It’s no wonder that Justina Machado broke out on Six Feet Under. The show centers on the whitey, white, white undertaker Fisher family and the quietness that consumes them. Machado plays Vanessa Diaz, wife of expert corpse restorer and eventual partner Frederico. And she pops against Six Feet Under’s muted background, stealing every scene she’s in with warmth, humor, and humanity. In the nearly ten years since Six Feet Under premiered, we’ve learned to expect such amazing performances from Puerto Rican Machado. And we’re grateful for it.
It’s hard to make a Latinx show without her – she’s Carmen on Elena of Avalar, Reina on Devious Maids, and Maya on Superstore. And even when she’s surrounded by loud and proud fellow Latinxs, she stands out. Remember Darci Factor on Jane the Virgin? As the match-maker reality star, Machado met our favorite Jamie Camil’s Rogelia De La Vega toe to toe, managing to be just as silly, ridiculous, and likeable. She also got possibly the best line on Queen of the South (“Is America as bad as everybody says it is?”) believably playing an over-the-top street-smart, kept Mexican woman who learns how to run her own product after her cartel-member husband is executed for his lack of loyalty. And she did it wearing “leather” jeggings for half a season. A true reina.
With that killer resume, Machado is having a much deserved moment right now. She’s killing it on Dancing with the Stars, making it to the top tier with no sign of stopping. Her One Day At A Time just aired three episodes on CBS, having made the leap from Netflix to CBS’s Pop. And by all accounts, (and our bias) she’s a genuinely nice person.
That’s what makes her Penelope on ODAAT so great. Yes, she’s funny and relatable as the veteran mom trying to raise two kids with the help of her aging but unstoppable mother (national treasure Rita Moreno). But the real reason the show works so well is just how much we root for Machado. We want her to succeed at work (get your RN), at home (get those kids to college), in love (climb that mountain of a man), and really everywhere she goes. She’s the heart and soul of the show and we can watch her do that forever.
In fact, Justina Machado is one of those actors who you’ll watch whatever they’re in because they’re in it. This is our love letter to her, a Latina queen in a time when it’s pretty hard to even get on TV. One Day at a Time should be a studio-exec no brainer but it’s fighting for renewal again because of the prejudice against Latinx content (don’t tell us it’s the ratings – it’s not). There’s still not enough parts for Latinas, even as Machado’s talent obviously is keeping her pretty busy (did you see her dramatic side in the 2020 Netflix film All Together Now?). For now, we just want to celebrate Latinx excellence and excellence is Justina Machado.