Gabriel Iglesias last year was ranked No. 6 on the Forbes’ highest paid comedians with an estimated $22 million take. By March of this year, he was in the midst of another arena tour, scheduled for a stop at State Farm Arena for a second time March 28.
But then COVID-19 hit. The man — nicknamed “Fluffy” due to his girth and cheerful personality — had to stop the tour prematurely.
Fortunately, he had already finished season two of his Netflix sitcom “Mr. Iglesias,” where he plays a wise-cracking history teacher who also helps out problem kids over summer school. They wrapped in early February.
The sitcom features Sherri Shepherd of “The View” fame as his friendly principal and Oscar Nunez (who played Oscar on “The Office) as her prickly assistant principal.
Season two, with 12 episodes, came out today (Wednesday, June 17) on Netflix.
Given Iglesias, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from his Whittier, California home, said his character was inspired in part by a teacher from childhood. “That teacher attended every episode,” he said. “She was there for all the tapings.”
And he said he did his best to enjoy the process of being the star of a show: “I rarely had a bad day. I had my moods if he snacks ran short but for the most part, I enjoyed it.”
His character is the gabby sort, so Iglesias had a lot to memorize and was in almost every scene season one. For season two, “I was begging the writers to give me one scene off per episode,” said Iglesias.
The series is an old-school sitcom where the entire high school seems to singularly revolve around just a single class of students, four history teachers, an assistant principal and a principal. It packs in the jokes while exuding plenty of warmth and affection for the characters.
Mr. Iglesias also get a love interest season two: the new school counselor. What's amazing is they ended up casting Elora Casados, a costume designer behind the scenes on set who had never been a professional actor.
During season one, Iglesias said, “I’d see her all the time on the set. I’d wave and smile and say hi. That was the extent of it.”
Iglesias had plenty of other women in mind, and they auditioned Casados more as a favor. But she killed it.
“Imagine the groundskeeper at the baseball stadium taking a bat and hitting home runs,” he said. “She walked out of the room, and we were floored. One of the producers said, ‘I’m going to manage her!’”
Even Netflix producers above them saw her audition and agreed with their assessment.
What’s funnier: she remained a costumer on the show during the days when she wasn’t acting.
Iglesias has no shortage of support on set. Shepherd, who plays the sassy principal, has been friends with Iglesias for two decades. “We used to do little holes-in-the-wall on the road,” he said. “It’s always fun to do scenes with her. She’s always on!”
And he was thrilled to get Nunez of “The Office.”
“All the stars lined up,” he said. “We even got a line into one of the episodes where they’re setting up a field trip and we have him say, “Finally! I get to leave the office!”
He loves that Netflix allowed him to make such a diverse show. The six primary adult leads feature three Latino men, one black man, one black woman and one white woman. And the key students are “a rainbow of every size, shape and color,” Iglesias said. “I was fighting to get more Pacific-Islander representation and more Cambodian since this is set in Long Beach. If I get another season, I’ll push for that.’”
Although Netflix has not disclosed viewership to Iglesias, he said, “They give me clues. They return my phone calls the same day. They tell me they really like the show and to keep up the good work. You don’t get that on NBC or ABC or CBS. The show was shot right next door to Netflix headquarters. They couldn’t avoid me!”
He said he is tight enough with Netflix, which also airs his comedy specials, that when he asked to make a serious cameo as a gangster on “Narcos,” they obliged.
For now, he’s just biding his time awaiting to get back on the road and hoping for a third season of “Mr. Iglesias.”
“I sleep so much, I wake up sore!” he said. “And I dream. I used to stress about so many things, and those have been taken away.”
For those familiar with his stand up routines, he is more a self-deprecating storyteller than a joke teller. In fact, he said he doesn’t even write down jokes.
“I think it stems from high school,” he said. “I wasn’t good at writing back then. I’d rather go on stage and share stories. If something gets laughter, it stays.”
He does tape his shows and gauges reactions. He’ll typically start with his strongest material, test out new stuff in the middle and end with some well-known jokes — the classics. “My fans will feel gypped if I don’t say a few of my old bits,” he said.
“Mr. Iglesias,” season two now available on Netflix.
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.