By all appearances, Rafael Agustin had been the all-American high school student: he was class president, prom king and an honor roll student. But there was one hitch: he was also in the country illegally.
It was a discovery Agustin learned while applying for college in 1998 — before there was a program like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“I was in shock,” the Ecuador-born writer-performer recalled during a recent phone interview with The Times. “I knew I was an immigrant — I remember a time when I didn’t speak English. But I didn’t know we were undocumented immigrants.”
Agustin, now a U.S. citizen who received his undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television, has channeled that experience and created a series inspired by his life about an immigrant family, tentatively titled “Illegal.” The series is in development at the CW and is expected to be an hour-long dramedy that Agustin describes as an edgy Latino version of “The Wonder Years.”
The announcement came a day after the Trump administration’s decision to dismantle DACA, which has provided hundreds of thousands of young immigrants the ability to work legally in the U.S. and a temporary reprieve from deportation.
“Illegal” is one of two immigrant-related series that “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez has in development under an overall deal at CBS TV Studios for her I Can & I Will Productions. (The other, “Have Mercy,” is set up at CBS.)
We talked to Rodriguez and Agustin, who currently serves as executive director of Edward James Olmos’ Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project, about the dramedy.