Apple TV+’s newest show Now & Then is redefining what it means to grow up a little too fast, what it costs to keep secrets and lose the most important people in your life—and most of all, what it looks like to be Latinx. Featuring an all-star cast including Marina de Tavira (Roma), Rosie Perez (Birds of Prey), José María Yazpik (Narcos), Maribel Verdú (The Flash), Manolo Cardona (Narcos), and Soledad Villamil (A Twelve-Year Night), the series follows a group of freshly graduated college students who cover up the death of one of their friends following a deadly car accident. 20 years later, their past comes back to haunt them, forcing the group to reunite and revisit the tragedy that changed the trajectory of each of their lives. Part thriller, part murder-mystery, part police hunt, Now & Then is unafraid to make commentary about today’s times, the Latinx community, and the sudden loss of our youth.
“It’s something that happens all the time in cities, stories that you read in the newspapers, stories where one night changes everything for you,” Now & Then co-creator and writer Gema R. Neira tells HipLatina. “Life is light when you are young but after something like that happens, it’s never gonna be the same for you. Our real story is about many real stories.”
In telling that “real story,” the show powerfully captures the stark differences between post-college life and adulthood, between joy and realism, through intentional choices for color, camera work, and editing what are essentially two different but simultaneous timelines.
For example, in collaboration with the director of photography Jacobo Martínez and co-director Carlos Sedes, director Gideon Raff “came up with this visual language that conveyed this past naivete pre-accident, this hope, and optimism that we all have” through the use of a warm color palette and special lenses that brought “a glassy, magical feel” to the graduation celebration at the beach. Whereas, “in the present, we really wanted to convey the minute we meet the characters that none of them are living are colorful, hopeful, optimistic life that they thought they would,” he explains.
Another striking theme that Now & Then explores is the idea of language and bilingualism in the Latinx community and today’s world at large. Set in Miami, Florida, the home of one of the biggest Latinx populations in the U.S., it makes sense to see the main characters fluidly moving between English and Spanish depending on what comes naturally and who they’re talking to. But from the moment the first episode begins, it becomes clear that Spanish will prevail for most of the show’s dialogue alongside English subtitles. Given the show’s release on Apple TV+, a primarily English-language platform, it feels radical and empowering to watch these characters comfortably speaking their native tongue, unconcerned about being understood by monolingual viewers who may only understand English.
“This is a bilingual series because we live in a multilingual world,” co-creator and writer Ramón Campos says, adding that situation and context also affect what language is being spoken in a particular moment.
The policemen speak in English because they are American. The Latinx families speak in Spanish among themselves but with their children, they speak in English. There is no logic. There was no specific percentage or ratio of ‘This will be in English’ or ‘This will be in Spanish,'” much like in real life. It’s incredible and validating to see such a show capturing the beautiful complications and nuances of how Latinx people learn to move through the world from an early age.
The same sentiment is felt not just among the crew but the cast as well. Argentinian actress Soledad Villamil, who plays Daniela, a filmmaker struggling to let her friend’s death stay a secret, felt seen by the show’s script, story, and characters even before production started.
“When I read the first three episodes of the series, I was immediately captivated,” she says. “It is not a generalized Latinx experience. It is an Argentinian, a Colombian, a Mexican, a Spanish one, and we were each able to keep our accent, not separate it from our cultural experience. It was very important to me that the series portrayed every Latinx idiosyncrasy.”
Not only are English and Spanish being spoken back and forth throughout Now & Then, but all different dialects of Spanish are incorporated too, depending on the character who’s speaking. From Mexican Spanish to Colombian Spanish to Villamil’s own Argentinian Spanish, this melting pot of languages within Spanish itself emerged and embedded itself into the story. After years of being reduced to Hollywood stereotypes, being assumed to be Mexican because that’s seemingly the only Spanish speaking country people are familiar with, and only seeing one kind of Spanish spoken, seeing the show differentiate, celebrate, and represent all these various Latin American cultures on the same screen is nothing short of revolutionary.
“It reflects a very fixed reality of the United States and of many places in the world where multicultural coexistence is a fact,” Vilamil says. “Where we are constantly linking ourselves between people of different origins, of different languages, different backgrounds. And I think it is very important that a show gives rise to that and tells it.”
When it came to Daniela, Vilamil felt similarly about the way her character was being portrayed, both as a woman and as a Latina. “I found the mystery of her character very interesting, everything that she hides, all the burdens of pain that she carries over twenty years,” she explains. “Where she had to make a dramatic change in her life, where all her expectations for future, work, school were truncated by that accident.”
More than a Latina character or stereotype we might’ve seen before, Daniela possesses complicated inner conflict and uncertainty. Does she stay loyal to the friend who died or to all those who are still living? When will she give herself away? You never quite know what she’s planning or thinking, which only adds to her appeal and the mystery of the show as a whole.
In addition to representing Latinx experiences in new ways and giving us a thriller we’re excited to follow, Now & Then also has a lot to say about collective trauma, and deeper lessons to offer that we can all take into our own lives, whether or not we’ve gone through the same things. It asks: what do we do when we’re at an impasse or crossroads? Do we hide our secrets or share them, even if means hurting others and ourselves? Through this remarkable, complex group of people and their equally complex story, we learn that it’s how we allow our past to define us, how we react to tragedy, and how we move on that defines who we really are. Vilamil notes:
The events of the past, the wounds of the past, the pains of the past, they orient us in life. But one has the possibility to transform, to learn from the pain or to repeat it, to relive that pain again and again. that’s a very profound idea that the series puts forward.
The first three episodes of Now & Then are now available to stream on Apple TV+.