Season 1 spoilers unmarked
Penelope Francesca del Carmen Riera Inclán Ruiz Maribona de Alvarez
- Played By: Justina Machado
The dedicated and loving mother of the Alvarez family. A former soldier that now works as a nurse.
- Affectionate Nickname: Her mother calls her "Lupe" and occasionally "Lupita". Schneider calls her "Pen".
- Deadpan Snarker: She tends to respond to the weirdness and drama of her family with sarcastic quips — sometimes even when she's causing the weirdness and drama.
- Good Parents: Penelope's not perfect and makes some well-intentioned blunders, but she gets the job done with a balance of protecting her kids and respecting their independence.
- Heroic BSoD:
- "Hello, Penelope" is an episode-long B.S.O.D. for her, after she goes off her antidepressants without consulting her doctor. The downward spiral is brutal, and by the end of it, she can't even make herself get out of bed, and asks herself, "What's the point in living if I can't feel anything?" Fortunately, this forces her to accept that she needs help, and she gets back on her meds.
- A Played for Laughs example when she finds out Syd and Elena have had sex. The poor woman looks like her soul is departing her body. She gets over it when she's had a couple hours to process.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Dates Max in season 2, who is an extremely tall man that she has to use some sort of support to talk face to face with and even kiss him.
- In "One Lie At A Time", she starts calling her mother out for lying to her, as well as calling Elena out. She then is quickly caught lying on where she went, since she was going to therapy, not a date.
- In season 2, she calls her mother out for hiding a gun in the house for safekeeping, however, Alex calls her out on the fact that Penelope herself hides a gun in a safe beneath the bathroom.
- When she finds out that Elena's had sex, she's freaked out, partially because Elena's "only" seventeen. But when Ramona asks, she sheepishly admits that she lost her virginity when she was seventeen, too. This one is justified, though, since Penelope then goes on to explain that she thought she was ready, but freaked out the next day because she really wasn't. When she realizes that's not what happened with Elena, she's a lot more accepting.
- Like Mother, Like Daughter: Penelope has a few traits she shares with her mother, such as being a bit too overprotective of her kids, and even mimicking some of her mannerisms.
- Mama Bear: She is fiercely protective of her children, among the reasons she left Victor was the fact that his PTSD was starting to affect the kids, and she painfully remembers one time where he woke them up to tell them he was going to kill himself.
- Nice Girl: Penelope is a loving, protective, and dedicated mother. She is also a hard-working nurse and a well-intentioned and outgoing person in general.
- Platonic Life-Partners: With Schneider. They're great friends, are each other's confidants, are always willing to help each other out, and Schneider is considered an honorary member of the family, but they're just friends.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Played for all the drama it can. Penelope goes off her meds in "Hello, Penelope", causing her to spiral downwards into her PTSD and depression. She is aggressive with Lydia and Schneider, ignores Max, her children and her work, and spends her day moping in her bed, trying to sleep and failing at it. When she finally makes a recording of herself, it's absolutely harrowing and briefly implies that she is contemplating ending her own life.
- Open-Minded Parent: When Elena comes out to her mother, Penelope calmly accepts it although the development sends her reeling. After making efforts to educate herself about gay culture, she decides the best thing she can do is support Elena without walking on eggshells. When she finds out Elena's had sex, her main concern — apart from "oh my God, my baby's growing up" — is that Elena might have thought she was ready, but in reality wasn't. As she explains to Elena, that's what happened to her, and she just doesn't want Elena hurt. After they talk about it, Penelope is relieved to hear that Elena really was ready.
- Parental Sexuality Squick:
- She's pretty weirded out when she realizes Dr. Berkowitz has a crush on Lydia.
- She also gets easily squicked by Lydia's tales of her and Berto's romantic passion — but, to be fair, Lydia does tend to give way Too Much Information.
- In an inversion, she's (rather understandably) thrown for a loop when she finds out Elena's lost her virginity. To her credit, after taking a couple hours to process (and vent to Ramona), she handles it very well, accepting that, as a fairly mature seventeen year old in a happy, committed relationship, Elena's ready to make the decision for herself.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Penelope has even less knowledge of current culture than her mother. She thinks that Doctor Who is a medical show, for example, when even Lydia can say that he is a Time Lord.
- Secret Relationship: In season 2, she starts a relationship with Max, but in order to keep her family from intruding in her life or embarrassing her, she avoids introducing him for a long while.
- Shared Family Quirks: After eating a bag of cheetos, she likes to rip it open so she can lick off the remaining dust on the inside, something her mother and Elena do as well.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Still shaken from her time at the army, Penelope is dealing with PTSD and a bad shoulder from an accident. Different than Victor however, she is seeking help by taking anti-depressants and participating in group therapy for former army women.
- Struggling Single Mother: Downplayed since their apartment is fine and she has Lydia to help out, but Penelope continuously stresses that it's difficult to make ends meet and Victor isn't the most useful of ex-husbands.
Lydia Margarita Del Carmen Inclan Maribona Leytevidal de Riera
Penelope's mother, who ran away from Cuba in the 50s and has since build roots there. She plays up the Spicy Latina to the extreme, loves to dance (being a former dance teacher) and is quite intrusive in her daughter's life.
- Character Development: Over the course of the show, Lydia shows signs of becoming more accepting of her family when they disagree with her, be it in how they behave or decide to act. She allows Penelope to stop going to church, but insists for her to go every now and then, accepts Elena's sexuality and finally accepts that Penelope needs the anti-depressants and therapy to deal with her mental issues.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lydia is a very upbeat and odd old lady, with some outlandish and/or outdated ideas.Lydia: A curtain is just a wall with no self-respect!
