Eva Longoria first rose to fame playing Gabrielle Solis in all eight seasons of the ABC hit series, Desperate Housewives. For her return to series television, she created, developed, and stars in the NBC comedy, Telenovela, now in its first season. Based on the popular Spanish-language serial drama format of the same name, it stars Longoria as Ana Sofia Calderon, a telenovela star who happens to be the lone non-Spanish speaker among its cast and crew. Longoria kindly joined us for a chat about how the show came to be, surrounding herself with a handpicked dream cast, and some of her own guilty TV pleasures.
What made you want to be a part of Telenovela?
I created and developed it. I had the world in my head and then we finally found the writers to create and bring this world to life. It was amazing. I set the bar really high because I knew I would go back to TV one day. I loved the medium of television; it is my favorite structure of work. I love going to work every day, I love playing the same character every day. So I knew one day I would be back and I kind of was like, “If it’s not as good as [Desperate] Housewives, I’ll just wait.” Everyone said I couldn’t compare it to that show, but why go back to work if something’s not as good as what you did the last time?
When I read the script, I was like, “This is the world I want to be in, this is the character I want to play, and I love physical comedy.” It jumped off the page and was everything I had hoped. It was an easy choice.
Speaking of those characters, what is life like on set? You have a bunch of personalities that you’re starring with, is it exciting?
We are one big Latino family! It is so much fun on set. I handpicked every person from the cast. Amaury [Nolasco] has been my friend for 20 years. His role was created for him because he always gets cast as the bad guy and was always so grumpy about it. So I was like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we had that character.”
Alex Meneses, who I’ve known for 20 years, plays Isabella. She had left the business to become a mom and then just came back. Diana Maria Riva, who plays my best friend Mimi, came into audition and immediately we had amazing chemistry. So we have a really amazing cast! It’s hard for us not to laugh every scene and every day. Even on days off people would come to set because we loved being together. You can tell we have great chemistry.
Are there any old co-stars from Desperate Housewives you’d love to have on the show?
Ricardo Chavira, who played Carlos, came and did a guest appearance and it was so good to be back on screen together. He doesn’t play my love interest, but we had a lot of fun. I would love to have Felicity [Huffman], Marcia [Cross], or any one of the girls! That would be a lot of fun.
The episodes you’re writing now for the show, are they derived from any experiences from past shows or any Telenovelas you’ve seen in past years?
They’re usually derived from our life experiences, because we’re not writing about a novela, we’re writing about the people who make a novela. We had an episode where Rodrigo always wanted to be in a boy band, but Javi (Xavier Castillo) ended up taking Rodrigo’s place but he never knew it at the time it happened. It was based on a real-life story from Amaury. He always wanted to be in Menudo and he never could get in because his mother would never let him audition. So we made that a whole episode based on that story.
If we could take a look at your DVR, would we find any guilty pleasures? What are you watching these days?
Oh so many! The [Real] Housewives, I watch all of the Housewives. I love Veep, that’s a big one. I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And I’m watching Empire now; I’m binge-watching Empire now.
But I actually watch a lot of foreign shows. I was addicted to this one called Grand Hotel from Spain and then another one called Velvet; so good! They are so good that I’m like, “Why aren’t we making this?” That show [Velvet], I have the rights to it now, to make it in English. So it’s a lot of fun.