Lalo Alcaraz on Creating Animated People of Color For Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Bordertown’

We already told you that Bordertown is coming in 2016. If you listen closely, in the distance, you can hear it approaching like a freight train, coming closer and closer to our cultural conversation. And that’s just how Bordertown‘s going to hit when it finally comes to screens next year: like a freight train.

Why? Because Bordertown is unapologetically on our side. In addition to sending up the U.S.’ hopelessly misguided immigration policy and red-state America’s irrational mistrust of Latino USA, Seth MacFarlane and company have brought on a handful of Latino voices to keep the writer’s room 100% auténtico including Gustavo Arellano, the man behind the nationally syndicated newspaper column, “Ask a Mexican!”

And if for whatever reason you had doubts, Bordertown‘s star writer and groundbreaking Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz had a chat with some fellow animation folks at the NALIP Media Summit and we got some juicy behind the scenes info from the production. From defending pochos to Korean colorists, Mexican mullets to different shades of pink, here are a few gems we picked up from Alcaraz’s hilarious turn at the mic.

On Different Shades of Brown Folk

In Bordertown we had this moment where coloring of the characters came — because half the cast is Mexican-American or Mexican — and [co-writer] Gustavo [Arellano] realized when we were looking at the first colors that came back from Korea, all the Mexican characters were the same brown color. And he said, you should go back and mix it up. And to their credit they mixed it up, they did different tones of people. I think they should do it for the white people too: some are pinker than others!

On the Making of an Accidental Mexican Lothario

We had a character that was called Slick Ronny. He was like a redneck with a mullet, and he would always be doing everyone’s wife while everyone was off doing something else. Like, that’s his thing. (Sorry, that’s what happens!) And when the colors came back from Korea, they made him Mexican! I think we kept it, and now he’s a Mexican hillbilly that’s chasing wives all over town.

On Mexican Church Steeples

The first time I gave a note to somebody, I felt so bad. I said, “Could you change this…” it was a church in one episode. And it was supposed to be the Mexican church and they drew this like Midwestern Protestant steeple, and I said, “Could you change that, I feel bad asking you…” And the artist is like, “Dude, that’s my job. You tell me what to draw.”

“I got called in to defend the word “pocho” because the Standards and Practices person for Fox… did not appreciate this use of the word.”

On Fighting for Your Right to Pocho

During Bordertown I got called in to defend the word “pocho” because the Standards and Practices person for Fox was calling in and she did not appreciate this use of the word. Pocho’s like an Americanized Mexican. It used to be an insult, but now it’s like a cool thing or whatever. So the Standards and Practices person was not having it, but the whole episode was about being a pocho, about going back to Mexico and not knowing what the hell’s going on. So it’s really a weird space for us. There’s a lot of stuff, people don’t know the standards that you have to fight. Especially Family Guy has to fight to defend every penis joke all the way down the line.

On Latino Divas

Our boss, Mark Henteman, who is a very gentle, super nice guy… we got a call from a Latino celebrity who was demanding to be put on the show. And Mark just turned to me and asked me, “Is he difficult to work with?” And I know this guy. I go, “Yeah… he is.” And this is a guy I used to be buddies with and I don’t hate him, but I had to be honest with my boss cause I’m not going to be responsible for hiring this guy who’s going to try to take over the show. And [Mark] doesn’t like people who are difficult to work with.

The National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) advances the development of Latino content creators through its programs like the 2015 NALIP Media Summit focusing on narrative, documentary, TV, and digital formats.

Bordertown premieres Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.