Telenovela is the new series starring Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria. It’s sure to be a hit and Anushika was on hand for a q and a and interview session.
Check out Anushika’s full recap below!
“TELENOVELA” Panel: Eva Longoria (Ana Sofia Calderon), Jencarlos Canela (Xavier Castillo), Diana Maria Riva (Mimi Moncada), Amaury Nolasco (Rodrigo Suarez), Jose Moreno Brooks (Gael Garnica), Jadyn Douglas (Roxie Rios), Alex Meneses (Isabela Santamaria), & Izzy Diaz (Isaac Aguerro).
Executive Producers: Chrissy Pietrosh & Jessica Goldstein
Eva, in the past you’ve talked about you want to create your own opportunities, and then you also have a master in Chicano studies. So I was wondering, do you see the show as, like, the combination of both of those things?
EVA LONGORIA: “Oh, wow. Yes. Yes, in the sense of, you know, I’m Mexican American, so sometimes people say, “Oh, I’m 50 percent Mexican; I’m 50 percent American,” but I’m actually 100 percent Mexican and 100 percent American at all times. So it is a marriage of my values and beliefs that there have been communities that have long been ignored for talent. And the Latino community is one of them. So, my talent, being an actor producer director, I just decided to use that to really dig in and create stories that are fun. They’re not Latino stories. This is not a Latino comedy, this is a comedy that has universal themes of family and friendship and love and workplace. And it’s really funny. And so I don’t set out to do, you know, Latino content, but I have tapped into something that I think reflects the changing landscape of America.”
A lot of times researchers found that viewers like to watch shows that have people they can identify with and relate to. That being the case, would you expect that you’d have a larger Latino portion of the audience than maybe the average show?
EVA LONGORIA: “You know what, I hope that Latinos show up, because we do have a show that is about a telenovela, which is a Spanish soap opera. But I think many, many different groups are going to be entertained, and identify with one of these characters here. We are a workplace comedy. So you’re going to identify with Ana Sofia as a women, you’re going to identify with her if you’re a vulnerable person, if you’re an insecure person. You’re going to identify with Mimi, who’s this best friend, who’s confident, and is like the moral compass of the group, and kind of, you know, the root grounds us. You know, there’s a lot of people that you’re going to be able to identify with, not because they’re Latino, but because they’re human beings dealing with different things in their lives. We deal with it through the comedic lens, but they’re still universal issues.”
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “Yeah. I mean, really, we’re watching a relationship between two people who just got divorced, who are working together. And they could be working at a tuna can factory. I mean, it’s just how does that play out in the workplace. But it’s a really heightened workplace, and crazy things happen, but also little tiny moments happen. So we have it’s relatable in that respect, but there’s also big, fun things that happen, that probably wouldn’t happen in a tuna factory. Small stories; big moments. You know, small, relatable things that are just from all of our lives, and then something happens, like Eva gets trapped in a well.”
DIANA MARIA RIVA: “And little love stories, probable love stories, impossible love stories. And we see them happen, we see them develop sometimes at work. And we know that that’s going to crash and burn, but isn’t it fun to watch.”
Eva, what experiences from your life as a star of “Desperate Housewives” did you bring to the show?
EVA LONGORIA: (Laughs). So you all think these are stories about the “Housewives.”
What’s one thing from a telenovela that you knew you had to bring to this show?
EVA LONGORIA: “Oh, gosh, I want everybody to answer that, because everybody has such a unique perspective. But, you know what, I actually came from soap operas, from “Young and the Restless.” So American soaps are very similar to telenovelas. You know, telenovelas are on primetime; daytime soaps in America are daytime. And there were a lot of divas in daytime soaps. And I remember the men were bigger divas than the women, in daytime .There was all this. But then I had a lot of friends in the telenovela world, and they would tell me stories. I had a friend from Venezuela who did soaps there. And the lead of that show, her assistant was poisoning her in real life. Yes, it really I was like, what?”
