So far in Season 2 of Superstore, viewers have watched District Manager Jeff diffuse a volatile labor situation and, in later weeks, keep a watchful eye on the store as things got back up and running. Last week’s episode found Jeff returning to the Cloud 9 location when the actor who played the chain’s mascot was accused of “improprieties.” He also continued to engage in banter with Mateo, who spent much of the episode trying to prove to his co-workers that the senior employee was flirting with him — even if he appeared to just be directing Mateo to clean up vomit in the change rooms and a dead pigeon in one of the aisles.
In a new blog for Entertainment Weekly, Nico Santos, who plays Mateo, had some fun with Jeff’s eventual revelation that yes, he had indeed “noticed” him. Michael Bunin, who plays Jeff, is “hilariously and aloofingly charming,” according to Santos. The romance between Jeff and Mateo might just be getting started, but it may not become the subject of Cloud 9 break room gossip anytime soon — even if Mateo wants to brag to his colleagues that his instincts about Jeff’s interest were correct.
“I was constantly breaking during my scenes because Mateo’s ridiculous humbling at every single turn. You almost feel bad for him…almost. Then, just when you least expect it: He asks him out! (YAAAAAASSS!) Oh, but we can’t tell anyone? (BOOOOOO!) So for now, I guess no one can know about Jeteo or Mateff. Meh, we’re still working on the name.”
Back in February, Santos spoke with Xfinity about his Superstore character and how he’s not the angel of Cloud 9. Mateo’s first encounters with Jeff early in the season consisted of him trying to impress the manager while simultaneously protesting the store with other workers in the parking lot. That moral ambiguity of the ambitious retail employee is something that Santos enjoys playing.
“I love what drives his character is not the fact that he’s gay or Filipino but his driving force is to aspire to be something better. He doesn’t approach it in the most ethical way and that’s why I think people have a love/hate relationship with Mateo but they also relate to him very much.”
Santos revealed a surprising fact about Mateo: he was originally written to be a gangster. While he was being cast for the role, Superstore writers envisioned Mateo as someone with 11 siblings, all of whom were incarcerated. They were responsive, however, when Santos suggested creating a version of Mateo that was more like himself.
Before Santos was cast on Superstore, he had done other work in television and was a stand-up comedian. In a 2012 interview with The Huffington Post, he revealed he was a writer on Fashion Police, back when the late Joan Rivers held court over the show. He expressed an appreciation for working with such a comedy icon.
“It was such an amazing experience writing for a comedy legend, definitely one of my dreams come true! I was so nervous when I went to my first writer’s meeting that I couldn’t even look her in the eyes. I just pitched my stuff with my head buried in my lap top… she probably thought I was some crazy queen.”
Santos seems to be enjoying his time on Superstore, which received a full season order this year after a truncated, 11-episode first season. The program also features a talented roster of sketch comedy and improv comedians such as Colton Dunn, Mark McKinney, and Lauren Ash, as well as beloved actors America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Nichole Bloom and Kaliko Kauahi.
Superstore airs Thursday nights on NBC.
[Featured Image by Angela Weiss/Getty Images]