- Compassionate Critic: Deconstructed. She really does mean well with her constant harping on Penelope and Elena, and loves them both deeply. However, her well-intentioned criticism comes off in a way that Penelope frequently feels like she'll never be good enough for Lydia, and Elena, as a kid, got so sick of it that she faked not being able to speak Spanish to avoid talking to her (though she did later come to regret this).
- Dark and Troubled Past: Lydia lived in Cuba when Castro rose to power, was forced to flee to America in Operation Pedro Pan at fifteen to try to start a new life with Berto and her three younger sisters, and faced prejudice and racism in the states.
- DecemberDecember Romance: Strikes up a "romance" with the similarly-aged Dr. Berkowitz.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Although she loves her family, she's still a product of her time in many ways, and her ways of thinking are often contrasted with her daughter's and grandchildren's more modern views.
- Her views on mental illnesses are outdated at best even downright damaging at worst, which she finally learns in "Hello, Penelope".
- Her idea of romance can have dark implications. She encourages Alex to "woo" a girl who rejected him by hounding her until she agrees to a date, and the love story she told about her sister Mimi involved home invasion and kidnapping. Everyone, including Alex, was horrified by the story.
- She fawns over Alex and Tito and will defend them even when they are clearly in the wrong, but is critical of Elena and Penelope, sometimes overly-so. Penelope calls out the sexism pretty frequently.
- When Penelope sarcastically exclaims that a woman's purpose is to please her husband, Lydia (sincerely) responds, "Damn right!" This also reflects in her attitudes towards Penelope's divorce — she thinks Penelope should've stuck it out, despite the fact that Victor was a drunk and a danger to Penelope and the children. To be fair, she did come around on that point when she realized Victor wasn't taking any steps to improve himself.
- Doting Grandparent: She adores Alex, and frequently fawns over him. To a lesser extent, she does the same with Elena, though they butt heads more often and Alex is blatantly her favorite.
- Drama Queen: Oh yes! If Lydia isn't being dramatic about something, she's asleep or praying.
- Hypocrite: Flirting and flaunting her sexuality is second nature to Lydia, but whenever Elena would show interest in boys before coming out as a lesbian, she would scold her granddaughter with passive-aggressive Slut-Shaming. It's part of her Deliberate Values Dissonance.
- It's All About Me: While she's not entirely incapable of acknowledging others' needs or feelings, Lydia is extremely focused on herself and what she wants.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lydia's stubborn, self-centered, and occasionally petty, but she's also loyal and loving to her daughter and grandkids.
- Large Ham: The largest in the show. She is outspoken, loud, loves to dance and making hand gestures, often at random. It helps that she is almost always received in the show through booming applause from the audience.
- Like Mother, Like Daughter: A lot of her traits can be seen mirrored in her daughter at some times.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Lydia will gladly leap into tall tales of her sexual escapades with Berto.
- Mama Bear: She has a few moments of this, most notably her kicking Victor out when it's revealed he'd been lying to Penelope about getting sober, and confessing a desire to feel Penelope's pain for her.
- The Mourning After: Lydia is still deeply in love with her late husband, Berto. It's why she refuses to date Dr. Berkowitz despite genuine feelings for him.
- My Beloved Smother: Still attempts to force a say in Penelope's decisions well into old age.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: When Lydia was relocated as a teenager, her older sister Blanca told her to not to look back when she walked into the airplane terminal to make their separation less heartbreaking. Blanca died years before Lydia ever got the chance to see her again.
- OOC Is Serious Business: When Penelope's ex Victor shows up in "Hurricane Victor", Lydia is exceedingly nice to him, and constantly suggests Penelope and him should get back together. But when it turns out Victor lied about being sober and getting help for his issues, Lydia gets more serious than we've ever seen her before, and curtly tells Victor to "go".
- Despite being the carefree and happy member of the family, she chokes up and withdraws when she recalls leaving Cuba and her first years in America as a fifteen year old, raising her three younger sisters and unable to speak english, not knowing if her loved ones in Cuba were safe.
- Open-Minded Parent: While still very conservative in other ways, Lydia grows very comfortable with Elena's sexuality, talking herself out of homophobia in one minute. This even extends to Alex, since when she thinks that he is gay in season 2, she is overjoyed to realize she'll be the only woman he ever loved.
- Parallel: To Elena. Each of them stand by opposite values as they were born in wildly different places and times, but they are both proud of their heritage, stubborn, loud and hotblooded. Elena even points it out to a comatose Lydia.
- Parental Substitute: To Schneider. She cooks for him, gives him advice, and helped him get sober.
- Parents as People: Lydia is a good and loving mother who worked really hard and successfully raised a good woman, however, some of her outdated ideas have caused trouble for Penelope, particularly considering mental illnesses something that are just in her head and that therapy is for the crazy, particularly her resistance to let Penelope go to the group therapy and take anti-depressants. She gets better after "Hello, Penelope", in which she sees what happens to Penelope when she stops treating herself and receives advice from a priest.
- Patriotic Fervor: Her pride of being Cuban is palpable, season 2 even shows she has a flag of Cuba to wave at Alex's games. She is very wistful of her time there and season 2 reveals she still dreams of going back there with her family, so they can go to her old house. It's revealed in season 2 she isn't an American citizen, because she and Berto couldn't bring themselves to renounce their Cuban citizenship.
