Comedian Chris Estrada draws on elements of his stand-up act and his own life to play “This Fool” in an upcoming comedy series.
Premiering Friday, Aug. 12, on Hulu, the 10-episode series stars Estrada as Julio Lopez, a 30-year-old South Central Los Angeles man who still lives at home with his mother, Maria (Julia Vera, “Man in the Chair”), still dates the same girl from high school, Maggie (Michelle Ortiz, “MADtv”), and finds any excuse he can to avoid dealing with his problems. Basically, he’s stuck.
Which is kind of ironic because he works at a non-profit called Hugs Not Thugs, an organization run by Minister Payne (Michael Imperioli, “The Sopranos”) that is dedicated to helping ex-gang members stay out of gangs and move forward with their lives. There, he locks horns with his older cousin Luis (Frankie Quinones, “El Chicano”), himself an ex-gang member just out of prison and moved in with Julio’s family. He also happens to be Julio’s new project.
The show represents a case of lightning striking for Estrada, a South Central native who himself was treading water in life, working in a warehouse and doing stand-up on weekends when he got a text from Jake Weisman (an executive producer of the series with Estrada, Matt Ingebretson, Pat Bishop, Fred Armisen and Jonathan Groff), who had seen Estrada’s act and wanted to know if he had any ideas for a TV series.
“It’s pretty crazy …” Estrada says with a laugh. “You can’t go farther from working at a warehouse to being an EP on a TV show. It was great, I loved it. It gave me an opportunity to like really tell a story that was honest and authentic to my experience, so it was kind of like hitting the lottery.”
So was getting Imperioli to play Minister Payne. Estrada says Hulu suggested that they should offer the role to a name actor rather than audition for the part. When a friend suggested the Emmy-winning “Sopranos” star, Estrada initially dismissed the idea as absurd. But then he decided to take his shot.
“I remember talking to the showrunners about it …,” Estrada says, “and I said, ‘What do you guys think?’ And they said, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? So he’ll kindly send a response saying no. And that’s OK.’ And we sent them the script and he got back to us and said he loved the show and that he thought it was really funny and it had such a funny and human quality to it. And he said yes and we were kind of blown away.
“So it was sort of a dream come true and also a dream that I never thought could happen. That was really cool.”