the substitute

Comedian/actor Gabriel Iglesias takes a group selfie with some Intellectual Virtues Academy students after filming an episode of Nickelodeon’s “The Substitute.” Iglesias donated $25,000 to IVA.

Did you hear the story about the locally world-famous comedian Gabriel Iglesias showing up at a taping of a Nickelodeon show at a Long Beach middle school and surprising the students with a check for $25,000?

It’s no joke. It’s true.

In early October, Jacquie Bryant, the principal at Intellectual Virtues Academy, opened an email from a producer of the Nickelodeon show “The Substitute.”

The email said the name of the school was found on the internet and that the show would like to feature IVA on its Christmas episode.

“It was a bit of a mystery to us,” Bryant said. "We did not pursue this at all.”

Bryant said when she was asked if the school would be interested in the offer, the producers said a generous donation would be included from a celebrity from Long Beach and that it would come directly from the actor.

That actor was Iglesias, who is currently shooting Part 3 of his own Netflix show called “Mr. Iglesias.” The comedian was not available for comment, but in his show, Iglesias is featured as a good-natured public high school teacher who works at his alma mater (Wilson High School), helping teach gifted but misfit kids to help them unlock their full potential.

Bryant said she was impressed by the work of the producers. Students who wanted to participate had to send in an interview video to the production company. Families were notified and students had to be tested the morning of the shoot.

Everything was completed in one day, Bryant said. The production company came on campus on a Sunday. Production work started at 4:30 a.m. Monday and it ended at 7 p.m.

“They had one employee who just walked around who sanitized everything that someone touched,” Bryant said. “During the shoot, students only took off their masks during filming.”

During the taping of “The Substitute,” which was delayed by a month because one of the show’s employees had a positive test, the IVA staff and students did not know Iglesias was going to be showing up.

“The students saw Gabriel in two different takes,” Bryant said. “The first time he came out, most of the students didn’t know who he was. So the producers told the students if they are really enthusiastic the next time, they will get a big surprise.”

Bryant said that Iglesias had no problem with doing a re-take and that he made sure to stay far away to protect his health.

“He said, ‘that’s okay guys, let’s do it again,’” Bryant said.

According to Bryant, Iglesias said during the filming that as a youth who grew up in Section 8 housing in Long Beach, giving back to the local community was important to him. In fact, Iglesias told the Press-Telegram in June that he loves Long Beach.

“You can ask the mayor, ask the police chief, I promote the hell out of this city,” he said. “I think our city of Long Beach is more than what Snoop [Dogg] portrayed it as. That’s not saying that’s something bad, I love Snoop, but I think there’s a lot more stories to be told… We needed something that’s more relatable and puts the city out there in a really nice light.”

Bryant said the students enjoyed being back on campus — even if it was only for a day.

“For at least one student, they said it was the best day of my entire life,” Bryant said. “For the students, it was the only way to see other students. It was so safe. The other thing I love, is most people have never heard of the school, so I love people saying that this school was on TV.”

The program already aired on Dec. 10 on Nickelodeon. Bryant had to download a trial version just so she could watch “The Substitute” with her family.

“I haven’t watched Nickelodeon since I was a child,” she said.

As far as the check is concerned, it was deposited and is sitting in the bank account, Bryant said. It will be used to help students during this year of distance learning.

And that, is no joke.

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