- Shared Family Quirks: After she accidentally eats Leslie's marijuana drops, she eats a whole bag of cheetos and licks the dust off the inside of the bag like her daughter and granddaughter.
- Spicy Latina: An elderly version. Lydia is passionate, dramatic, an accomplished dancer, attractive, etcetera. Elena even lampshades it by calling her a walking stereotype.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: With the equally superficial and vain Alex.Lydia: (To Berto) You might be my soulmate, but Papito is my other half.
- The Exile: Scaped Cuba and the dictatorship at age 15 with her 3 younger sisters, leaving her parents, eldest sister and future husband behind to an unknown fate. During Alex's project about Cuba it becomes obvious she still grieves for her country and herself.
- Token Religious Teammate: An extremely religious woman, being the most religious one of her family and of the entire cast. She has several pictures of Popes (various different popes, at that), she got into fights with Penelope because of how different are their views on religion. Season 1 reveals that, during Penelope's time in Afghanistan, she visited the church to pray for her safety everyday.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Taking her family to Cuba someday is Lydia's greatest dream, but tragically, it's the Cuba from her childhood she truly wants to return to. In the Season Three finale, she travels there with Leslie to check "return to Cuba" off her bucket list.
Alejandro Alberto Alvarez Riera Calderón Leytevidal Inclan
Penelope's laid back youngest son. Alex is a vain boy who loves to look good and really wants to be more popular. Is really close to his grandmother for their shared values.
- Affectionate Nickname: Penelope and Lydia call him "Papito," a Spanish term of endearment for boys to compare them to their fathers.
- Alliterative Name: His full name is Alejandro Alberto Alvarez (...Riera Calderón Leytevidal Inclan.)
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Very downplayed. While Elena and he occasionally get into fights and he sometimes annoys her, they get along very well most of the time and always stick up for each other.Elena: I love you, dum dum.
- Calling the Old Man Out:
- While not shown onscreen, he reveals that he has called Victor out for what he did on Elena's Quinces, even using a lot of Elena's ideals on the conversation.
- After Penelope convinces Lydia to get rid of her gun, Alex reveals that he knows that Penelope also keeps a gun in the house, and helps her realize that her justifications are exactly what she accused her mother of, leading her to promise to get rid of her gun as well.
- Character Development: He shows a big side of maturity at the end of season 3, being an emotional support to Elena and even Dr. Berkowitz when they have panic attacks, as well as having a mature reaction to finding Schneider drunk and telling his mother about it, prompting them to help him get sober again.
- Coming-Out Story: Part of Elena's. Alex is the first person his sister tells about her sexuality and is very supportive to her after she does.
- Deadpan Snarker: About 80% of his dialogue is sarcastic quips.
- Fashion Designer: In season 4, he asks his mother for $500 but initially doesn't tell her it's so he can take a class on fashion design which he's passionate about. He's not very good at it and instead tries to buy clothes to cover up his failure, but after Penelope finds out, she encourages him to keep trying.
- Hidden Depths: Despite appearing very superficial and materialistic at first, Alex is actually someone extremely caring and insightful. He is also shown to know more about his family than he lets on, and able to call many of his relatives out for what they have done and not actually having a hard time in admitting his mistakes.
- Innocently Insensitive: He accidentally causes Lydia to remember her lost sister Blanca by calling her the oldest sister, however, nobody knew about her existence, since Lydia doesn't like to talk about it.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's sarcastic and self-involved, but he dearly loves his family, and is, overall, a good kid.
- Lamarck Was Right: He shares more traits with his grandmother than anyone else on the family.
- One Head Taller: By season 4, Alex has grown to be 5'9", towering over Penelope (5'1"), Elena (5'3"), and Lydia (5'2").
- Only Sane Man: Alex is pretty much the least eccentric member of the family, being a fairly down to earth person and capable of playing this to his family.
- OOC Is Serious Business "The Turn" has the normally chill Alex lash out at his family for "being too Cuban" while cheering for him at a baseball game. The second half of the episode reveals why: He's been facing racism at school and while out with his friends, making him resent his ethnicity.
- The Stoner: He spends most of Season 3 grounded after getting caught vaping pot. Lydia's horrified reaction is enough to scare him off it for good.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Shares a sense of vanity with his grandmother Lydia.
- Vocal Evolution: His voice gets deeper with each passing season, due to both the actor and the character going through puberty.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: He's shallow and has an age-appropriate desire to fit in, but he shows a surprising amount of maturity and levelheadedness on a number of subjects, such as Elena's sexuality, the idea of having a gun in the house, and his mom dating again.
Elena Maria Alvarez Riera Calderón Leytevidal Inclan
Penelope's intelligent and socially active daughter. She is a nerdy and dorky girl who loves video-games and being socially active in a plethora of causes.
- Affectionate Nickname: At one point gets called "mamita" by Penelope, but this wasn't a nickname like "papito" is for Alex; instead, Elena's is "blanquita". It lovingly mocks the fact she's lighter-skinned than her brother and mother.
- Break the Cutie: Victor rejecting her just about breaks her heart.Elena: You taught me a really valuable lesson. Just because I'm gay, people will hate me without knowing anything else about me. I always knew that was part of the deal. I just never expected it from my own father. Now I know not to expect the best from anyone. So, thanks, I guess.
