Happy Eva af­ter

For­mer des­per­ate house­wives star Eva Lon­go­ria em­braces the any­thing- can- hap­pen at­mos­phere of Te­len­ov­ela.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By YVONNE VIL­LAR­REAL

EVA Lon­go­ria’s re­turn to prime- time tele­vi­sion on the com­edy Te­len­ov­ela comes four years af­ter she said good­bye to her ca­reer- defin­ing role as wealthy Gabrielle So­lis on Des­per­ate House­wives. And in this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment, it’s a role that has her drenched in wa­ter.

As Ana Sofia, the over- the- top lead­ing lady of the show- with­inthe- show Las Leyes de Pa­sion ( The Laws Of Pas­sion), Lon­go­ria is the star of a com­edy that peers be­hind the scenes of a pop­u­lar Span­ish­language soap opera, a te­len­ov­ela where the drama off­screen is just as melo­dra­matic as the drama on­screen.

Ana Sofia is bossy but lov­able, out of con­trol while try­ing to be the one who holds things to­gether. And she of­ten finds her­self in wacky sit­u­a­tions.

But Lon­go­ria’s not just act­ing here. She’s also di­rect­ing. And did we men­tion pro­duc­ing?

Dur­ing a re­cent shoot on Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios’ back­lot in Uni­ver­sal City, Lon­go­ria scur­ries in fringed high heels from her mark in front of the cam­era, where her char­ac­ter has just been doused in wa­ter by a co- star for a post- hur­ri­cane scene, to a nearby di­rec­tor’s mon­i­tor where mem­bers of her team sur­round and cover her in tow­els.

“It doesn’t look like we’re hav­ing a wet T- shirt con­test, right?” Lon­go­ria, dressed in a white tank and white shorts, asks while re­view­ing the footage. “OK, let’s do it again and go in a bit tighter now.”

The spoof on Span­ish- lan­guage soap op­eras comes at a time when net­works are look­ing at Em­pire’s suc­cess and striv­ing for more di­ver­sity to ap­peal to un­der­served au­di­ences.

Te­len­ov­ela joins Jane The Vir­gin, Nar­cos, Border­town and other se­ries that weave Latino cul­ture into their foun­da­tions.

Te­len­ov­ela is also one of three NBC se­ries launch­ing mid­sea­son with Latina leads, with Jen­nifer Lopez in the drama Shades Of Blue and Amer­ica Fer­erra in the work­place com­edy Su­per­store.

For Lon­go­ria, who has so­lid­i­fied her role as a Latina ac­tivist in re­cent years, the fight isn’t over. “Look, I think the His­panic com­mu­nity is mak­ing progress on tele­vi­sion,” Lon­go­ria says. “But we’re still se­verely un­der­rep­re­sented.”

The 40- year- old ac­tress is seated in the stark white din­ing room of her char­ac­ter’s Mi­ami home dur­ing a sep­a­rate, off- day from film­ing, and the topic seems to an­i­mate her.

Lean­ing in to fo­cus her gaze, she taps the ta­ble with her right in­dex fin­ger when punc­tu­at­ing cer­tain points, as if talk­ing to a pol­i­cy­maker.

“When it comes to di­ver­sity in tele­vi­sion, we have to have more peo­ple be­hind the cam­era,” she says. “We have to have more pro­duc­ers and writ­ers – specif­i­cally, writ­ers – in or­der to cre­ate those sto­ries and dig from the well of our com­mu­nity, which has been un­tapped. And that’s what we’re do­ing here.”

