For the last year, just six miles east of downtown L.A., a team of aspiring Mexican rodeo hopefuls has trained in a City of Industry arena for a shot at the annual championship in Guadalajara. Their quest was more than a dream — it was a reality series called Los Cowboys, which airs on Hulu beginning today.
Bred in L.A., they are urban cowboys, or “charros,” heirs to a tradition that is older than the city itself, who also happen to earn their livelihoods respectively as a television executive, a horse trainer, a fashion model, a firefighter and a businessman. The show charts their journey through the highly competitive, often dangerous and always beautiful equestrian sport of “charreria.” At the the championship, riders compete in nine events, including bull-riding, bareback bronco-riding, roping and horsemanship.
Following on the heels of the successful East Los High dramatic series, Los Cowboys is yet another indication that Hulu is seriously invested in original programming aimed at a Mexican-American audience.
Alex Corral heads Corral 360, the production company behind the series in a partnership with East Los High executive producer Emiliano Calemzuk. A college baseball player on scholarship, Corral fell into the industry after responding to a recruitment flyer for interns at The Swan, the hit reality series produced by media mogul Nely Galán. “I started in her office shredding paper,” he recounts. After a string of jobs that included a post in ad sales at ESPN, program development work at Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine America network and consulting work on the new Robert Rodriguez El Rey cable network, he found himself out of a job when Shine reorganized and downsized.
“I didn’t know what to do. I applied for jobs and kept in touch with friends at Shine,” he says. Just before an interview on another network, he called Calemzuk, his former boss and mentor at Shine America, to see if the veteran TV executive could put in a good word. During that conversation, he says, Calemzuk suggested that maybe it was time to hang out his own shingle and develop programming independently as a producer.
“I thought about it and realized there was a need for content that would appeal to millennials, to people like me,” he adds. With Calemzuk as principal investor, he started in his living room and then moved into his mother’s insurance office. “Now we have new offices Culver City and I live in Venice,” he says.
Outside of his TV career, Corral is a lifelong “charro”himself. He and two cast members have roots in Carrera, a small town in the northern Mexican state of Durango. As the producer and captain of the charro team, he balances his work as a media executive, an on-camera role in the series, his marriage, a baby on the way and an intense relationship with his sarcastic younger brother Joey, a bassoonist. His teammates include fashion model and “Queen of the Universe” beauty pageant winner Ivette Saucedo, who is also an expert rider; Ralph Cabral, a professional rodeo star who has taken home prize money in both U.S. and Mexican rodeo championships; Roberto Lara, a horse whisperer and trainer by trade; and Adrian Nevarez, a hunky firefighter who is new to the sport and eager to learn the ropes.
Saucedo says she was happy to shed her modeling and acting career trappings to saddle up with the boys. “For me, it’s not just a hobby. It’s a way of life. It’s in your blood,” says Saucedo. “I’ve been riding horses since before I could walk. It’s my real life and where I come from. It’s who I really am.”
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