Carlie Mantilla & John Eliot Jordan—a writing duo whose art often imitates life

With their talent and perspectives, Mantilla and Jordan are quickly making their name among Hollywood’s leading creatives.

Carlie Mantilla is a Mexican-American comedian, writer, and actress who has worked with some of the most notable names in the industry, including her fiancé, writer John Eliot Jordan. Raised between Mexico City and the U.S., Mantilla began her career working as a stand-up comedian, performing regularly at the famed Hollywood Improv and Comedy Store. She’s collaborated with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Lily Tomlin and Richard Lewis. In addition to performing in LA and across the country, Mantilla has appeared in and/or written numerous successful films and television projects, including Uncabaret, Angel Falls Christmas, and Groundswell. In addition to her professional ambitions, Mantilla is committed to helping others behind the scenes.

Last Christmas, as their new movie Angel Falls Christmas aired, Mantilla and Jordan weren’t at home watching. Instead, they were in Sayulita helping support a Christmas posada for many of the local children. “John and I had visited Sayulita several times and gotten to know some of the local kids who spend most of their time selling items to tourists instead of attending school or doing normal kid things,” said Mantilla.

The two heard from a local bartender about some plans the local community had to organize a posada for the children. Mantilla and Jordan offered to help and ended up fundraising over $15,000 and used the money to buy the children gifts and learning supplies.

Mantilla’s interest in Mexican social issues is also reflected in her work. Most recently, she and Jordan teamed up with Jordan’s brother Tommy to write La Gringa,  a half-hour dramedy about a Mexican-American woman searching for her identity amidst countless stereotypes projected on her both from the U.S. and Mexico. 

“I wanted to write a Latina character I haven’t already seen on screen. Because the truth is, much of what you see is a stereotype. I wanted to write someone who seemed real to me as a mixed-race Latina.”

Committed to changing representation in Hollywood, Mantilla believes these real-life issues don’t need to be written as a heavy-handed drama. “Writing something preachy isn’t usually effective,” she said. “I think laughter is actually a much better way to get people to put down their guards, consider new viewpoints, and question long-held beliefs.” 

Though Jordan grew up far from Mantilla in Boston, Massachusetts, he shares her passion for social justice. “I had a lot of good examples to look up to. My grandparents were in medicine and always urged us to consider how we could use what we have to help others. My aunts and uncles had all volunteered with Best Buddies, a non-profit that works with people with intellectual disabilities. I saw the joy they got from it and ended up starting a chapter in my hometown when I was 16.” Jordan worked with Best Buddies and its founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver throughout high school, college, and after graduation. Born into a family of creatives (Oscar Winner Peter Farrelly is his uncle, award-winning director Bobby Farrelly is also an uncle), Jordan always knew he wanted to be a screenwriter. “I was really fortunate to see firsthand from a very young age a lot of the day-to-day life of the job I was so interested in.” After interning on several of his uncles’ movies, Jordan ended up studying theology and international politics at Boston College. “I considered studying film, but I was more concerned with having something actually to write about. I felt like God and politics were a good starting point.”

Upon graduation, Jordan worked various production and marketing jobs during the day and wrote original material at night. He eventually moved to Los Angeles, where Mantilla caught his attention during a side-hustle producing stand-up comedy shows. 

“I saw her on stage and was blown away by her talent. I asked if she would appear in a stand-up show we were putting on for a youth center, and I think purely because it was for charity, she said yes,” he joked.

After the show, Jordan and Mantilla spoke for several hours. Their shared sense of humor and outlooks convinced them to write together. Two years later, they admitted to each other that they had fallen in love in the process. It wasn’t long until the two decided to use real-life inspiration and pen a romantic comedy together. Jordan, who also writes with his brother Tommy (the two wrote together on the sitcom Loudermilk), wasn’t new to the romance genre, having written the acclaimed Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Christmas movie Meet Me At Christmas

“That movie was more of a romantic drama, so it was a really fun prospect to work with Carlie on a Christmas romance that also had laughs. She brought so much to it that I wouldn’t have been able to do alone.”

The film that resulted was the previously mentioned Angel Falls Christmas. It aired on GAC Family in 2021 and starred Chad Michael Murray. Mantilla also appears opposite Murray as an undercover angel posing as a stand-up comedian. 

“We had such a blast working with Chad and Jessica [Lowndes]. They’re such pros,” Mantilla said. “We wrote the movie during the pandemic, and it was so rewarding to hear from viewers who said it made them smile during a difficult time. That’s the best part of writing Christmas movies. You have the chance to make people feel good.”

Mantilla and Jordan went on to write the Lacey Chabert-led Groundswell for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and are currently co-writing several new projects, including the previously mentioned La Gringa and several more romantic comedies for different platforms/networks.

Mantilla and Jordan find their work partnership–like their personal partnership– allows them to balance each other out and continually grow. Carlie is creative and spontaneous, with expertise in sketch-writing and joke-writing. At the same time, Jordan is a self-described “nerd” who loves dramatic structure and has a penchant for reflecting at length about a character’s many layers, even when writing comedy. 

“My writing idols are people like Garry Shandling and Ricky Gervais,” said Jordan. “When you watch Larry Sanders or the original Office or something more recent from someone like Sharon Horgan or Phoebe Waller-Bridge, you see hilarious characters. But they’re nuanced, too, and the writers are secure enough to have some story beats without laughs to tell an even better story. Those shows aren’t so black-and-white in the genre, and I think that’s what makes them so good.” 

Excited for the challenges ahead, the couple has big plans for the next year.

“It’s gonna be amazing! We’re getting married in Oaxaca, Mexico, where my family is from,” said Mantilla. “And on top of that, we’re writing projects we’re truly passionate about. I’m proud to say each one of them has strong Latin characters.”

Mantilla is a performer at her core and plans to expand her acting. “Anyone who’s seen her on stage knows how talented she is,” said Jordan. “And, of course, she’s also an exceptional writer. But what I’m really excited about is for more of the world to see just how good she is on screen.” After a pause, Jordan added, “It’s impossible not to be inspired when you see what she can do.”

Needless to say, it doesn’t appear that inspiration is a problem for this couple.

Written by Peter Jones