Christina Vidal Mitchell is a fellow New Yorker born and raised in Whitestone, Queens. Her face is no stranger to the cameras. She has been in the spotlight from an early age starting with “Life with Mickey” opposite Michael J. Fox. The big debut turned out to be a milestone in her career. She became the first Puerto Rican child actress to have a lead role in an American film.
Christina’s credits begin with teen cult favorites such as the 2006 film, See No Evil, Nickelodeon’s Taina and Freaky Friday in which she starred alongside Lindsay Lohan. The more recent roles provided access to a larger adult audience with CBS drama series Training Day, Code Black, Limitless and Blue Bloods. Her appearance, as Valerie in Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete” gave streaming service customers the chance to get to know her talents, too.
Currently, Christina plays Jo Rodriguez in ABC’s newest hit United We Fall. In the sitcom, we watch how Jo and TV husband, Bill handle parenthood in a mainly disruptive but loving household. There is never a dull moment when managing the care of two little ones. Throw in a judgmental Irish mother-in-law and Latino Catholic family, you have a recipe for lots of laughs! It’s just the right dose of funny needed today to distract us from reality for a small fraction of time each week.
United We Fall comes at an interesting time, where there is a genuine lack of representation of the Latino community on primetime television. However, when I watched the series, it turned out to be about much more than meets the eye. AW had the wonderful opportunity to ask Christina about the show and her real life experiences as a mother. The beautiful mom of a toddler and newborn baby girl was warm, friendly and genuinely engaged while indulging my questions during our conversation.
I probably speak for many viewers of the show, there is immediate connection with the characters, Bill and Jo Ryan. The pair is relatable, imperfect and not afraid to be themselves which is refreshing. Jo is a working mother trying to keep her head above water and be a good mom like many of us, working to iron out the kinks. A recent episode, prompted a funny conversation with my daughter. We laughed about how when she was younger, I’d refer to my glass of wine at dinner as “mommy juice.” She admitted knowing early on that my drink was not juice, as she was not allowed to drink it. She thought it was hilarious that I wouldn’t acknowledge it was wine. Thinking back, it may have been mommy guilt on my part preventing me from showing enjoyment for the occasional adult beverage. It happens more often than we want to own up to, moms dealing with feelings of culpability for any number of reasons. Have you personally experienced mommy guilt in your role as a parent? How did you cope with the emotions tied into not being a perfect mom? You are 1000% right!!! I still struggle with mommy guilt. There are countless reasons for the shape our expectations take – Instagram, media etc. For me, it was a painful realization to understand the drastic difference between the expectations you have as a mom and what you actually do, as a parent. Our expectations can be unrealistic and we need to remind ourselves that we are human beings.
In the show, your overly critical mother-in-law lives with the family. Jo’s character seems to handle the living situation well. She doesn’t allow judgmental comments to affect her or her parenting style. Like all of us, Jo is a work in progress but she appears to embrace who she is, imperfections and all. It is a common theme, women’s appeal to the idea of delivering life in a neat little package. Advertisements sell images of what we “should” look and act like in society. It can lead us to claim failure, if we don’t do everything “right.” The mounting pressure is unfair, not to mention creates improbable goals. What would you say to women that struggle to attain these flawless ideals in motherhood? I would say “You are not alone” sometimes knowing that can be comforting. We have a natural need and desire for relationships and community. We make mistakes and learn from them as we go. If we share our stories, instead of remaining silent it can normalize our feelings until questions are answered.
United We Fall is hysterically funny! Looking back on my years of earlier parenting there are things I can laugh about now. Today, I realize these were teaching moments. In the show, your TV husband expressed a difficult truth “Parenting is hard and exhausting!” I remember, an incident post-divorce when I first moved to the suburbs. I was late picking up my daughter after school. My boss kept me late, train was delayed, I was so rushed that I grabbed the wrong train and skipped my stop. The error pushed my scheduled arrival even later – after a series of events that played out like a comedy of errors, I finally got to her. I cried for hours from frustration, remorse, and fear that I was screwing up. In the end, everything turned out OK. Any funny or memorable stories about parenthood you can share with us? There are so many!! but I will share two of them. We were at my husband’s acting rehearsal and I forgot to bring one of the ingredients for the baby’s formula. The indecision of whether to wait it out or pack up and head home delayed me until it could not wait. The baby was expressing her hunger. Of course, when I finally made the call to leave, a pounding rainstorm came swooping in. Everything went into lock down and the baby started freaking out! No food and nowhere to go. There was an avocado on set – I smashed it and that was her first puree meal. Shortly after, I felt the quiet after the storm and things were OK.
The second story involves me taking both the kids out and forgetting wipes and toddler diapers. I only figured it when my two-and-half year old pooped and we did not have wipes or diapers for her!! We were in the car, I was breastfeeding and she needed a change. What did we do? The only thing we could, took out a newborn diaper to get her through the ride home. Needless to say, she was as uncomfortable after her diaper change, as before it took place but we got through it OK.
These are a couple of the many moments, I felt like a failure. Everyone experiences instances of feeling overwhelmed by circumstance. Mothers may not say it out loud, “I love my kids to death, they fill me with happiness. But there are days when I don’t feel like doing all the things that come along with being a parent. I want to stay in bed or not do any chores.” I feel selfish but it’s normal to go through it, even if we do not verbalize it.
What do you like most about playing Jo Rodriguez? What is your favorite part of being on the show? Professionally, being the lead of a sitcom was a dream I always carried with me. Sitcom/Comedy series has always been my favorite genre. Many years ago, I wrote it down in a dream list – be the lead in a comedy series. Dreams come true. Personally, I love the way Jo relates to her husband throughout their challenges. I’d like to implement more of this in my own relationship. The couple shares compassion, kindness and never blame one another for mistakes. Sharing the successes as much as the mishaps without judgment or criticism – friendship prevails in their union.
What has been the best advice you’ve been given as a parent? A while back, I attended a baby shower with the kids. The overprotective mom that I can be, I always get nervous about something happening, if I am not paying attention or close by. I like to be standing next to my children at all times. One of the other parents noticed my stress, tried to relieve me by telling me other parents were watching, it was going to be fine. In effort to comfort my hesitation with my daughter, she shared words that stuck with me. “We can’t protect our children from everything. By you trying to overprotect her from everything in life, you are keeping her from a gift that God may be giving her or a lesson that requires learning.” She tried to explain that it’s fine to watch over our children but they also need space to experience life.
Life has changed, we’re in a state of uncertainty and anxiety over so much happening in the world. As a parent, it is important we work to provide a positive environment for our families. I think laughter is a great way to inject good in our lives. Thanks to shows like United We Fall, it is possible to laugh, again. I like to end interviews with an uplifting message to inspire readers. Do you have a quote or mantra that encourages you to look at the bright side or help overcome worries? Yes, a scripture, Philippians 4:13 helps me a lot during overwhelming moments. Just the other day, I was taking care of the baby and giving my older daughter a bath. Afraid the older one would slip in the tub and the baby needing me caused an incredibly stressful moment, things were unraveling at the same time. I took a deep breath and said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The words showered me with calm.
AW shares these stories to help you, me, all of us feel less alone in our experiences. Women are nurturers, caretakers, selfless by nature. We have a duty to ourselves to let the light shine through the cracks. My daughter helped me understand the power of allowing myself to be seen. She expressed her concern over not meeting my expectations of perfection. I had to take the veil off to show her I was a ball of imperfections. I apologized for ever making her feel that she had to be flawless. Our children need to see that we are not perfect beings. We make mistakes, and they will too, it’s how we learn the lessons.
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