Co-creators Ashley Soto Paniagua and Dani Adaliz illustrate the reality of how life-long friendships can be put to the test when childhood commonalities aren’t enough to hold their friendship together as adults in their 2023 SXSW Official Selection mini-series “Chuchi and Adaliz.”
Out of all breakups, friendship breakups are perhaps the most underrated. And it’s not that they don’t happen often; just like romantic relationships, the friendships that we thought to be lifelong sometimes don’t end up being lifelong, and life pulls us in different directions. That’s what Ashley Soto Paniagua and Dani Adaliz have set out to show in their 2023 SXSW Official Selection mini-series, “Chuchi and Adaliz.”Just because you have somebody who’s been your friend since you were nine, it doesn’t necessarily mean capitalism or socio-economic issues won’t tear you apart,” says Dani Adaliz, co-creator, actor, and director of “Chuchi and Adaliz.”
Set in the Bay Area, the comedy mini-series is a five-episode single-camera digital series that follows childhood besties who, despite having a shared racial and ethnic identity as Afro-Puerto Ricans, couldn’t be more different than each other as adults. When Adaliz loses her high-powered corporate job in San Francisco and moves in with Chuchi in Oakland, the audience watches avatars of San Francisco (Adaliz) and Oakland (Chuchi) and how their socio-economic differences shape behavior and put a strain on their friendship when they realize that what brought them together as kids isn’t enough to keep them together as adults.
And while friendship breakups happen to everyone regardless of race or socio-economic status, Ashley and Dani have tailored the show to relate to anyone who watches it while still making sure that it touches on the cultural nuances of the Latina experience.
“I think friendship is universal,” says Ashley Soto Paniagua, who plays Adaliz and is also the showrunner and co-creator of the show. “Anyone, regardless of ethnic, racial, or socio-economic background, can identify with the idea of just having a friend that you choose to do life with. When you incorporate the cultural element, you can showcase how that specificity just enriched the way in which people connect and how these particular friends bonded over their shared racial and ethnic identity as kids.”
However, while “Chuchi & Adaliz” shines a light on the friendship of two Latinas, it’s not necessarily a show about Latina friendships. Friendships and connections are much more nuanced than just being BFFs because they’re Latinas. As we grow up, so do our personalities, goals, and circles, and as Ashley says, being of the same race or ethnicity is not enough to sustain a friendship.
“I think what’s important about that is the idea that just because you’re the same racial or ethnic background doesn’t mean that you’re automatically gonna be on the same page about everything and then spark a long-lasting friendship,” says Ashley. “It’s not to say that there aren’t commonalities among people. But just because you are the same on paper doesn’t necessarily translate to this idea that we’re all the same therefore, we’re going to be best views. With these characters as kids it was easy, and then as adults, it’s not so simple. And it’s so much harder to make friends as adults. So it’s so much more painful when you lose support to your core relationships.”
Sometimes life will test those friendships for you, whether moving to a new city, moving in together, a new relationship, or even having to help each other when one loses their job. Like relationships, friendships are work and the ones that offer the most growth are the ones that are honest and challenge one another, rather than just being good company and telling each other what the other person wants to hear.
I share with Dani and Ashley my own experience with moving in with a best friend and how that can definitely test your friendships on another level, especially when the world warns you to never move in with your best friends. And often, when you deal with friction with your best friends, it can be jarring to have your perceived notions of who you thought a person to be, be shaken up when conflict arises. However, that’s when communication truly serves as medicine, even for non-confrontational friends.
“Where there’s dissent or disagreement, there’s a huge opportunity for growth. You’re going to either choose to grow and do the hard things, or it might be healthier to choose to leave because that person.”Dani Adaliz
“When we had those moments where I thought we were gonna break up, it really took a lot,” says Dani when she talks about her best friend. “But having the hard conversations was key. For the lack of a better word, eating the shit. When someone’s telling you that you’re hurting them – whether you agree you’re hurting them or not, really listening and taking that in and knowing that you might make the mistake again, but, hoping that there’s an open line of communication for there to be growth.”
For Ashley, creating “Chuchi & Adaliz” came from personal experience after a friendship breakup left her torn when she needed her friend the most. It helped her understand her non-negotiables and boundaries within her relationships.
“We all have our public and private persona, where you’re probably more your real self in your private spheres and just let go of all the pretenses,” shares Ashley. “In my experience, you have someone who’s like mothering you as opposed to being your friend. And that, for me, it was just it was a bit too much. Also, my sister passed away after a mental health emergency and a lot of my friends were not around including the one that I had a breakup with. And so it was sort of a non-negotiable; like, ‘bye.’ It was just really devastating to be in a position where you’ve known someone for like ten years, and the time when you’re really in a place where you needed support, they can’t offer it. That’s what friends are for, right?”
And through Ashley and Dani’s friendships, both good and bad, they’re putting their heart and all the lessons they have learned in their life in the five-episode mini-series screened at the Alamo Drafthouse during SXSW in March.
“Chuchi & Adaliz” serves as a story about friendships and a cautionary tale of what happens when childhood friends grow up and that sometimes they can’t grow up together anymore. I ask Ashley and Dani what message they and the series want to give to those currently dealing with friendship breakups or how we can nurture these relationships to become life-long friendships.
“I feel like most friendships, especially that are that deep, are worth or worth fighting for because there’s a lot of growth to be had there,” shares Dani. “One of the things a therapist told me when I think I was 15 is that where there’s dissent or disagreement, there’s a huge opportunity for growth. You’re going to either choose to grow and do the hard things, or it might be healthier to choose to leave because that person already has some other things going on that have nothing to do with you but are bleeding into you and your relationships.”
And overall, just as #WeAllGrow focuses on creating a safe space of Amigahood rooted in connection, empathy, and growth, which requires understanding within all of us what is holding us back from our highest self that we need to let go of.
“I think it’s always s worth it to look inside and realize if this is like a healthy space or not as the most important thing,” shares Dani. “So whether that means you have to grow or you have to let it go.”