To play Fiona, an immigrant from the Philippines in 'The Cleaning Lady,' Filipina Australian actress Martha Millan said two people have helped her in a big way.
"My parents are both invested in the show so much and the way that they can actually contribute by translating, awesome. Even if it's three in the morning on Zoom, I'll be like, 'Guys, wake up, is this right? Is this the right way to say it?' And then they would do a whole kind of debate of, like, 'No, hindi yan. Pero hindi.' I’m, like, 'Guys, just give me the simplification. We need to go on set now.' And it was wonderful," Millan shared.
The Fox series tells the story of Filipinos in Las Vegas who are dealing with the challenges of being undocumented while doing difficult jobs to raise their families.
The show is a first of its kind in Hollywood primetime TV for its constant inclusion of Filipino talents in front of the cameras as well as in the writers' room, directors, producer, and even music by Ruby Ibarra.
Millan said playing Fiona on a network TV means everything to her.
"I think it's the first time that a Filipino is at the forefront of the show and being portrayed in a way that's humanized. Yes, we are cleaning ladies and the stereotype is there, but I think by watching the show, you realize that it's an authentic way to tell the story of marginalized voices in in the way that we're all the same. We all go through these things."
The actress added, "We're not just coming on and cleaning things, and then we go home to bed. Obviously the show has extraordinary situations that we're dealing with, but I think just the day-to-day life of Fiona and Thony and the kids in the family, they're all based on family values."
Its most recent episode titled 'Lolo and Lola' also features actress Princess Punzalan in her US network TV debut. Punzalan and Alberto Isaac play Millan's parents who visited from the Philippines due to an urgent family situation.
"There was much humility and she's just so down to earth in every way, and just giving as an actor as well that playing off of her was so easy, and to believe that she was my mother. It was great," Millan said of Punzalan.
Most of Fiona's scenes are with her sister-in-law Thony, played by the show's star Elodie Yung.
The series depicts the supportive relationships of many Filipino sisters-in-law, something that hasn't been explored before in any other Hollywood stories.