Henri Esteve is a charmer and a delight!
You may be familiar with his stint on Freeform’s Grown-ish as Javi, but he’ll make you laugh and give you all the family feels as Uncle Mike on Freevee’s new coming-of-age series, Primo.
It’s a series inspired by author, journalist, and show creator Shea Serrano’s life and executive produced by comedy TV veteran Mike Shur.
So, yes, hot off the massive success of Jury Duty, Freevee may have delivered its second comedic, heartfelt, feel-good hit of the season.
Seriously, we love to see it.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with the multitalented, laid-back star to chat about working with a comedic legend, his inspiration for Uncle Mike, working alongside Christina Vidal, and his own advice for those coming up. Check it out!
So what attracted you to Primo?
First was the role and the script, and then right after that, in quick succession, it was seeing who I got to work with. Shea Serrano and Mike Schur. Mike is such a seasoned, incredible storyteller and kind of a comedy god on TV.
And then Shea, I’ve known Shea from sports podcasts and his books, and that was just exciting. I think Shea is really embedded in culture, and I thought he would be a cool dude to work with.
How important is it to have a series like Primo that is a coming-of-age story featuring a Brown boy with a loving family? Honestly, you don’t see those stories as often.
Yeah. I think it’s important to have a Brown family on TV striving to grow and help the generation under them so much.
Primo’s really about breaking generational cycles. And it comes out in them just wanting Rafa to be so much better than they were. They’re like, “Do what I did, do what I did.” But all of that is really them thinking their way is the way to make Rafa have the best life he can. And I think he does.
We know that the show is about Shea, so he broke all those cycles and eventually became Shea Serrano. So I think that’s an important story to tell. And I think it’s being told in a cool, funny, heartfelt way.
It is. It’s very funny. I was very interested in how you’ve shifted from your coming into adulthood role with Grown-ish to becoming a mentor helping your nephew through his teen years. Was that fun getting to switch up from being one end of the spectrum to the other?
Yeah. I loved my time on Grow-ish, but I’ve been excited to step into being an adult on screen. So it was nice to play my age finally.
I’m sure. You do both very well. But yes, I can totally understand that. Mike is such a fun character, and he’s someone who, well, he thinks differently, I’ll put it that way.
He thinks a little differently than the average person but is also very disciplined and family oriented. So what did you enjoy most about playing a character like that, and what challenged you most?
My favorite parts of Mike, at least comedically, were his inability to be wrong about anything and just the doubling down. So, I played into that as the season went on, and I found his fear and allergic reaction to the vulnerability I find hilarious. So those were definitely my favorites.
The most challenging was trusting that I wasn’t doing too much. Mike, the way he walks and grabs things, he’s such an animal about it. I came in with this idea; it started as me building it off of someone I grew up with. I was like, what did this person remind me of? And they kind of reminded me of a chimpanzee.
OK, that’s an interesting choice!
They were constantly scratching themselves, and it was just very chimpy, always grabbing shit. Their hands were too big. So I started doing a bunch of weird stuff, trusting that it wasn’t going too far and keeping it still looking like a human, but being able to use all that stuff.
No, I get that. [Laughs] I totally get that. I have a relative who carries themself like they still haven’t really grown into their bodies yet, so I know what you were going for there.
Yeah, even Stephanie, our head of the hair department. One day I was sitting in the chair, and she was like, can I ask you a question? I was like, what’s up? And she’s like, that one-finger head scratch thing. Is that you, or is that Mike? Do you do that in real life? And I was like, “Yes, it’s working.”
Now the dynamic, of course, between us, all the brothers, is hilarious. So was that a natural synergy with you all, or did you have to work at that? How do you even keep a straight face during some of those scenes?
It’s hard. It’s tough to keep a straight face. We had been on a text thread that Shea put us on for a few weeks but never met. No one had met each other beforehand. We didn’t even do chemistry reads.
I would never have guessed that.
I know. It’s crazy. That speaks to Schur’s ability to understand what will work. He’s just done it so many times. He was able to see actors and be like, “Cool. I know they’ll fit,” But we just got straight into it. And then we fell into those roles quickly.