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “See, that’s something that we’re going to do on our show all the time.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “That’s normal. That’s very normal. Just a little poison.”
EVA LONGORIA: “Yeah, the setting is a workplace. Like she said, it could be a dentist office, it could be a superstore, it could be the thing about our show that makes it unique is these relationships, set against this larger than life world. So that’s what I bring to it. Jen actually did a telenovela.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “I did. I did. I did Spanish soap operas.”
EVA LONGORIA: “He thinks this is tame.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. This a walk in the park. No, no, no. I mean, it’s a very fun world as well. And Spanish soap operas, they’re so dramatic and so intense that I love I mean, there are a lot of dramatic and intense moments in our show. And especially when we’re doing the Spanish parts, you just and those these ridiculous circumstances that are presented to us in the Spanish soap operas, they’re just, in Spanish, they’re real life stories, because we are a passionate culture. But but when you actually, like, say it out loud, and especially in this show, which is a comedy, they’re hilarious. They really are funny. But what’s funny about it is that it’s actually real. Some of it is very real. So I think we brought a lot of that drama and passionate fire into the show as well.”
EVA LONGORIA: “Yeah, and the other thing I want Amaury to speak to it, because Amaury’s role, Rodrigo, is actually really rooted in his real life. He’s always cast as the villain in real life. He’s always the bad guy in movies. And we were sitting down, talking one day and Amaury said, “I always play the bad guy.” And he’s the most sensitive, sweetest guy ever. And I told the girls a story, and they go, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a villain who has a soft side?”
AMAURY NOLASCO: “Well, I have to say I am sensitive, because I grew up watching novelas. I grew up in Puerto Rico, so novelas, to us, it’s a day day to day thing. You know, we I remember my dad coming in and being upset, “Why are you watching novelas; that’s for women.” And I go but then he would sit down and watch it with us. So but, yeah, you know, and the girls you know, the writers are doing a phenomenal job by capturing my life.”
“You know, it’s funny because one of the things one of the episodes and I don’t want to give much away was about the Basta Boys. And it’s very basically, being from Puerto Rico, I don’t know if you guys know, but there’s a group called Menudo, where Ricky Martin came from. And I wanted to be Menudo when I was a kid. I used to beg my mom, to be in Menudo. And I said, “Mom, trust me, they’ll pick me. I know all the dances. And, you know, and I made the mistake of telling this story to Eva, and she ran with it. So you guys will see an episode where basically my character wanted to be in a boy band so bad, that this boy right here He actually took my role –My spot. And then…”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “I mean, I didn’t take it. They gave it to me.”
DIANA MARIA RIVA: “But they’re still arguing about it today.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “The competition was tough, though. Yeah, Amaury made it tough, though. But, anyway, he has a great voice.”
AMAURY NOLASCO: “Yeah. Yeah. You know what anyway, I just feel going back to the question. Yeah, I am going to leave it. But I novelas, to me, were part of a way of life. And they’re bigger they’re bigger than life. They I don’t understand why in the United States they last so long. In the Latin countries they have a beginning and an end. It runs for about six months. And there’s a formula in the novelas, that they repeat themselves every like, instead of doing previously, blah, blah, blah, they, through the whole episode, they’re repeating. And that’s why you can watch Episode 1 or Episode 10, and you know the daughter is sleeping with the other guy, and the maid is actually the daughter, daughter of the big so, anyway.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of sleeping going on.”
JOSE MORENO BROOKS: “Sleeping. Just sleeping.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “And we have one director, by the way, like, one or two directors. In the show, we had, like, a director per episode. That was heartbreaking to me, in the beginning. I got so attached to our first director, Steve Pink, and then on Friday he said “wrap.” All right, another director. I’m like, wha wha what. Change directors on us like that? So a lot of adjusting went on, but it’s been amazing.”
Eva, why did you want to do a comedy now? And for the executive producers, which telenovela did you watch to prep for this?