- Butch Lesbian: Downplayed. She doesn't have the short-hair-boots-and-leather look, but she's a lesbian who dislikes typically feminine things, to the point that her dress to her Quinces was turned into a pantsuit. She even calls herself this when she gets a summer job as maintenance in their building.
- But Not Too Black: A Latina version. In "The Turn", after Alex is sent home for hitting a racist classmate, Elena points out how lucky she's been to not have been called racial slurs before, until Penelope points out that it's because she has lighter ("Wonder Bread") skin. Elena freaks out over the realization that she's been passing for white, and had been unknowingly reaping its benefits. She laments how she'll live her whole life without being oppressed the way her darker skinned family does, but Penelope reminds her that oppression is not the main goal, but peace and equality.
- Calling the Old Man Out: When Victor shows up again in season 2, she is first heartbroken and runs away, but by then, she seeks him out in his apartment and tells him she doesn't care for him anymore, telling him how much what he pulled in her Quinces severely hurt her, mentioning to have even went through weight loss because of him.
- Coming-Out Story: Over the course of season one. She first mentions to be attracted to girls when alone, not knowing Alex has just heard her, and he accidentally lets that slip to Schneider. She then comes out to her mom when she tries to give her The Talk and later, to her grandma, who quickly accepts her. She lastly comes out to her father, which doesn't goes so well.
- Does Not Like Men: Elena is capable of having male friends, but has reacted to many, including Alex, with hostility because her first assumption is All Men Are Perverts.
- Fatal Flaw: Her lack of moderation. Elena takes an "all or nothing" approach to what she does, whether it's tests, activism, playing video games, being a lesbian, or relaxing. While this drive to succeed helps her sometimes, it also causes her to burn herself out and take losses too hard.
- Gone Horribly Right: In the season two finale, she explains why she doesn't speak Spanish very well. As a kid, she was actually fluent, but one day, when Lydia was yelling at her in Spanish, Elena faked not being able to understand her in the hopes of shutting her up. Between Lydia's lack of English fluency and Elena's refusal to speak Spanish the two stopped talking, which suited Elena just fine at the time, since it gave her an out from Lydia's constant criticism. Except over the years, she forgot how to speak Spanish for real, and she now severely regrets it, because it made communicating with Lydia much harder.
- Hollywood Homely: She looks great even when portrayed as gross and unbathed but is somehow supposed to be much less attractive than Alex.
- Honor Before Reason: Elena puts her ideals before anything else, which often includes throwing away opportunities and going head to head against her family, often ignoring how they feel about it. This is particularly true when she throws away the opportunity to participate on a writing competition because she doesn't want to be viewed as the minority entry, despite being something that can even get her in an Ivy League College if she does well.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: To say Elena's tongue is sharp is like saying the Sahara is hot. Her devotion to political correctness, and usual assumption that she has the moral or factual high ground can often make her forget to consider other people's feelings. That said, it comes from a place of genuinely wanting to do the right thing, and her care for her loved ones often shines through.
- Like Mother, Like Daughter: She has some similar traits and ticks to her mother, like the two of them having moments of anxiety attacks.
- Nerd Glasses: She always wears thick black square glasses, which emphasize her intelligence. See Proud to Be a Geek.
- Proud to Be a Geek: She doesn't hide her geeky and nerdy interests in video games and series, including cosplaying as Doctor Who to Comic-Con. She even tries to become a streamer on Twitch.
- No Social Skills: Doesn't have friends at school because of her exaggerated Soapbox Sadie tendencies. Her poor social skills nearly sabotage her relationship with Syd almost straight out of the gate. Her cousin Pilar even makes note of this at her aunt's funeral when Elena greets her and immediately brings up how she's gay.
- Not Wanting Kids Is Weird: Penelope jokes that Elena can use her quinces photos to one day scare her own children and Elena immediately says she's not having kids. Penelope drops that topic for another day.
- Shared Family Quirks:
- After finishing a bag of cheetos, she likes to open it up and lick off the remaining dust on the inside like her mother and grandmother.
- When she starts having anxiety attacks in season 3, she can be calmed down in the same way that her mother Penelope: by being shown pictures of dogs in wigs. Similarly, the two don't react well to cute pictures of fat babies because they worry about their health.
- Soapbox Sadie: Is very zealous about her beliefs, to the extent it's implied she drives away a lot of people. However it comes from a good place and she serves as the philosophical centre of the family.
- Spicy Latina: She may not play to the stereotype, but Elena is a Latina with a nasty temper. When something has upset her, not even her loved ones are safe from being on the wrong end of a tantrum.
- Their First Time: In Season Three, she and Syd have sex for the first time. It's Elena's first time, period, but not Syd's. After some initial fumbling and a minor freakout, it goes extremely well and Elena has a good experience.
- The Unfavorite:
- Played for laughs in regards to Lydia, who makes no effort to hide the fact she is closer to Alex than her. Despite that, Lydia loves both of them and Elena and Alex are shown to be close despite that, since Lydia and Alex do have many shared interests and traits.
- It's played for drama with Victor, who not only gets along better with Alex while treating Elena like she's still five years old, but doesn't accept her sexuality. When she learns that Victor had kept contact with Alex after he had ceased to do the same with her, Elena almost stops talking with Alex altogether.
The Alvarezes' landlord. The ditzy and eccentric son of a wealthy family taking care of the building for his family, since he couldn't find a job. Considers himself part of the family.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: The original Schneider wasn't nearly as attractive as Todd Grinnell, who is even used as a Mr. Fanservice every now and then and Really Gets Around, instead of being just a Casanova Wannabe like the original character.
