Is ‘One Day at a Time’ Based on a True Story?

One Day at a Time, the Netflix original exploring societal issues with equal parts heart and humor, is on its third season and growing strong.

Inspired by Norman Lear’s 1975 drama of the same name, the revamp follows Penelope – war veteran and mother of two – as she navigates single parenthood and life’s day-to-day challenges.

One Day at a Time
‘One Day at a Time’ Cast | Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images

Justina Machado (Devious Maids, Six Feet Under) stars as Penelope. Isabella Gomez (Modern Family, Matador) and Marcel Ruiz play her children, Elena and Alex, respectively. And, saving the best for last, Rita Moreno – our beloved Anita from West Side Story – plays Penelope’s mother, Lydia.


The family of four, alongside their rich yet lonely landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell), portray life as a middle-class Cuban family in America. The series – exploring sexual orientation, consent, immigration policy, and more – delves into controversial issues and questions cultural values in a comedic and approachable way.

From a Valentine’s Day episode portraying the importance of romantic and familial love to one that unveiled the harsh truth behind alcoholism (and the struggle that comes with addiction), One Day at a Time is a story about life, and one individual’s life, in particular, inspired it.

‘One Day at a Time’ is based on the life of Gloria Calderón Kellet

Gloria Calderón Kellet struggled to find roles when she entered the acting world as a young Latino woman, according to CNN. When auditioning for the “gangbanger’s wife,” or some similar role she felt suited to play, Calderón Kellet was often told that she wasn’t quite Latino enough.

After too much time spent forcing fake accents at failed auditions, she decided to focus on writing; she wished to serve as an authentic voice in a seemingly inauthentic space, as she reported to CNN. Calderón Kellet told CNN that she thought, “I will write my perspective, and it will resonate, hopefully.”

Now, eleven years after her decision to abandon performing and pick up the pen, One Day at a Time is a major hit on Netflix, and her family’s story is out in the open for all to see.

Calderon Kellet and Executive Producer Mike Royce modeled the relationships in the show off of their own lives. Calderon Kellet’s personal history inspired the relationship between Penelope and her mother Lydia, while Royce used his relationship with his kids to curate the bond between Penelope and her children, according to CNN.

What inspired the immigration storyline?

Gloria Calderón Kellet’s parents were both Cuban immigrants that came to America when they were only 15 years old. Working multiple jobs to stay afloat, neither one of them spoke English, and they had to learn to take care of themselves at a very ripe age.

Telling this story for Calderón Kellet is a healing process, she reported to CNN. Lydia, while telling her immigration story at the end of season one, is actually telling Calderon Kellet’s personal narrative.

Will ‘One Day at a Time’ return for a fourth season?

While the third season became available for streaming very recently, fans are already anxiously awaiting the news regarding the show’s renewal for a fourth. With half-hour episodes that are effortless to binge, viewers were ready for more by February 10 (the latest)!

As of now, there has been no word regarding another season; however, last year, the show wasn’t renewed for a third season until two months after the release of the second, according to Bustle. So, hopefully, One Day at Time fans have nothing to worry about. Currently boasting a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s hard to imagine any reason to cancel this show.

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