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “Eva is so funny. I am so excited for people to see the physical humor that we have. Every single episode there’s something crazy that she does. And we’ll say you know, it might be something like, you know, you might you jump, really and then she’s all of a sudden up the wall, doing something, and we’re, like, “Okay. Yes, just like that.” So we are we are just this is so right for her to showcase all of those things.”
“For “Telenovela,” we watched a lot my first one this is a ridiculous thing to say but in Spanish class, growing up, we watched one called “Destinos.” And it was always something I enjoyed. And it was in my head for this. And we and, you know, we just watch everything we get our hands on.”
EVA LONGORIA: “I left “Housewives” three, four years ago, I can’t remember, and I focused completely on my foundation and my charity work. I was traveling the world. And then I was directing and producing “Devious Maids” and other projects. And I knew I wanted to turn to television, because television is my favorite medium of content. It is still. Television is at its best right now. It is so good. And I knew I would be back and do a comedy, because I had so much fun on “Housewives.” But I did hit the lottery with “Housewives.” I was in the best show in the last decade. And I was lucky, and I hit the lottery, and I thought I’m not going to hit the lottery again. And I got really you know, ahh, if I ever go back to TV, it would be something worth it. And I got scripts and roles, and I would read things, and I’d go, ehh. And I had this idea for this show, and it was developed as an hour long, and then it was, you know, in development for a while. And I never thought I would star in it, I just wanted to develop this idea. And then these two girls came into the office, we were pitching them something else to write, and then I said, “Oh, and then there’s this other thing we have, we can’t figure out, because it’s so specific in my head, called ‘Telenovela’,” and dah, dah, dah, and were, like, “What?”
“We want to write that.” And I kid you not, the first draft they wrote was so funny, the first draft. And by the time we shot, it was 20 drafts later, but the first draft was so funny, I looked at Ben, my producing partner, and I said, “I’m going to have to be in this, aren’t I?” And he goes, “Yeah, it’s a really good role.” And it’s so funny. I’ve never even had the opportunity to be this funny. And these girls have just written an amazing role.”
“The other thing is I knew if I was going back to comedy, I wanted to move the ball forward. You know, cable has really put pressure in dramas. And networks have changed the way they do dramas, because cable’s dramas are so good. But that pressure doesn’t translate over to comedies. Like, I thought, you know what, comedies are comedies. There’s nothing new. You know, the voiceover was a certain device, and then you did the mockumentary between “The Office” and “Modern Family,” and that was a certain device. What’s the next new, fresh thing in comedy. And I thought this world. This is a world we haven’t seen in television before. You watch a show; it makes you happy; you escape; you identify; you laugh. And that’s what I knew I wanted to do when I went back to television.”
Your character is very self involved. Can you tell us what it is you like about her? And is she going to grow, and are we going to find things that we really like about her?
EVA LONGORIA: “Yeah. You’re going to fall in love with Ana. She’s actually self involved in an insecure way. She doesn’t mean to be. She just feels like she is, you know, not worthy enough. She as you can tell, she doesn’t speak Spanish. So she’s always one foot in, one foot out of this culture. Which is really my life story. You know, growing up as a Mexican American, I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish, and so I was kind of shunned from my community. And then in the American community they’re, like, oh, you’re the Mexican, you know. So I really never fit anywhere. And that’s exactly how Ana Sofia feels. She’s in this great big world being a Latin star, but yet insecure about am I Latin enough. And that’s one thing that tested really well when we tested our pilot, was Hispanics saying I love that she doesn’t speak Spanish, because I didn’t learn how to speak Spanish. But we’re totally tied to our culture and totally tied to our traditions and totally tied to our heritage. I have since learned Spanish. I do speak Spanish. Not as well as these guys.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “Oh, you do. You do.”
