Isabella Gomez isn’t intimidated by the prospect of another television reboot.
The actress’ breakout role was as a teenage queer activist in the revival of the ’70s sitcom “One Day at a Time,” which was well received by critics and viewers. (Gomez won best supporting actress at the Imogen Awards in 2017.) That took some of the pressure off heading into her latest project, an update of the ’80s sitcom “Head of the Class” for HBO Max.
“It felt like coming home, in that I had already done it with ‘One Day at a Time,’ and so I understand what [rebooting a beloved series] means for people and the emotion that it brings for them,” she says, adding that there’s heightened stakes inherent with taking on a reboot. “You have to do it justice because a lot of people really want to see it succeed.”
While the revival taps into childhood nostalgia for Gen X, its younger audience won’t have a frame of reference for the original sitcom. When Gomez met with showrunners Bill Lawrence, Amy Pocha and Seth Cohen, the team told her that the new series would reimagine the original concept — no familiarity needed. Gomez leads as Alicia Gomez, a young teacher who the actress describes as “a lovable disaster.”
“When we first meet her, we think that she’s just passing through, and she comes in more focused on herself,” says Gomez. “And very quickly, she turns into the mama bird for these kids. You think that she’s there to teach them, and they end up teaching her, too.”
The 23-year-old actress credits a childhood acting teacher in Florida who watched her book her first screen roles. “She watched me quite literally grow up before her eyes,” says Gomez, who worked as a child commercial actress in Colombia before immigrating to the States with her family when she was 10. ‘’The more I trained, and the more I got to work on set, the more I realized that [acting] is something that could not only fulfill me, but it could also mean something to other people,” she adds, pointing to the resonance of her “One Day” character, which inspired her LGBTQ activism off-screen. Gomez is also an advocate for the Wild Elements Foundation, a platform for environmental activism.
The actress is in production for “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” a film adaptation of a popular queer coming-of-age novel for young adults. Gomez portrays the character Gina Navarro. Although she loves her continued sitcom work, Gomez is also excited about exploring other genres and formats.
“I always thought that I was a dramatic actress only, and exclusively. And then I turned 18 and booked a sitcom and I realized I love comedy,” she says. “For ‘One Day at a Time,’ we got to shoot in front of an audience, and I enjoyed that immediate feedback. But I also really love drama. I’ve been in a horror film, and that was super fun. I’m kind of in a place in my career where I’m willing to do a little bit of everything.”
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