- Ambiguously Bi: He is mainly seen dating women, but shows what may be an attraction to Penelope's boyfriend Max in Season Two. He also proposes to Penelope and Max for them to "Netflix and chill" together, as well as deciding to hang out with a guy that shows up when Penelope tries online dating.Schneider: I've seen [Max] on Instagram. He seems like a super cool dude. Great abs!
Penelope:... I know, right!
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: He has a neglectful father who casually heaped on emotional abuse, and a laundry list of unstable stepmothers who were mostly his ex-nannies. It's briefly implies he was often used in the middle of disputes between his parents and had to be raised by several servants. He briefly mentions in "Not Yet" that the first person to actually kiss him on the forehead was Lydia.
- Birds of a Feather: Schneider's love interest, Avery, in Season 3 is pretty much his Distaff Counterpart: An obscenely wealthy, dorky hipster who tries too hard to be liked.
- Cloudcuckoolander: He's rather odd.Penelope: Can I confess something dark to you?Schneider: When you eat sushi, you sometimes imagine the fish screaming?
- The Confidant: Penelope trusts him with information she hardly trusts the rest of her family, often going to him before the family. Against all odds, he is often capable of setting her straight when she gets way over her head, starts coming up with crazy plans or is doing something she clearly shouldn't.
- Dreadful Musician: It's unclear if it's just his voice alone or because he was doing a pirate impression at the time, but his "Yacht Rock" singing leaves much to be desired.
- Drop-In Landlord: He's the landlord, although of similar age to Penelope. His lonely, wealthy upbringing contrasts him with the warm, working-class Alvarez family, and he frequently drops in because he sees them as family.
- Embarrassing First Name: Well, Pat isn't so bad, but he apparently doesn't like it.
- Family of Choice: Schneider considers the Alvarez more his family than any of his blood related relatives, not really hiding the fact he prefers them over his family, since they are actually warm and loving towards him and that Lydia helped him through his rehab. When Avery shows up to reconcile with him and mentions Lydia called her about it, he gets stuck on the fact that Lydia referred to him as an Alvarez.
- Hipster: Schneider has an assortment of niche hobbies and interests which he funds with his family's money.
- Hired Help as Family: Schneider's rich father was distant, and he was mostly raised by a string of nannies, at least one of which went on to become his stepmother. He does not view this in a positive light at all.
- Idle Rich: Schneider is rarely seen doing actual work despite his job as the building manager. His time is mostly spent hanging out with the Alvarezes, sleeping around, and doing outlandish, hipster-y hobbies.
- Last-Name Basis: Everyone calls him Schneider. In "Citizen Lydia", his first name on the citizenship application form is smudged to the point of illegibility, forcing the official to solely identify him by his last name. Late in Season 3 we finally learn his first name under suitably dramatic circumstances: after falling off the wagon he goes to AA and introduces himself with "Hi, my name is Pat."
- Like Brother and Sister: How he sees his relationship with Penelope, with her as the big sister and him as the little brother.
- Lonely Rich Kid: It's heavily implied he spent his childhood very alone, having the help raise him.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Schneider is a genuinely kindhearted man who also Really Gets Around and will get Distracted by the Sexy.
- Manchild: Is close in age with Penelope, but is more immature.
- Mr. Fanservice: He really gets around with women despite being an awkward, White Guilt-ridden man, has a number of shirtless scenes, and even Penelope thinks he is very attractive when he dresses up for the season 1 finale.
- Nice Guy: He occasionally gets on others nerves and is overly sensitive of his White Guilt but he is technically a loyal and well-meaning guy.
- Off the Wagon: Returns to alcoholism after his father's visit.
- Parental Substitute: Despite being a brother figure for Penelope, Schneider occupies an almost father-like role for Alex and Elena. He gives them advice, supports their interests, and is just as protective of them as Pen and Lydia are.
- Really Gets Around: He sleeps around a lot, with several different women, once even including a mother of one of Alex's friends (whom Penelope particularly dislikes).
- Recovered Addict: Schneider has a long history of substance abuse, particularly alcohol, admitting to have gone through rehab four times before finally being able to quit drinking with Lydia's help.
- The Teetotaler: Is self-aware enough to know that he has to completely abstain from alcoholic beverages in order to keep from backsliding.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: He lets himself into the Alvarez apartment and makes himself at home on a daily basis. It's a testament to how strongly he considers them his family.
- Token White: The only main character to not be of Latin heritage. In addition to his wealth, this is constantly used to showcase how much more privileged he is than them.
Dr. Leslie Berkowitz
Penelope's boss, who develops an attraction to Lydia.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Lydia cares very much about him, and they're close friends, but she's still carrying a torch for Berto, and Leslie accepts that.
- Benevolent Boss: He's very kind to his employees, to the point of being a walkover, and is Penelope's friend as well as her boss.
- Embarrassing First Name: Leslie, which Lydia is amused by.
- Extreme Doormat: Berkowitz has trouble saying no to people and in general doesn't have much of a backbone. It's the only reason he hired a ditz like Lori and a dudebro like Scott.
- Jewish and Nerdy: A dorky doctor of Jewish lineage.
- Nerdy Nasalness: His nasally voice only emphasizes his awkward nature.
- Nice Guy: Really, the worst thing you can say about him is that he can't stand up for himself to save his life. He's a genuinely friendly and affable dude.
- Phrase Catcher: Penelope says "Doc, what are you doing here?" many times in Season One upon finding him in the apartment.
