When it comes to the Sandoval family, things are complicated. Promised Land made a big debut on January 24, introducing us to the Sandovals and their massive wine empire. In the first hour, big reveals were made, Joe’s ex Margaret made a comeback, and we learned that the show will feature two incredibly important timelines.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Promised Land creator, showrunner, writer, and producer Matt Lopez about the Promised Land premiere. From Margaret and Antonio’s alliance to Billy being alive and going by the name of Father Ramos, Matt is breaking down all the juiciest reveals from the premiere that has left us all wanting more. SPOILERS AHEAD!
It’s clear that Margaret has a lot of hostility towards Joe. How big of a threat is Margaret to Joe’s empire?
Matt Lopez: She is a big threat. She feels wronged, perhaps justifiably. It’s one of the things we explore in the series that Joe took that vineyard from her and her family, as she tells her daughter Carmen in episode 3. When they were married and Joe had maneuvered his way to basically taking over the company and was still in love with Lettie, Margaret went to Joe and basically said, “Buy me out.” She realizes that he’s taken her father’s vineyard. She’s been in exile for a while, and now she’s back to reclaim what she feels was rightfully hers. What I love about Bellamy’s performance and the character of Margaret is every great antagonist or villain thinks they’re the hero of the movie. Bellamy and I, from our earliest discussions, I told her to play it like you’re the hero of this, you have a legitimate claim to this, and play it like Joe is the villain. That’s been a wonderful prism for both of those actors and the writers to explore just how nuanced this is. I think there will be moments throughout the season where we’re rooting for Margaret to take down Joe, and then I think there will be moments where we’re appalled by Margaret and are rooting for the Sandovals to hang on.
You brought up Lettie, who is very crucial to this story. In those final moments of the episode, Billy is revealed as Father Ramos. Lettie is obviously shocked by this. What can you tease about where that’s going to go? Does Joe know Billy is alive?
Matt Lopez: He does not. He suspects Billy is alive, but it’s been years since he spoke to Billy. For all anyone knows, Billy could in fact be dead. We will later find out that between the Billy that we meet in the past timeline and the character of Father Ramos, which is this latest incarnation, he has traveled some dark and twisty roads. Billy is sort of a chameleon. He gives them their new names. He takes on new names all the time, and now he’s returned as Father Ramos. There’s two sets of love triangles in this show. You’ve got the Joe, Billy, Lettie triangle, but then you also have a Joe, Lettie, Margaret triangle. One of the really cool things about the two timelines and those two triangles is they play out in both, and they’re constantly shifting in both. Just because one character is with another at the end of season 1 in the present doesn’t mean they will be with them in the past. Following that story of how did those immigrant characters become these super successful and wealthy people and all the marriages and everything that happened along the way is a big part of the fun of the show. The moment where Joe sees Billy for the first time… I’ll just say it’s coming up in a relatively early episode and it is extremely memorable.
There’s a lot to mine from the Billy and Joe angle. We see how Joe treats Mateo, who is Billy’s son with Lettie. Mateo seems the most like Joe of any of the kids, even though he’s not biologically his. He quits very dramatically in front of everyone. What does his journey look like? Could Mateo and Joe ever see eye-to-eye?
Matt Lopez: I love Mateo’s journey. I literally typed “fade out” on episode 10, which was our last episode of season 1, last night, and he has such a great journey. I think there are different elements of Joe reflected in each of his children. In Antonio, you see the naked ambition. In Veronica, you see the leadership. In Carmen, you see the creative spark. You’ve hit on something really interesting that we’ve talked about in the writers’ room. In many ways, notwithstanding their clash in episode 1, which only intensifies very memorably in episode 2, the son that he shares no blood with is the most like him. Mateo has a dream, and Joe can relate to that. Their relationship over the course of season 1 will take some really interesting twists and turns, and not always lead where we expect. But Mateo’s journey is a really great one.
Antonio comes back into the fold, and we learn about halfway through the episode that he’s working with his mother. We haven’t touched the surface too much yet with her relationship with the rest of the kids, but will the show tap into that and how the others could sway in terms of who they’re loyal to?
