Sony hosted TV journalists at their studio lot last week as part of the Television Critics Association press tour, and the presentations for the day included a Q&A with the actors of the Netflix reboot of One Day at a Time. The modern series, like the original, is a timely, relevant show about a single mom (this time played by Justina Machado) raising two teens. Multiple award winner Rita Moreno is part of the cast playing Machado’s mother, Lydia, and like the original, the building is taken care of by someone named Schneider.
This Schneider, though, is a bit different from the character played by Pat Harrington Jr. in the original series. Rather than the tough manly man of times past, who might have bordered on creepy at times if he hadn’t been played by such a likeable actor, Schneider has been reinvented as a sensitive hipster. As played by Todd Grinnell, this Schneider, like the original, cares very much for the family at the center of the series and in his own way has become a part of that family.
Following the Q&A we caught up with Todd Grinnell to discuss the Schneider legacy, his familiarity with the original character, and what we have to look forward to in Season 2 when it premieres in a few months.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: How familiar were you with Pat Harrington Jr.’s Dwayne Schneider from the original One Day at a Time?
TODD GRINNELL: I was very familiar with him, because I grew up watching the original One Day at a Time. When I was really young, I always wondered what was rolled up in his sleeve. I was too young to understand what that was, but I thought it was neat that somebody kept something in their sleeve like that!
But yeah. I grew up watching the show. I really loved it. So, yes. I was very aware of it when I came to audition for this. In fact, I knew our showrunner Gloria [Calderon Kellett] previous to this. We’ve collaborated on a bunch of different short plays and short films, and things like that. We’re friends from a long time ago. So I got the audition, and I called her, and I said “I’m not coming in for this! I’m not this guy! I’m not Schneider!” And she said “no, no, no. It’s not anything at all like the original Schneider.” And so when I heard that, then I was like “Okay.” Because I really had to set Pat’s Schneider — not aside, it’s just we’re running parallel. Somebody said “you’re going to fill Pat Harrington’s shoes” and I said “absolutely not.”
I’m not filling them. I wouldn’t even try on those shoes! There is no filling those shoes. I’m wearing a different set of shoes and we’re walking down the same path. It’s kind of how I feel.
I have a picture of [Pat Harrington Jr.] framed up in my dressing room, and every show night, I’m like “all right, man. Let’s do this.” Because I feel like brothers in arms; totally different characters.
As someone who knew the original show, did you get to talk to Mackenzie Phillips when she was on set?
Yeah. And also, one of our producers, Patricia Fass Palmer, was a producer on the original, and she was close with Pat, and so, she tells me stories and I ask her things. I just love hearing about all of the little tidbits.
We don’t even know that both Schneiders have the same first name, do we?
That’s right. We don’t! We don’t know Schneider’s first name.
In an episode from Season 2 that I attended a taping for there was a really fun interaction between Schneider and Elena. Can you talk about those scenes with Isabella Gomez, and are we going to see more of that in the new season?
It’s so great. I think there will be some more of us hanging out together. It’s really fun. Every cast member, we get our scripts and you read through it, and you’re like “oh, I have this scene with Justina [Machado] where we get to have this really cool moment!” Rita [Moreno] and I recently had some scenes together which we hadn’t really had together since Season 1. All of a sudden, we have a scene together and I’m going “wow. How cool is that? This is great, to dance with you again!” And then the next episode, it’s me and Isabella, or [Schneider] and Alex. It’s a treat.
As an audience member, it’s incredible to see icons like Rita Moreno and Norman Lear on the stage in front of me.
For me, as well. Every day I’m pinching myself, that I get to come to work with all of these amazing people.