EVA LONGORIA: “But and so you’re going to learn to love her because of everything she has to face. I mean, what would you do if you had to work with your husband that you ex husband that you hate, every day. And then another you’re working where’s Alex? You’re working with a woman who’s who, you know, hates you, and then this other one who’s nipping at your heels, ready to take your place. And so she’s just being attacked from every every which way, but yet it’s one big loving family, because we have each other’s backs.”
CHRISSY PIETROSH: “You know, we thought of this season as, for lack of a better term, like Ana getting her groove back. Where it’s somebody who was pretty much shattered when she found out her husband was cheating on her, and it had set her back on her heels. And that, you know, like this season is her kind of letting herself be weak, to then gain her confidence again. So in the beginning she definitely has a bit of a chip and a little bit of you know, she’s strutting a little bit more. But as time goes on you’ll see that she, you know, like, learns like, learns to soften at the end, kind of get her power back.”
A show within a show, which is one of the things I love that in movies and TV. How much does that play into this show?
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “It’s really that, the the show within the show, “Las Leyes De Pasión,” the laws of passion. You’ll see a little moment here and there, and you’ll see, we’re in that world. So, you know, those you’ll see things through, like a normal scene. If someone’s having a conversation, like, I think I should break up with my boyfriend, you might see, like, a giant chicken walk by. Like, there are things that are happening around that are all attached to it, but were not in that show within a show.”
CHRISSY PIETROSH: “But a couple of random things, is we had the whole telenovela written in our heads. Like, we know the entire plot. So even though you don’t see very much of it on the show –“
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “It does progress through the season.”
CHRISSY PIETROSH: “Yeah, but the shows itself is you know, is the telenovela. So there are telenovela moments. And the show and the characters have their arc. So, though, in “Las Leyes,” you’ll see snippets of, like, oh, you know, he’s married to her, and she was raised by wolves, or whatever the thing is, by the really, what you’re watching, the telenovela you’re watching is the one that’s not that is on your screen, but not on the screen in the screen if that makes sense.”
How did you guys choose this awesome cast?
CHRISSY PIETROSH: “We got so lucky. Like, beautiful, talented people walked in, and we were, like, yes, let’s work with them.”
EVA LONGORIA: “Yes. You know what, the cast we were ahead of the game when we actually were casting. Because when you get into pilot season every actor is snatched up. And so we were we knew what we were looking for really early on. We were lucky to we have half of our cast are veteran you know, been on many shows, and then the other half are new, young, fresh talent you’ve never seen. And I love that mix. And I loved when we were casting, to discover a Jose Moreno Brooks, who you guys are going to die over how funny he is. And to find a Puerto Rican in Nashville, Jadyn Douglas.” We were, like, we can’t cast Roxie. She doesn’t exist. And here comes this self tape from Nashville. I was, like, there’s a Puerto Rican in Nashville? Did not know that. And then, of course, Izzy, who came in, and we felt he we go, that’s Isaac. And he was testing for another pilot. We were like, no, I hope he doesn’t get it.”
IZZY DIAZ: “I didn’t get it.”
EVA LONGORIA: “He didn’t get it. I lit a candle for you not to get it.”
IZZY DIAZ: “That was a strong candle.”
EVA LONGORIA: “You know, and then going, you know, to this side, which Amaury, I always knew was going to be Rodrigo. Like I said, this role was created from his life. And Alex, who I have known for over 15 years. When I moved to Los Angeles, she was one of the first actresses I met. And she’s one of the most beautiful, talented women. And you have never seen her like this in this show. She’s finally unleashed to do what she was meant to do.”
ALEX MENESES: “That’s true.”