Elena's best friend. Her parents are Mexican immigrants who get deported in season one.
- Back for the Finale: For the season 1 finale, Schneider and Lydia work secretly to get her to Elena's quinces. He buys her tickets while Lydia teaches her how to dance and she comes to the party as Alex's dance partner.
- Emotionless Girl: Carmen doesn't emote very much and speaks in a deadpan tone. Besides that, she's actually quite friendly and polite.
- Goth: Of the gloomy variety, with a constant emotionless face and some cynic views on concepts such as love.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Elena's a lesbian, but other than that, she and Carmen fit this trope like a glove. They're extremely close and would do anything for one another.
- Hidden Depths: Carmen hides the fact that she is actually a very friendly and polite girl, who is just going through a really hard time. In spite of her emotionless demeanor and deadpan voice, she is a good friend and a nice person.
- I Am the Noun: "I am the immigration project".
- Mistaken for Gay: Lydia sees how close she and Elena are and assumes they're "queer." Turns out, Carmen has a boyfriend and is simply Elena's best friend. Elena, however...
- Parental Abandonment: Not by choice. Her parents are undocumented immigrants, and were deported when they went across the border to find a doctor who didn't need paperwork they didn't have. When this happens, they instruct Carmen to go to Austin to live with her brother, and are still in contact with their children despite the situation.
- Put on a Bus: Moves to Texas to live with her older brother after their parents are deported. She however still makes some appearances in the show by skyping Elena, but disappears for a fact in season 2.
- Spicy Latina: Inverted. She's Mexican-American, but "spicy" is probably the last word you could use to describe her personality.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Non-sexual example, but she loves it when Penelope snarks at her, and when Lydia yells at her so much, she cries.
A nerdy and upbeat non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. They become Elena's first significant other as the two meet in a group protesting against gender representation in a video game.
- Friendless Background: They are home schooled, resulting in having no one to talk to most of the time and no way to make friends, with the sole exception of their pet chinchilla, which they still consider to be a "mean girl".
- Has a Type: Mentions to have a type and a thing for Selena Gomez. Considering that their girlfriend and Gomez share Latin heritage, they might have a thing for Latina women.
- Hidden Depths: While preparing for her first time having sex, Elena is shocked to discover Syd is actually experienced with it, leaving her much more insecure about going through with it.
- Homeschooled Kids: They're homeschooled, and are quite socially awkward, though only slightly more so than Elena.Syd: ...We need more friends.
- Insecure Love Interest: Starts to think Elena doesn't even like them at one point thanks to her poor social skills.
- Nerdy Nasalness: Syd has a nasally voice and is a huge geek. And proud of it!
- Nice Guy: Or Nice Person, to be accurate. They're very cheerful, kindhearted, and likable.
- No Social Skills: Syd is generally quite dorky, and even nerdier than their girlfriend.
- Pronoun Trouble: In Season 3 Elena decides she should come up with another term than "girlfriend" to match Syd's non-binary status. They eventually settle on Sydnificant Other.
- Romantic False Lead: Inverted. Syd is introduced among a group of feminist gamers that Elena brings home. At that point, Elena harbors a crush on a girl named Dani and spends the episode thinking on how and if to make a move, ending with Dani revealing she already has a girlfriend before Elena do anything, at which point, Syd — who had been a background character up until then — makes a move on Elena and they start dating.
A car saleswoman, who befriends Penelope and invites her to join a group therapy for former army women.
- Always Someone Better: She is far more bad ass and has more attitude than Penelope, which makes the latter quiver in fear of negotiating with her. She turns out to be very nice and approachable.
- Honest John's Dealership: Subverted. Penelope expects to be dealing with one of these when she buys a new car, but Jill is kind, compassionate, and honest, and winds up being Penelope's friend.
- Mistaken for Gay: When she brings Penelope to her therapy group the first time, Penelope tells the family she's going on a date. When Penelope comes home, they ask how it went...Then Jill walks in, as Penelope had left her phone in the car. Hilarity Ensues.
Another member of Penelope's therapy group.
- Brutal Honesty: She doesn't mince her words, and is usually quick to get to the crux of a matter. Especially when the crux of a matter is, "Penelope, you're being stupid." This makes her extremely effective when giving advice.
- Butch Lesbian: She's gay, and is a tough, no-nonsense woman.
- Mentor in Queerness: An unusual case, as she's not mentoring Elena; she mentors Penelope, when the latter has questions relating to Elena's sexuality. Ramona considers herself Penelope's "lesbian Yoda."
- Pyromaniac: Played for Laughs; she'll suggest setting things on fire at the slightest provocation. It's implied she's an arsonist on record. In one therapy session, Pam happily announces it's been a whole two years since Ramona's set anything on fire.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: She and Penelope actually met in a support group for female veterans with PTSD. Ramona is particularly triggered by fireworks, since it reminds her of gunshots.Ramona: The other day, a kid threw a snap at me. Before I knew it, I had him in a headlock. [beat] Now, the judge says I gotta clean some parks.
An EMT who is an old acquaintance of Penelope's from their time in the military. They start dating when they start working in the same place.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Schneider shows an immense appreciation of his muscular physique, mentioning to have scrolled through his Instagram to see more of him and even tries to get closer to him. Even Elena, a lesbian, acknowledges how hot he is.
- Celebrity Resemblance: According to Penelope, he looks like a buff Bradley Cooper.
