five may affect viewers' opinions on these laws, but combined with a dose of family values, the series is slated to begin serious conversations about what drives family members to take risks for each other.
"I hope we at least change one person’s perspective that the American dream is still very much alive and that there’s a bunch of people coming that are hard workers that want a better life for their family," Guardado says. "Family means everything. Family's timeless. Family’s priceless."
Party of Five premieres on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, on Freeform.