EVA LONGORIA: “And then I didn’t I was out of town when they were casting Diana. And they sent me her tape. And they said, “We want to bring this woman back in.” And I looked at the tape and I go, “Oh, my God, that’s my best friend.” And the minute we met in the audition room we I auditioned with everybody. I read with each person from their first audition. And I knew, you know, Mimi and Ana were going to be a very big relationship in this show, because it’s really a true relationship of friendship. And the minute I walked in and met Diana, we were bonded for life. And this was before she even tested for NBC, or anything. And I was, like, this girl is one of the funniest human beings, but also authentically centering. Like, and that’s her character. In “Telenovela,” Mimi is the center of our group. And then to meet her, and she is that way in life. So then everybody was we’re putting everything together. And we were trying to find our Xavi. And I had met Jencarlos through Amaury a year before, and I knew he was on novelas, and I knew he was a big pop star from the Latin world. And I was telling Amaury, “God, we need to find an authentic Xavi from that world. You know, like your friend Jencarlos Canela. Like, he’s gorgeous. So, who do you think?” And Amaury’s like, “Why don’t you cast Jencarlos Canela?”
DIANA MARIA RIVA: “Sometimes Eva’s so smart, and then when things go over her head, it’s glorious to watch for just a minute.”
EVA LONGORIA: “Yeah. Well, somebody like that guy, you know. And, you know, Jen’s Miami born. And so it was funny that our am I wrong? No.”
JENCARLOS CANELA: “No, you’re not. Miami born and raised.”
EVA LONGORIA: “Yeah, and we are in Miami. Like, “Telenovela’s” in Miami. He’s so Miami, you have no idea. He walks in with a suntan, you know. And then that was that was what completed this. But, honestly, every single person, they walked in with the role. The same thing happened when I got Gabrielle on “Housewives.” That was my role. Nobody could have taken that role from me. Same thing with these guys. This was their role. And I’m so excited for America to see this new talent, and veteran talent as well.”
What do you think will surprise people about the show? And for the actors, what stood out when you read the script for the first time?
CHRISSY PIETROSH: “Gosh, that’s a tough question. Let’s see. I think Eva will absolutely surprise people when they watch the show. They’re used to Gaby on “Desperate Housewives,” who was a really funny character. But like we had mentioned before, the things that she does on this show, like she we can ask for anything, and it gets delivered. Like, that trapped in a well scene, she was you know, we were, like, “Do you need somebody to do it for you?,” to like because she’s literally clinging, like “American Ninja Warrior,” from the side of a well. And we’re like, “Do you want somebody else to do it,” and she’s like, “Get me a trampoline; we got this.” And it’s, like, she’s that woman. Like she we’ve had her climb on top of people. Like, she’s breathtaking to watch. It’s that thing of, like, you know, beautiful and smart, all of that stuff, she shouldn’t also be, like, such a physically gifted comedian. And I think people are going to be surprised about that.”
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “I absolutely would agree. Another thing I think probably might surprise people is a lot of a lot of moments in the show are taken from things that happened in real life on our show, which is, it feels like, you know, an extension of it almost, where something crazy will happen, and, well, that’s going in the show. And during the pilot, we’re shooting and Jose couldn’t bend down to pick up his coffee because his clothes are, like, sewn to him, and he can’t move.”
EVA LONGORIA: “They’re too tight.”
JESSICA GOLDSTEIN: “ And we’re, like, this is ridiculous; it’s going in the show. That happens. Eva falls all the time in real life. And that happens on our show. And, you know, when she was talking about the poisoning, you guys all went (gasps) and, like, that happens on our show all the time, and we just throw in the gasps, because those moments, those gasp moments, happen all the time in real life back stage for us, so we put them on the show.”
JADYN DOUGLAS: “I mean, the moment that I read because at first it was just the sides. And the moment I read that if you read something and you laugh out loud, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s funny. Because some things get funnier with how you do it, but some things are just funny the way they’re written. And it was written so funny. I immediately was drawn to this character because I felt like and my character really grows and evolves, which is the beauty of seeing the full season, because it’s not what you would expect. Very, very sexy, very va va voom, young, ingénue. But she has more to her. She’s actually pretty innocent. I’ll just say that. But the character was funny from the gate. Slight, slight little blond moments, but she’s smarter than you think.”
