Carlito Olivero on How “East Los High” Makes Waves

Carlito Olivero. Photo by Amelia Orozco | EXTRA

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]arlito Olivero plays “Eddie” on “East Los High,” the Hulu teen drama now on its third season.

“This is the one show that really does not give a damn about other people’s negative opinions,” shared Carlito Olivero in an exclusive interview with EXTRA. Originally from Chicago, Olivero, the oldest of three children, has a dad from Puerto Rico and his mom is from Mexico.

His dad told EXTRA, “Since he was a little boy, he was entering talent shows. Every year, first, second, third grade,” he said.
When Carlito ventured out to California to pursue his career, he was struggling and even sleeping in his car, something he didn’t tell his parents because he didn’t want to worry them. This year, Carlito performed at the annual Puerto Rican Festival in Chicago. “I only waited a quarter century to do it,” joked the 26-year-old singer about his homecoming. From 2007-2009, he formed part of the boy band “Menudo” and in 2013, he finished third on “The X Factor.” These days, he is experiencing greater popularity because of “East Los High,” but Carlito explains that there is much more to it than that.

The show was created out of an issue that needed to be addressed per Population Media Center, an entertainment-education organization that uses film projects to talk about impending social topics. According to PMC, “51 percent of Latinas in East L.A. became pregnant before the age of 20.” They called on Carlos Portugal, one of the co-creators of the show, to work on the series. Together with Kathleen Bedoya, they put together a serial drama that deals with topics such as teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and now, in Season 3, one of the core issues is immigration.

“We talk about the stuff that no other show wants to talk about,” said Olivero. “We have a character, one of the popular girls in high school who had a bunch of boyfriends and was sleeping around (Vanessa), and she contracted HIV. We talk about domestic violence. The character ‘Cece’ is a single mom and she is with a guy who you would think is the nicest man, a great provider, takes care of her and her daughter, and has a good job. He’s a sweetheart to everybody, but behind closed doors he’s beating her ass,” he said. We needed this. I feel like because we’re on Hulu, we have so much freedom and flexibility to talk about these things,” he added.

“My character, Eddie, is a Mexican kid who is living with his mom and she’s very sick. I remember growing up with so much racism and classism. So many people looked down on me for the way I looked and my brown skin, so I thought to myself, this is my opportunity. This is my way to change people’s minds and what they think of us whether it’s in a good or bad way; they are going to listen to me. The thing with Trump happened right before it aired and I thought, ‘they are going to think we did this just ‘cause of Donald Trump, but we filmed that months ago. I just want to show people that, unfortunately, racism still exists,” added Olivero.

“When I was in that character, I was emotionally very distraught for three months straight. I usually keep myself composed but I was an emotional wreck. I was calling my mom crying and remembering certain events we went through when I was a kid, and the discrimination. There’s a part on the show where the police come and grab us and throw us to the ground—so many things that went through my mind. Also, my mom on the show was sick and it messed with my mind because while I was doing that my [real] mom was home and was really sick. On the show, my mom won’t get treatment because she’s afraid she is going to get deported and lose me. It just pains me to know that I have cousins, family members and friends that are living this right now,” said Olivero.

“Chicago will always be home,” he shared. Olivero is looking forward to performing at Chicago’s Fiesta del Sol on Sunday, Aug. 2. His new CD, “D.D.B.R.W.S.“ (Dreams Don’t Become Reality While Sleeping), was released on July 16. Follow Carlito on Twitter at @Carlitosway89.

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