- Foil: To Victor. He is another former military man interested in Penelope and who already knew her, however, Max is a Nice Guy who doesn't has the same issues as the ones that broke Victor and Penelope up.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: He is much taller than Penelope (he's 6'4", she's 5'1"), to the point that she actually stands in a chair to make out with him when they are standing up.
- Nice Guy: He's a charming, kind, nice guy who is perfectly willing to put up with the Alvarez family and their shenanigans and very understanding towards Penelope.
- Secret Relationship: Penelope desperately hide him so as to her family not find out she is already dating someone else.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played for laughs. In an episode, Max, Dr. Berkowitz and Schneider are all together with the family, Max outdoes every other guy in the house with his masculine looks, making Lydia say he is the only actual man in the house, with the other two take offense on.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Specifically tall. He is noticeably taller than everyone else introduced so far. Outside of that he is an incredibly handsome man with dark hair.
Other Family Members
Penelope's now ex-husband and the father of Elena and Alex. A former military who is resisting treating his PTSD, which caused Penelope to leave him.
He also has a estranged relationship with Elena as of season 2, as he can't accept her sexuality.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Appears to be a caring father to Alex and Elena and still care for Penelope, even if the separation kept him from seeing them. He turns out to have been lying to Penelope about getting sober and is very aggressive towards her in his refusal to get help. He also abandons Elena's quinceañera, right before the father-daughter dance, due to his refusal to accept her coming out to him. Season Two reveals he hasn't spoken to either Elena or Lupe in the months following, but has with Alex, both of them justifying it as easier since Lupe and Elena "both hate him anyway".
- Character Development: In Season 3 he's finally come around on Elena being gay, and it turns out the only reason he's taken so long to actually apologize is that he wants to do it in front of the entire family at his wedding so there can be no doubt he means it.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: While they are divorcing, he is not okay with the idea of another man taking his place both as Penelope's lover and a father figure to his children, reacting very harshly to Penelope saying that she is dating someone and immediately antagonizing Schneider when he shows up.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: His reaction to Elena's sexuality, particularly how he claims that "being gay is cool now" and calling it "just a phase" are things that are considered outdated and homophobic to the highest degree by the youngest generations, causing them to view him as a person out of touch with today's youth and society.
- Driven to Suicide: It's implied in "Hold, Please" that Victor almost killed himself before. In "Hurricane Victor", Penelope remembers that during their time together, Victor's PTSD often caused him to nearly kill himself, possibly more than once, including one time that he woke up their children to tell them he was going to kill himself.
- Exact Words: He says that he is better and in a program, which he justifies as not lying because he is better and it is a program, even if it is one that he made up. Reality Ensues, nobody sides with him on this, and Penelope still considers it lying.
- Foil: To Penelope. He embodies what she could have become if she let her pride keep her from getting help with her depression and PTSD. While she is a present mother, he settles in Afghanistan again to set up a business there. Another major difference is how they deal with how uncomfortable they are with Elena's sexuality; while Penelope dislikes the fact she is uncomfortable with it, she decides the most important thing is to support Elena, while Victor storms out and abandons her.
- Has a Type: His fiance Nicole is an almost literal copy of Penelope.
- Heteronormative Crusader: He has a serious problem with Elena being gay, at first thinking it's a phase and that she doesn't know what she's talking about, to then treating it as some sort of great shame that should be kept secret.
- Never My Fault: In season two, he sticks a lot of the blame on his and Elena's estrangement on Elena and Penelope, making excuses for the fact that he walked out on Elena's quinces and then proceeded to ignore her for a year.
- New Old Flame: He and Penelope have Belligerent Sexual Tension when he returns for Elena's quinces, although it cools off fast when she realizes he had been lying about his sobriety.
- Parental Neglect: In Season One, he is still overseas and contacting the kids is hard. In Season Two, he keeps contact with Alex but not with Elena, due to his inability to accept her sexuality.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: His addictions are a result of his PTSD, and the resulting problems they combined caused are why Penelope leaves him.
- Played By: Tony Plana
Lydia's deceased husband and Penelope's father. A loving and romantic man who shared Lydia's passionate personality.
- Happily Married: Before his death, he and Lydia were happily married, and loved each other even well into their old age and beyond.
- Latin Lover: He was a passionate Cuban, with a charming way that enchanted Lydia when they met. Lydia was never shy about their passionate love making, including mentioning that more than once they had sex in a park.
- The Lost Lenore: Lydia still grieves his death and is still in love with him. Even talking with him every now and then.
- Posthumous Character: He died several years ago, but Lydia talks about him, to him, and daydreams about him.
- Played By: Gloria Estefan
Lydia's younger sister, with whom she has held a longstanding feud. Also the mother of Estrellita, Penelope's childhood best friend.
- Sibling Rivalry: She and Lydia are always trying to outdo each other.
- Sitcom Archnemesis: Lydia has a very overblown and antagonistic rivalry with her, and often cites her with seething anger.
- The Topic of Cancer: Played for Laughs, she had a cancer scare and uses this to get a leg up in small talk.
- Played By: Danny Pino
- Cool Uncle: Alex and Elena are excited at the prospect of spending time with him, and he's wealthy, so he's willing to treat them to expensive things.
- Mama's Boy: Lydia dotes on him, fawning over his every action, and he clearly adores her in return.
- Remember the New Guy?: Despite the heavy focus on the Alvarez family dynamics and several family events where his presence as Penelope's brother would have been expected, he goes unmentioned until his first appearance in season 3. He is called out for his distance in his debut.
