Superstore’s Nico Santos Says Mateo Would Drive Him Nuts in Real Life: Read His Q&A!

Nico Santos Superstore
Nico Santos as Mateo on ‘Superstore’ Matthias Clamer/NBC

Mateo survived the tornado, is still single (bye, Jeff!) — and has a ton more sass to give. Nico Santos, who plays him on the NBC comedy Superstore, revealed what he’d like to see the Cloud 9 sales associate do next in an exclusive interview with Us Weekly.

“I would love to see him move up the corporate ladder and him tackling how he would change the face of the company. I just imagine him coming up with all these crazy ideas,” Santos tells Us. “I would also like Mateo’s immigration status — to get him a pass to citizenship and make him safe — especially with how it is today. It’s hitting a little too close to home!”

Nico Santos and Michael Bunin Superstore
Nico Santos as Mateo and Michael Bunin as Jeff on ‘Superstore’ Greg Gayne/NBC

Mateo, who is still stocking shelves with the likes of Jonah (Ben Feldman) and Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom), has had his share of trouble at the chain company. (Ahem, when he nearly left because of his forbidden romance.) But one aspect of his life that still hasn’t been explored? His family.

“I would really love to meet Mateo’s family. You rarely see a Filipino family on TV. I would love to see Mateo’s mom on television,” Santos says.

The addition would be no trouble either. After all, Santos’ mom is full of material — and willing to share! “My mom works at a Home Depot. She is always emailing me with story ideas. Like, ‘You know you can talk to your head writer and let them know about me. I have a lot of ideas,'” he tells Us, laughing. “She will literally list all these jokes and lines. And I’m like, ‘Mom, it doesn’t really work that way.’ She loves visiting me on set. I think if I was a child actor she would have totally been a stage mom — full on Toddlers & Tiaras.”

He adds: “I love my mom! She’s just great and so happy for me that I’m living my dream. I’m telling you, she really wants to get her foot in the door. She wants to be a consultant or something.”

Mateo is just as persistent, but Santos admits that he would drive him “insane” in real life. “I basically modeled Mateo after the shady queens I used to work with in retail. I’ve worked with a lot of Mateo’s in my life,” he tells Us. “I’ve always kind of thought that Mateo is me have I not gone into acting. I’ve done retail before. But I would imagine if Mateo had his way he would probably be working — just like I did — in some boogie boutique out in downtown St. Louis selling those bags to some rich white women.”

For more, read the rest of his Q&A below:

US: What was your audition like?

NS: We all tested individually but Mateo wasn’t written as a gay Filipino character. He was originally written as a straight, Latino, macho kind of character. I played it like a shady queen and they liked it and they tweaked the character. When I tested for the role I saw the other actors testing for it and I was so completely not like them. I was like, ‘Oh my God, either I’m going to get this or they are really casting a white man.’

US: What’s been one of your favorite moments with the cast so far?

NS: One of the most memorable episodes we’ve done is the pilot. I was always a big fan of America [Ferrera] and Mark McKinney is legendary so I obviously knew some of the people from the cast already from their work. The first time we worked together we instantly clicked and shooting the pilot in Burbank was loads of fun. We did a night shoot one of the days and we would get crazy because it was 4 a.m. in the morning and we hadn’t slept and we just got loopy so we started doing improvisations and fashion show walks. It actually inspired one of the episodes when we got locked in the store.

US: What’s been one of your favorite Mateo scenes? It was hilarious when he filmed the goodbye message to his coworkers.

NS: I loved making that video! That was amazing. That episode actually America directed and was really, really great. I was really nervous doing that episode because not only was it a funny episode but I had to have a drama moment and I’m not really a dramatic actor. I was really nervous about tackling the breakup scene and I just hoped it would look natural. But America was such a great director and it was cool to put my trust in her and know she’ll get that performance out of all the actors on set.

US: Who does the most ad-libbing?

NS: I would say Colton [Dunn] does a lot of ad-libbing. We all do and we are encouraged. I think early on he producers and all the directors found out what really worked best with our cast from the pilot on. I remember one of the first scenes we ever filmed it was Lauren [Ash] and Mark talking to the entire staff of the store and they just went on improvising all these lines and it was really magical to watch. We were breaking so much because we kept laughing. I think they realized from that moment on that, ‘Oh, this cast is really great with playing off of each other.’

Superstore
‘Superstore’ cast Brandon Hickman/NBC

US: It’s such a great diverse cast.

NS: We really do have one of the most diverse casts on television. The creator of the show and executive producers didn’t really set out to do a diverse group — it’s not like they were checking boxes. This all happened organically. They wanted the funniest people that they thought would fit the characters. You walk into stores like Cloud 9 and it is such a slice of America. I think it’s great. You rarely see a show where you get to tackle storylines from every different background and this show does that.

US: Do you think that Garrett and Dina have a chance at becoming more serious?

NS: I am not going to ship that! I think Dina is too much of a hard ass for Garrett. I love Dina — first of all Lauren is my work wife and BFF and I love her so much. But Dina the character is so crazy that I think having her tied down to Garrett wouldn’t do her justice. You need to let Dina’s crazy just fly.

US: Do you ship Jonah and Amy?

NS: I totally ship Jonah and Amy! They are so cute together. Both of them are so cute. I am totes shipping Jonah and Amy.

US: What’s the worst job that you’ve ever had?

NS: In high school the very first job I got was I worked as a cashier in Burgerville, which is this fast food place in Oregon. I kind of grew up to be a spoiled little kid so my dad was like, ‘You’re going to get a job for the summer!’ I was this clueless immigrant like, ‘May I take your order? Sorry sir, I don’t know what I’m doing!’ So that was pretty harrowing. But I also worked as a wardrobe assistant of a dresser for a professional theater company. That sucked sometimes having to clean people’s costumes and what not.

US: What are three items you need in your trailer?

NS: I have some chocolate in the fridge. I have scented candles — I like it smelling really pretty. And pillows and a blanket. You have to make it comfortable.

US: What memorabilia would you take home once the show wraps?

NS: I would take a cart worth! I hope this show goes on forever but when it ends I hope they let us have free reign on the set and take whatever we want. The electronics — I would raid that section. Not the clothes section because it’s not my taste!

Superstore airs Thursdays on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

For the latest celebrity entertainment, news and lifestyle videos, subscribe to Us Weekly’s YouTube Page.

Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Want stories like these delivered straight to your phone? Download the Us Weekly iPhone app now!