Eva Longoria shows off her comic chops in new NBC laugher, "Telenovela"

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02 January 2016

NBC, Monday, Jan. 4, 8:30 PM ET

By Lori Acken

NBC’s new comedy “Telenovela” launches Monday, but it has occupied Eva Longoria’s mind for years.

Longoria, who created and stars in the sidesplitting series, says the idea evolved from her love of the ’70s sitcom “Soap” and 1991’s Kevin Kline/Sally Field in “Soapdish” — coupled with tales shared by pals in the telenovela business.

“They would tell me stories about crazy things that would happen to them on set,” she says, “and I would be floored by the amount of drama that happened that was bigger than what was actually happening on the show.”

Then it was up to Longoria to figure out how to contain that deep well of material in a fresh way that maximized its comic potential.

“We developed it originally as a one-hour, and it was going to be in the vein of an “Ugly Betty” or “Desperate Housewives” — like a true soap-within-a-soap,” she says, “but we couldn’t sustain the funny. Then, we got these great two writers, Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein [“Cougar Town,” “My Name Is Earl’], and they were like, ‘Let us take a stab at that telenovela concept.’ I was like, ‘Yes!’”

Once Longoria met her character, Ana Sofia, on the page, she was smitten. Ana Sofia headlines the popular Spanish-language soap opera “Las Leyes de Pasión” (“The Laws of Passion”), and though her onscreen dramas earn her a paycheck, the real melodrama in Ana Sofia’s life comes courtesy of her colorful costars, a handsome new network chief (Zachary Levi, “Chuck”) and a sudden addition to the cast — her ex-husband Xavier (Jencarlos Canela).

“I had always had the world in my head and I knew Ana Sofia would be a Spanish soap star who didn’t speak Spanish, but the rest of the characters in the world, they totally populated,” Longoria says of Pietrosh and Goldstein. “They created this world in which Ana Sofia has flourished.” And falls off things. And falls over them.

“The way these writers write is my kind of funny,” Longoria says. “I love physical comedy. I love big, broad comedies that can appeal to everyone and deal with universal themes. I pitch things to [them] all the time. We just did one of our episodes with Zachary Levi, and I was on a piano and I was like, ‘Can I fall off the piano? That would be super funny!’ I fully commit myself to it!”
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