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In a casting coup for Telemundo, NBCUniversal Spanish-language network has enlisted Mexican telenovela superstar Fernando Colunga to star in several original productions.

The deal kicks off with Colunga tapped to star in “Malverde: El Santo Patron,” (“Malverde: “The Patron Saint”), Telemundo’s first “Super Series” drama done in a period setting. Telemundo’s “Super Series” have shorter episode runs than traditional novelas and are designed to be renewed for multiple seasons.

According to Telemundo Global Studios president Marcos Santana, the new pact marks Colunga’s return to television after he has worked in film and theater for the past four years.

“He’s in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ for having appeared every minute on a television screen somewhere in the world for some period,” said Santana of the star of such wildly popular Mexican telenovelas as “La Usurpadora,” “Esmeralda” and “Pasion y Poder.” Colunga’s novelas have aired in at least 150 countries around the globe.

“I am very grateful to Telemundo for believing in my career as an actor and professional,” said Colunga. “This new series presents a great challenge for me, and I look forward to presenting audiences a new genre, never before seen on Spanish-language television,” he added.

The high-octane action series will trace the life journey of a young boy in 1870 Sinaloa, Mexico who becomes a legendary figure, almost a religious icon, revered by the dispossessed, drug traffickers and criminals.

“Malverde” is currently in pre-production with principal photography likely to kick off in the summer, said Santana. The series is slated to bow next year.

Telemundo’s shorter, edgier, more ambitious Super Series have contributed to the network’s growth in the U.S. Hispanic market, and helped narrow its market share gap with rival, Univision. Super Series are stripped Monday-Friday for some 60 to 80 episodes instead of the traditional 120 or more.

“We continue to break barriers by producing innovative programming, and we are sure that our audiences will love seeing an actor as talented as Fernando on our screen for the first time,” said Santana.

(Pictured: Fernando Colunga, Marcos Santana)