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Hulu's 'This Fool' gives a working class perspective of life in Los Angeles

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

As the writers and actors strikes wear on, there's still some new scripted TV coming out of Hollywood, productions that wrapped before picketing began. The second season of "This Fool" is out today on Hulu. The story of cousins Julio and Luis gives a working-class perspective of life in the City of Angels. NPR's Gabriel J. Sanchez says it's not the glossy Los Angeles traditionally depicted on film and TV.

FRANKIE QUINONES: We're, like, gritty. You know, there's former gang members in there that want to do better with their lives and - you know, and then two cousins that are just, like, trying to just make it through life.

GABRIEL J SANCHEZ, BYLINE: Frankie Quinones plays Luis Hernandez, who is still adjusting to life outside of prison.

QUINONES: The best way I could describe it - it kind of reminds me of, like, the movie "Friday" meets the show "Atlanta" from our lens. You know, and it's all based in South Central Los Angeles.

SANCHEZ: In the first season, Luis reunites with his cousin Julio, played by Chris Estrada, and returns to his old barrio.

QUINONES: He's working at a rehabilitation center, Hugs Not Thugs. And so I'm kind of, like, forced to go in there with him because, you know, in order to - for my aunt - his mother, so my tia - is like, you can stay here, but you got to go to Hugs Not Thugs. In the second season, you'll see the tables kind of turn.

SANCHEZ: In Season 2, the cousins from South Central link up with some of their former incarcerated colleagues to test their entrepreneurial dreams in the hood.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS FOOL")

CHRIS ESTRADA: (As Julio Lopez) Me and Luis - we're going to open up a cafe.

QUINONES: (As Luis Hernandez) Yeah, like Starbucks but better. You know, we're not going to have no bathroom code.

ESTRADA: (As Julio Lopez) And it's going to be just like Hugs Not Thugs. We're going to hire and train ex-felons. And check this out. We're going to call it Mugs Not Thugs.

QUINONES: (As Luis Hernandez) Hoo (ph), damn, that's a clean-a** name.

The story just gets funnier and funnier to me. I'm moving to my own place, which is the garage at the neighbor's house next door to my tia's house. And so in my head, I'm on the up-and-up. But now - and then Julio moves in with me. So I'm kind of like, oh, we're getting our stuff together, but we're really just kind of still losers, you know? I mean, we are still losers. We're living in a garage, and, like - but, you know, try to make the best of it.

SANCHEZ: Quinones credits the combination of comedy and real-life drama to Chris Estrada. He plays Luis' cousin Julio and also created "This Fool." Quinones says he relates to the way the show depicts real-life experiences of growing up in a neighborhood reaching for the working class.

QUINONES: And we all have relatives - or a lot of us - you know, that grew up like that, like, even myself. You know, a bunch of people have lived at my grandma and grandpa's and slept in the garage and, you know, in the living room and stuff like that. So - and a lot of people can relate to that, especially the people that kind of grew up in the communities that we grew up in.

SANCHEZ: And for some members of the Quinones family, the incarceration storyline is familiar, too.

QUINONES: I had uncles, cousins, you know, kind of in and out of prison and stuff like that. My tio Nano, my tio Palo - always in and out of jail.

SANCHEZ: Quinones drew inspirations from throughout his life to develop the heavily tattooed Luis Hernandez character. But it's not the first time he's tried on a role like this for size.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUINONES: (As Creeper) Hey. We all know there's a lot of cholo workout videos out there, but this one is going to have you, like, damn, homie, that's what's up. You know? This is CholoFit with Creeper.

SANCHEZ: That's Creeper, a character Quinones created that went viral in 2017. Dressed in his calf-high socks, cutoff sweatpants and tank top, the spin class instructor in cholo athletic wear peddles a lowrider bike in his outdoor spin class.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUINONES: (As Creeper) And then you get the resistance right there. You see? You already feel it. You feel it down here in your gluteus mas o menos or whatever and down to the calf.

So, yeah, I would say with character, Luis is definitely, like - at least, like, I would say, like, 25, 30% Creeper. You know, and then the rest is Luis. But yeah, man. Creeper, CholoFit - you know, that's just an extension of my father. My dad's an old-school cholo. He always had a lowrider, always Chuck Taylors, Dickies but one of the most positive people I know. You know, I wasn't trying to look for an angle or nothing. I was just trying to, you know, do voices that I knew. And, I mean, obviously, there's a little bit of Creeper in Frankie, too, just in my daily life, so he's always with me.

SANCHEZ: That was actor and comedian Frankie Quinones. We caught up with Quinones earlier this month, just before the Screen Actors Guild began their strike against the studios. Gabriel J. Sanchez, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF L.A.B SONG, "TAKE IT AWAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Corrected: July 28, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
"An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to "This Fool" as "The Fool"
Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.