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Eva Longoria on Returning to TV, ‘Telenovela’s’ Significance in Hispanic Community

For Eva Longoria, returning to television was inevitable, especially given the volume of quality content nowadays.

“I knew I wanted to return to television because television is my favorite medium of content. Television is at its best right now, it’s so good,” Longoria told Variety at a press event for her new NBC comedy, “Telenovela.”

Since wrapping up “Desperate Housewives” in 2012, Longoria has been focused on producing and directing efforts by way of her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment shingle, plus her foundation’s charity efforts, vowing to only return to a major television role when the right project presented itself.

“I did hit the lottery with ‘Housewives.’ I was on the best show of the last decade,” Longoria said, admitting she never thought she’d find a match for the ABC dramedy. “I’m not going to hit the lottery again,” she recalled thinking. “If I ever go back to TV, it would have to be something worth it.”

Turns out, she found her perfect lottery ticket with NBC’s sitcom “Telenovela,” which revolves around the cast of a Miami-based Latin soap opera. Though she’s now the poster image for the series, Longoria, who pitched the concept of “Telenovela” to producers, originally intended to only be involved as a producer. “I never thought I would star in it. I just wanted to develop this idea,” she said. Once realizing “Telenovela’s” potential to “move the ball forward” in the realm of comedy television, her involvement shifted. With Longoria attached to star, after the project entered a bidding war among a couple of major broadcasters, it ultimately landed at NBC with a 13-episode straight-to-series order very early on in the 2015-16 season.

“This is a world we haven’t seen in television before,” Longoria said of the behind-the-scenes telenovela take on a diverse comedy, in which she plays Ana Sofia, the star of a Spanish soap opera who can’t speak Spanish. “She’s in this great big world of being a Latin star, but yet insecure about, ‘Am I Latin enough?'”

Longoria, who grew up as a non-Spanish-speaking Mexican-American, strongly identifies with her character’s feelings of self doubt and says she’s hopeful her performance will convey to other Hispanic viewers that cultural ties aren’t solely determined by language.

Longoria’s co-stars are also proud to be representing the significance of telenovelas within Hispanic culture on their new primetime series.

Cuban-American singing sensation Jencarlos Canela, who nabbed the show’s leading man role, said “ridiculous circumstances that are presented to us in Spanish soap operas” are reflective of real-life situations in the Hispanic community. “We’re a passionate culture,” he added. Cast member Amaury Nolasco, who grew up in Puerto Rico, recalled watching telenovelas as part of his daily routine growing up.

Aside from the cast feeling cultural pride, the cast all found a common thread in looking up to Longoria on set.

“Eva is nothing but laughter and productivity and it’s the best combination and best formula for a creative environment,” said Diana Maria Riva, who plays Ana Sofia’s confidant. Puerto Rican actress Jadyn Douglas, who plays Roxi Rios, chimed in: “She really drives this ship and immediately made us all feel like family.”

“Telenovela” previewed to audiences in early December to positive reviews. The show enters its normal Monday night 8:30 p.m. timeslot on Jan. 4 on NBC.

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