- Played By: Stephanie Beatriz
A member of the extended family.
- Butch Lesbian: While all the other women at Tia Ofelia's funeral wear fancy black dresses, Pilar wears a black work shirt and pants. This was probably to show how estranged she had become from the family.
- Mentor in Queerness: Zigzagged; Elena hopes to coax her out of the closet, but Pilar reveals that she's actually been out and in a relationship for some time, and gives Elena much-needed advice about being a gay woman.
- Open Secret: She's actually out to the whole family; they're just conservative enough to never bring it up or conveniently "forget" it.
- Played By: Melissa Fumero
Mirtha's daughter and Penelope's childhood best friend.
- Played By: Jolie Jenkins
The mother of one of Alex's friends.
- Child Hater: Ironically, being a mother, but she avoids being near kids whenever possible.
- Dumb Blonde: On overhearing Penelope and Mateo speaking Spanish, she calls it their "cute little secret language".
- Friends with Benefits: With Schneider, whom she sleeps with but emotionally neglects.
- Jerkass: A self-centered, two-faced woman who gleefully uses others for her own ends.
- Played By: Froy Guiterez
A popular boy who goes to school with Alex and Elena. Elena asks him to escort her at her quinces, mainly to get Lydia off her back — and is completely floored when he actually agrees.
- The Beard: At first unwittingly, then willingly, to Elena.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Alex is very openly admiring of him, and seems way more into him than Elena is.
- Incompatible Orientation: Dating him is part of what helps Elena come to terms with the fact that she's a lesbian. Josh is remarkably cool with this development.
- Last Het Romance: To Elena. Also her first het romance, but who's counting?
- Lovable Jock: He's a popular athlete, and is such a great guy that Elena's lack of feelings for him convinces her that she's gay, since she feels that she would be attracted to him if she were straight.
- Nice Guy: Not only is his crush on nerdy, unpopular Elena 100% genuine, he also handles her coming out extremely well, and is still more than happy to escort her at her quinces.
- No Sparks: Elena attempts to force an attraction to him, since he's objectively great; cute, smart, and kindhearted. But she just doesn't feel it. Hmmm...
- Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Inverted. He's an extremely popular athlete that has a crush on Elena, who's mostly a loner.
- Played By: India de Beaufort
Schneider's girlfriend, whom he meets in season 3.
- Birds of a Feather: Both she and Schneider are rich hipsters.
- Casting Gag: Schneider's season 3 love interest, played by his actor Todd Grinnell's real-life wife.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Not to the extent of Penelope and Max, but Avery is 5'3" and Schneider is 6'2" (though it's a lot less noticeable because Avery wears heels most of the time).
- Secretly Wealthy: She reveals herself to be extremely wealthy despite coming off as normal at first.
- Played By: Gloria Calderón Kellett
Victor's new wife, as of the end of season 3.
- Descended Creator: Played by one of the show's creators. Everyone noticed her resemblance to Justina Machado immediately, and it took a couple years to figure out a way to make use of it.
- Doppelgänger Dating: Same curly hair,note same general build, same wardrobe, same firm-but-fair attitude, even the same laugh... Nicole is so much like Penelope, you almost have to wonder if Lydia somehow had twins and didn't know. Amusingly, literally everyone but Victor notices this.Alex: Papi's got a type.
- Identical Stranger: She looks scarily identical to Penelope... and how she acts, how she dresses, and how she laughs.
- Nice Girl: She's an extremely warm and friendly woman... which drives Penelope nuts.
- One Steve Limit: Averted; one of the moms from Alex and Elena's school is named Nikki.
- Played By: Alan Ruck
Schneider's father. Also, the worst.
- Abusive Parents: Oh, God, yes. He neglected Schneider his entire childhood, to the point of never once telling his son he loved him. He's very open about considering Schneider to be a total failure who isn't worth his time.
- Faux Affably Evil: He keeps a polite, genial tone while saying some of the most infuriating lines imaginable.Alex: Nice suit.
Mr. Schneider: Oh, thank you. A little boy like you made it for me.
- Hate Sink: He's an emotionally abusive prick who clearly contributed to Schneider's various issues, doesn't care one whit about him, and is sexist and racist, to boot. The writers were clearly trying to make him as detestable as possible.
- Knight of Cerebus: In one episode, his presence nearly leads to the Alvarezes moving out of the apartment, and pushes Schneider off the wagon.
- Lack of Empathy: His character in a nutshell. Who cares if going condo will put families out on the street? It's a good business decision! Who cares if offering a bottle of tequila to a Recovered Addict is a wildly inappropriate thing to do? It's Don Julio Real! Who cares if his parenting style has left his son with emotional issues and substance abuse problems? He needed to toughen up!
- Marry the Nanny: Married at least one of Schneider's nannies.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: He's sexist and racist, and so smug about it that it's all Penelope can do to keep herself from throttling him on the spot. This quote really says it all:Schneider: He said [Avery would] make a great first or fifth wife. That's the highest compliment.
Elena: How is that a compliment?
Schneider: Well, the first wife is for breeding, the second is for spite, the third is to forget the second, the fifth is 30 years younger so it circles back to breeding, and of course, traditionally, the fourth wife's Asian.
- Serial Spouse: Schneider implies he's been married a lot. At least once to Schneider's former nanny.
- Straw Misogynist: The other characters clearly disapprove of his blatant sexism.
- Played By: Gabrielle Elyse
- Lipstick Lesbian: She is more feminine in appearance than Elena.