‘Alma’s Way’ comes to PBS

Category: Television

When you first hear there is a show about Puerto Ricans living in the Bronx, you might think about the Jets and the Sharks from West Side Story. Well, if you think this new PBS Kids show is anything like the atmosphere in that film, you are way off. While the central character, Alma, is Puerto Rican, her Latin heritage does comes into play (like the Alaskan heritage does in Molly of Denali) however the main focus is on learning to solve problems.

As Linda Simensky, Head of Content at PBS Kids, said, “In each story, Alma uses ‘Think-Through’ moments to stop, listen and process in the face of a tough decision and reflects and takes action while demonstrating social awareness.” Simensky added, “We hope this inspires kids to find their own answers to problems, express what they think and feel, and recognize and respect the unique perspective of others.”

Although Alma is the central character, there is a diverse cast that plays and solves problems along with her. They are made up of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Alma’s Way is the brainchild of Sonia Manzano who based it on her own childhood growing up in the Bronx in a Puerto Rican family. Although she has Puerto Rican heritage, Manzano considers herself first a New Yorker and wanted to show the diverse borough of the Bronx in a way that entices love and understanding among neighbors. “I was always walking that bicultural tightrope that is America, that is the Bronx.”

“All of the characters on the show are based on my real relatives,” Manzano explained, “and I had a cousin Eddie …” Her cousin had polio however she adjusted that in this show. “So our character on the show has cerebral palsy, …”

The Executive Producer, Ellen Doherty, explained that they worked with doctors from Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to advise them on this character. According to one doctor, who was consulted about the Eddie Mambo character,  “If he’s walking a short distance or around the house, he might not need his crutches, but for a longer distance he would need his crutches.  So it is really a choice based on what kids would do.” In that they are able to accurately portray this sweet little boy.

Summer Rose Castillo, who voices Alma, claimed, “I’m a lot like Alma because she’s a little girl and she’s from the Bronx.  She’s Puerto Rican, and I’m Puerto Rican.  And she loves to explore her world, and I do too.  I love to go hiking with my family, and I also like to figure stuff out as well.”  When asked what she learned from being part of the show, she quickly replied, “So what I have learned from doing the show is that I could believe in myself, trust in myself and never be afraid to dream big.” And that, in a nutshell, is the goal of Alma’s Way.

Alma’s Way is geared for ages 4-6 and premieres on PBS Kids October 4. Thinking for themselves is what the show aims to impart on kids, and that is a lesson worth learning.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for over 25 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, is the entertainment correspondent for Good Day Orange County, and has her own TV show, Beyond the Red Carpet, on Village Television in Orange County. She is a longstanding member of the Los Angeles Press Club and the Television Critics Association and is accredited by the MPAA. Follow her on Twitter.