Matt Lopez: One of the lovely things about the Margaret character is she’s similar to Joe in a delicious way where we’re never quite sure… is she doing this to be manipulative? Or is she doing it because she really feels it, and it’s coming from the heart? Over the course of the season, while she’s launching this corporate takeover of Heritage House Vineyards, she’s also trying to re-establish contact with her children. There are some lovely, lovely moments between Margaret and her daughters. Now, if you’re Joe Sandoval, the way you perceive that is she’s trying to peel my children away from me. Carmen is the first. We see that as soon as episode 3. Margaret really makes overtures to Carmen. Veronica takes more time because Veronica was older when Margaret left. She was about 10 years old, so Veronica remembers what it was like to have a mom there one minute and none the next. Carmen was the baby. She was two years old when Margaret left, so Lettie is the only mother she’s ever really known. Margaret uses that to her advantage to forge a relationship with Carmen.
Antonio goes through who has what shares of the company amongst the kids, and he was plotting to see who he could sway to his and Margaret’s side. Will we see their loyalty to each other tested? And if they’re more loyal to certain siblings at the end of the day?
Matt Lopez: At different times it will change. Although I will say this, we’ll see sisters lash out at their sisters, brothers lash out at their brothers. But one of the things I love about the show and I think makes it so relatable to audiences and to families, especially if you have siblings, is there’s that dynamic where I might fight with my brother or sister like cats and dogs but when a threat comes from the outside, the family and the brothers and sisters have a way of rallying and protecting each other and standing up for each other. We’ll see some of that in season 1 of Promised Land.
And is Margaret considered a threat? Is she ultimately a threat to them? They’ll have to decide that for themselves and maybe look outside Joe’s version of the story.
Matt Lopez: What some of the kids will discover is that the version of the past that they grew up with with their father may or may not be true, you know? Each of them in different ways and in different episodes will have to reckon with Margaret and how they stand with their mother. And do they want a relationship with her?
The party scene when Mateo quits and Joe pushes Junior into the pool is a pivotal moment for the audience to see the dynamics that are at play when it comes to Joe. How much does he value the legacy of Heritage versus his own family? Is that something that’s going to be at the heart of this series? How far will he go for success?
Matt Lopez: Absolutely. There’s that line in the first episode where he says, “I’ll do anything to protect this company.” And Lettie says, “Well, what about your family?” And in many ways, that is the big question for Joe in season 1. There are times where he will be, he and Veronica for that matter, will be faced with a very difficult choice whether to put the legacy above the family. What will those characters do when they are faced with that? We’re each our parents to a certain extent, but we also can change. We don’t have to repeat the sins of our fathers, and when Veronica is faced with a similar challenge, how will she react? Joe by the end of the season is going to have to look at himself in the mirror and ask himself: does he like what he sees? Is this the American dream that he came here to pursue?
Veronica gets into that terrible hit and run. You can see the guilt already weighing on her. As she is stepping into much more of a leadership position, how could that situation affect her judgment or her future?
Matt Lopez: You see in episode 1 there’s a moment that really resonates with me for Veronica, where Antonio tells her, “I’m just saying, our father doesn’t always let a little thing like right and wrong stand in his way. I’m glad you’re not like him.” What we will see starting in episode 1, but throughout the season, is Veronica faced with that choice. Is she a person who doesn’t let little things like right and wrong stand in her way? Is she going to repeat the mistakes of her father? Or is she going to stand up and be a new kind of leader? Even if that means sacrificing what she’s worked so hard to build?
I love the interweaving of the past and present. You could have easily told this story through just the present day. For however many seasons this show goes, will the past timeline always be a part of Promised Land?
Matt Lopez: Oh, yes. That continues. What’s kind of nice in episode 2 is the reveal has been made. We realize Carlos is Joe. Juana is Letty. And now starting in episode 2, because the cat is out of the bag, it allows us to juxtapose the stories in really interesting ways to see how Lettie, for example, is faced with a decision in the past that’s similar to a decision she might have to face in the present. Will she act the same way? Do we ever change? Do we ever evolve as people? That’s maybe my favorite device of the show because what it allows is you get the best of both worlds. You get the family empire at the height of its power juxtaposed against the scrappy immigrant story of how that empire came to be. How did those people become those people? I think audiences will be delighted to see those questions answered.