“So, you know, don’t let that blond hair fool you. But, no, I just thought it was hilarious from the gate. And then finding out that Eva was involved was, like, whaaaat. And then meeting her. And she’s been such a huge inspiration. And she really drives this ship, and immediately made us all feel like family. So before we even shot the first, like, episode, we had so much natural chemistry, because she was planning all these functions for us to hang out, and game night, and this and that. So I feel like the chemistry was very advanced.”
IZZY DIAZ: “Oh, when I first heard that there was going to be a show about the behind the scenes of a Spanish soap opera, that just makes me laugh out loud just even thinking about that. And one thing no one’s brought up is that when I was a kid watching telenovela on TV, was because there were these really hot women dressed in little to no clothing. So I was, like, if there’s a show that’s going to do that, I want to be there. And look what happened. We have these gorgeous women. And the clothes they have to wear are ridiculous. And I applaud them so much. There is no ego on this show. People do whatever it takes. Whether it’s a fake tooth, or falling, or food on their face, or looking horrific or beautiful. There is no ego at all. And somehow the eight of us get along so well. And that’s just the power of the writing, and that’s the power of Eva bringing us, eight of us together. And we laugh, you know, just as much on stage as we do off stage. And it’s been an actual dream.”
DIANA MARIA RIVA: “I will say there is an element. I think that it’s really easy to get a storyline like this, and think it’s going to be a farce, it’s going to be huge. And it’s not and the difference is whether or not there’s truth behind it. Do the actors bring truth to their character, so that and that will be the key to whether or not the audiences come back and want to watch, because they believe that they really are that ridiculous in their love life, that they make those kind of choices, and that they continue making those mistakes over and over again, that they really think in that way. And that, to me, is what really surprised me about the script, is by the end of it, by the first script, second script, you saw, no, they’re real people. They are human. The telenovela is the backdrop, it’s an accent, it’s a character in and of itself. But you do find yourself wanting to come back and seeing what did she do about this situation, or what is it that he’s going to do next. Because you fall in love with them in the way that they live their lives, and choices they make amongst each other and with each other. And I think that’s the most surprising element. Because you see a lot of actors leave a drama, come back a few years later and do a comedy. And it’s easy to be big. But what I liked about this is watching Eva be unafraid to look ridiculous. And I say “ridiculous” as just kind of a throwaway term, because she doesn’t look ridiculous. You end up believing that this is what she wants, and this is how she feels, and this is how she thinks she should live. It’s luckily, extremely entertaining. So, it was well done.”
AMAURY NOLASCO: “I believe we’re in a groundbreaking show. I was blessed enough to be in a show many years ago called “Prison Break,” which was also groundbreaking. And just like Eva said, you know, I hit the lottery back then. And what are the chances of me hitting the lottery again. And I think I have. We haven’t seen anything like this on TV. And I’m not just selling the show here, guys. I dare you to watch the first episode and not want to see the next one. And, again, there’s just watch the episode once, and then watch it again. There’s things that you missed, because there’s always something. It reminds me a lot of for the ones that are older or young I don’t know. Mel Brooks in “History of the World.” There was always you know, and it’s there’s always something going on, and you watch it again. Trust me, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of right now. And I couldn’t be happier to be with this amazing cast.”
Eva, since you have such a great history with your charitable projects and that was one chapter of your life. Will you have a scene or an episode that will bring awareness to these charities?
EVA LONGORIA: “Yeah. Well, you know what, we have an episode called “Rivals,” which is the background of it is a building homes for needy families. So it is Ana Sofia’s mission. You know, it’s her thing she does every year. We can’t use any real charity’s names because of clearance, but there is there was one episode of we all come together, even though we hate each other, for this, the greater good of a charity.”
It was awesome talking to the cast of “Telenovela” and hope you guys are excited to see these gorgeous people on screen soon. Don’t forget the catch the special one hour preview December 7th at 10/9c on NBC.