There’s one scene when Rollie and Mike go to the flea market. With that guest actor, I felt terrible because I couldn’t keep a straight face. I had to apologize to him and be like, “Dude, I can’t look you in the eye. I’m so sorry. It’s so hard for me to say these words and not break. I’m just going to look at your ear. Okay?”
Now, was there anyone you wish you got to work with more? You had a nice balance with everyone.
Ryan and Mike don’t get enough screen time together. We have the certificate bit throughout the series, but I feel like Ryan and Mike don’t get enough time together; they’re the two youngest brothers and the two most dissimilar brothers. I would love to get a road trip with Ryan in or something.
Christina Vidal obviously is no stranger to coming-of-age stories cause I vividly remember Taina growing up. So what was it like to have her at the helm, playing that glue that keeps everyone together?
She’s so good at it too. She was so good at playing Drea—yeah, Christina’s amazing. I loved having Christina on set.
Christina, I grew up, she’s going to hate that I said that, but I grew up watching Christina; I had to tell her pretty early; I had to get it out of the way where I was like, “Yo, when I was 11 or something, I saw Brink, and I was in love with you.” I tried to get my mom to buy me rollerblades. She made me want to skate.
But yeah, Christina’s so good as Drea, and she’s like that in real life too. She’s hosted dinners for the cast and called everyone over. She’s keeping everyone together.
Is there any particular storyline you enjoyed most or that resonated with you?
I love the roof bit. I’m a big fan of petty revenge; even if it’s someone getting revenge on me, I find it funny. I look at somebody get me and be like, damn well played, and kind of laugh about it. So yeah, the roof bit just, I enjoyed that a lot. We had Melissa Romero directing that episode, which she’s great and just really let us have fun with it.
It looked like you guys were having fun with it. And I could see it being something that my brothers have done. I love how everybody just knows not even to bother getting involved.
Don’t get involved in revenge.
Did you have any tips or anyone that helped you navigate your teenage years like Mike helps Rafa?
I had an older brother who was ten years older than me.
Oh wow. Yeah. That’s a nice age difference.
Yeah, it was a big gap. So he was really a father figure in those years.
And through high school, he’s such a loving brother. He was so good at wanting to hang out with me. I never felt like that little brother left out. He would always pull me into what he was doing and say, “Yo, I’m picking you up. Let’s go. Probably the stuff I shouldn’t have been going to at that age.[Laughs]
What is some advice you wish you could give your younger self?
Oh, that’s a good question. Focus on yourself. When you’re young, you waste a lot of time focusing on other people and what other people think and trying to find your place in the hierarchies of social groups. And I think that stuff sorts itself out once you figure out who you are.
Why should people tune in to Primo?
Someone just asked me that. The show’s about love; it’s about family. It’s also heartwarming if you watch Primo and you don’t feel a little better after, I think we failed, but I don’t think that happens.
I believe this is a show you can watch, and right afterward, you will feel a little less alone. God, that got sentimental, a little less alone in the world. But it makes you feel like you got a little company.
Yeah, you guys capture that pretty well. It was fun to watch when I was watching it, and of course, it did make me wish I had a much bigger family, just for the fun of it.
Mike makes you want a big family? That’s really sweet!
It was really cute in that way. Do you have any other projects you’re working on that you can share with us?
No. We’re waiting for season two to see what happens with that. And in the meantime, I have a couple of shows in development and now the strike, but a couple of things, writing that I’ve been working on and then sculpting. I should start sculpting more now, now that I have more time. But I’ve been off the sculpting thing for a bit.
Now how about theater? Are you interested in getting into that again?
Oh, I’m dying to. Yeah, we’ll see. There’s potentially something at the end of the year theater-wise; I’m waiting to see what happens with Primo season two because that would take precedence.
But yeah, I’m dying to go back to the stage. I miss it. I love it. It’s my favorite place.
Well, I have my fingers crossed for season two news for Primo. And, of course, everything’s up in the air with the writer’s strike, so hopefully, we’ll get the best results with that.
Thank you! And yes, hopefully, the AMPTP starts to value the interests of the workforce that creates their products as much as they value the interests of their shareholders.
You can find the full season of Primo on Freevee!
Hit the comments with your thoughts and reactions.
If you haven’t already checked out the series, get a look at the promo below!
*** This interview has been edited for length and clarity***
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.