EXCLUSIVE: Eva Longoria became a household name as a breakout star on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. Two years after the hit dramedy ended its eight-season run, Longoria is looking to return to the small screen as star of a half-hour, single-camera comedy series. In an unusual situation that underscores how sought after Longoria is as a TV leading lady, two projects are vying for her at two different networks — Telenovela at NBC and an untitled comedy at ABC. Originally, the script she was to choose was going to go to pilot.
But NBC stepped up in a big way. The network has deep ties with the actress, helping her launch her production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, which is based at Universal Television, and doing projects with her as a producer.
I’ve learned that Telenovela, from Cougar Town co-executive producers Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein and Universal TV, will get a 13-episode order if Longoria commits to star and a pilot order if she doesn’t. The project is expected to hire a casting director shortly. Additionally, since Telenovela is set behind the scenes of a telenovela, NBC is in discussions with sister network Telemundo to make episodes of the fictional telenovela that would air on the Spanish-language net. UPDATE: I hear those will likely not be full-blown episode but shorter, 4-5-minute segments in Spanish that would be used to promote the NBC series to Spanish-speaking audiences. Longoria is not expected to appear in them.
The ABC project, from ABC Studios and the Trophy Wife team of Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, is being fast-tracked as a script that will go to pilot with 13-episode penalty for Longoria attached if she commits to star.
Longoria had been developing Telenovela through UnbeliEVAble with Universal TV and NBC for some time. Based on an idea by Longoria, it centers on an ambitious telenovela star — a character created for her — who struggles to stay on top in a world where the drama on-camera is nothing compared to the drama off-camera.
Last season, NBC developed the project as a one-hour with writer Robert Harling. The new, half-hour incarnation is being penned by Pietrosh and Goldstein under the overall deal with Universal TV they entered earlier this summer after a three-year stint at ABC Studios. The two exec produce alongside UnbeliEVAble’s Longoria and Ben Spector.
The untitled ABC comedy will be written by Trophy Wife creators Halpern and Haskins, who will exec produce with fellow Trophy Wife exec producers Stupnitsky and Eisenberg.
Longoria and Spector would executive produce if Longoria stars in it. The comedy centers on Mia, a character written for Longoria. She is a successful home renovator who can’t stop problem solving when she leaves the job site – especially when it comes to her boyfriend, her family, a random delivery guy, and basically everyone she comes into contact with. The project was taken out by ABC Studios, where Halpern & Haskins and Stupnitsky & Eisenberg are based, sparking a bidding between ABC and NBC and ultimately landing at ABC. Longoria, of course, has a long history at ABC and ABC Studios, which cast her in Desperate Housewives.
It is not unusual for a network to commission two scripts for an actor it has a talent deal with, which is what CBS did for Martin Lawrence two years ago. But for two big projects at two different networks to be developed for the same actor is very rare.
Since the end of Desperate Housewives, Longoria had been focused on producing through her UnbeliEVAble banner. She executive produces Lifetime’s Devious Maids and her company has sold several projects this development season, including medical drama Critical at NBC and Texas political/family drama Pair of Aces at ABC.
Longoria is repped by CAA. Halpern and Haskins are with UTA and Mosaic. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky are repped by WME and Mosaic. Pietrosh and Goldstein are with ICM Partners.