De­vel­oped by Cougar Town veter­ans Chrissy Pi­et­rosh and Jes­sica Gold­stein from an idea by Lon­go­ria, Te­len­ov­ela fea­tures an all- Latino cast: Diana Maria Riva as head of wardrobe for Las Leyes de

Pa­sion, Jose Moreno Brooks as the dense costar, Alex Me­ne­ses as an age­ing te­len­ov­ela star, Amaury No­lasco as the go- to vil­lain, Izzy Diaz as a be­lea­guered writer, Ja­dyn Dou­glas as the ditzy in­genue, and te­len­ov­ela vet­eran Jen­car­los Canela as the Latin heart­throb. Latino rep­re­sen­ta­tion be­hind the scenes, how­ever, is less ro­bust. On

Te­len­ov­ela’s 14- per­son writ­ing staff, just three are Latino. Lon­go­ria says some were brought on through NBC’s di­ver­sity writ­ing pro- gramme; oth­ers, know­ing of Lon­go­ria’s ad­vo­cacy work, sub­mit­ted ma­te­rial di­rectly to her pro­duc­tion com­pany Un­be­liEV­Able, which she runs with pro­duc­ing part­ner Ben Spec­tor.

“I’ve been lucky to be a mag­net for that,” Lon­go­ria says. “But it’s hard to find that tal­ent. And with the Latino tal­ent that’s al­ready out there, they’re swooped up fast be­cause there are some 400 scripted pro­grams a year. There is a need for a bet­ter pipe­line be­cause there’s this chicken- or- the- egg prob­lem.” The com­edy, orig­i­nally called Te­len­ov­ela, changed its name to

Hot & Both­ered be­fore re­vert­ing back to Te­len­ov­ela just be­fore launch – at the ad­vice of TV com­edy king Chuck Lorre.

“I wanted to know more about com­edy, so I asked Chuck Lorre,” Lon­go­ria says ca­su­ally. “I asked him about the ti­tle of our show. He didn’t like Hot & Both­ered.

“He said, ‘ It can’t be a feel­ing, it has to be a noun,’” she ex­plains. “I said, ‘ Well, it was Te­len­ov­ela – and he was like, ‘ That’s funny.’ So we switched it back.”

De­spite favourable re­views from crit­ics, Te­len­ov­ela’s back- to- back pre­view back in De­cem­ber in the United States re­ceived soft rat­ings. The first episode av­er­aged a 1.4 rat­ing in the key demo of adults ages 18 to 49 and 5.4 mil­lion view­ers at the 10 p. m. hour. The se­cond episode dropped con­sid­er­ably, pulling just a 0.8 rat­ing and 3.3 mil­lion.

“There were so many fac­tors – we were up against a Cow­boys game, we were up against a new

NCIS,” Lon­go­ria says in a fol­low- up. “We were on at 10 pm af­ter The Voice – I mean, I had trou­ble stay­ing up and watch­ing it. I was so tired.”

Lon­go­ria chalks it up to shift­ing view­ing be­hav­iors, point­ing out Fox’s re­cent de­ci­sion to stop re­port­ing overnight rat­ings.

“I put up a link to the pi­lot on Face­book, and within hours it had 50,000 views,” she says, not­ing that NBC posted the first three episodes on­line so peo­ple can sam­ple. “The way peo­ple view con­tent is so dif­fer­ent.”

The rub is that view­ers will be see­ing less of it than orig­i­nally in­tended. In what started as a bid­ding war be­tween NBC and ABC to land Lon­go­ria on their re­spec­tive net­works, the pea­cock net­work of­fered the in­cen­tive of a straightto- se­ries 13- episode or­der if Lon­go­ria, al­ready tapped as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, agreed to star in the se­ries. But half­way through pro­duc­tion, NBC re­duced the or­der to 11 be­cause of sched­ul­ing- re­lated is­sues.

“I’m all about truth, and so I al­ways feel like you don’t sug­ar­coat things that shouldn’t be sug­ar­coated,” Lon­go­ria says of break­ing the news to the cast. I mean, you can’t do any­thing about sched­ul­ing and fi­nances of an en­tire net­work; there’s no bat­tle to fight there.

“What we can do is make those 11 an amaz­ing 11. NBC, I, and the writ­ers and the cast all want the same thing: We want a very suc­cess­ful com­edy.”

Te­len­ov­ela airs ev­ery Mon­day at 7.30pm on Star World ( Astro Ch 711).

— hand­out

Te­len­ov­ela is a spoof on Span­ish­language soap opera which also stars pop­u­lar te­len­ov­ela ac­tor canela as Lon­go­ria’s for­mer hus­band.

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