CBS’s “Superior Donuts” is tackling immigration issues in what may be the series’ most relevant episode ever. Monday night’s episode, “The ICEmen Cometh,” was inspired by star Diane Guerrero’s own experience with her family and deportation.
“We learned about Diane’s story when we first talked to her about joining the show, and we were struck by how brutal it was to see this hot-button political issue play out on a personal level, where a family gets torn apart and there’s nothing they can do about it,” said executive producer Bob Daily.
In the episode, Guerrero’s character, Sofia, enlists her pal Franco (Jermaine Fowler) to help hide her undocumented brother Rafael (Erik Rivera) when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement starts conducting raids in their uptown Chicago neighborhood. The ICE presence has everyone on edge, including donut shop owner Arthur (Judd Hirsch), whose store is where Franco secretly hides Rafael, and Officer DeLuca (Katey Sagal), who’s not happy about having to accompany the ICE agents.
Guerrero said she was pleased with how the show tackled the immigration issue, with balanced viewpoints and humor. “You don’t often get to see the real fear that people have to be separated from their families,” she said. “I’m proud of [the episode] and hope it inspires other storytellers to tell more stories like this.”
Peter Murrieta wrote “The ICEmen Cometh,” which was directed by Linda Mendoza. Guerrero continues to share her personal story via talks around the country and also her book, “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided,” in which she tells the story of what happened to her own family.
“It was something I expressed very early on,” she said, “And because the show tackles so many real issues like race, gender, police brutality and women’s issues, it was only fitting for them to have an episode that touched upon immigration and deportation. It certainly helps create dialogue.”
Guerrero said she was consulted throughout the production of the episode, and asked to give notes on the show’s script. One thing she pointed out was the use of the term “illegal.”
“That was important, it’s a very violent term used to describe undocumented folks,” she said. “It’s very important for me to make that distinction and go, wait a minute, ‘illegal’ is not the right term. No one person can be illegal… they were very concerned that they weren’t miscommunicating any information.”
The show’s writers also explored several viewpoints on the subject, including through the eyes of the show’s character Fawz, played by Maz Jobrani. Although an immigrant himself, Fawz has a very conservative viewpoint when it comes to others entering the country.
“It’s the ‘good immigrant vs. bad immigrant’ narrative,” Guerrero said. “I like to be balanced. It’s important to see all points of view and the show does this very well.”
Daily agreed that he hoped the episode showed people on both sides of the political aisle. He noted that from either perspective, most agree “that our current immigration policy takes a real toll on millions of people… Diane was amazing through the whole process, trusting us with a version of her personal story but also keeping us honest while we told it.”
“Superior Donuts” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.