There will come a time when a broadcast network having three primetime series with Latina leads will not be big news. This is not that time.
NBC held TCA Q&A sessions last week for Shades Of Blue with Jennifer Lopez, America Ferrera-starrer Superstore and Eva Longoria’s Telenovela. During the latter session, one TV critic noted, “When you think about the impact of shows like [Fox’s] Empire, one reason why they’ve had impact is because a huge number of black viewers watch the show, they showcase black culture, and a bunch of black viewers watch the show. It seems like it’s been harder for TV to figure out how to do that with Latino viewers, even when the show features Latino cast members.”
The critic asked Longoria, who stars in and exec produces Telenovela, if her new series is drawing “a lot of Latino viewers,” and “what’s the key to reaching especially second- and third-generation folks who may not be as tied to traditional television.”
After confirming her show is over-indexing with Latinos, Longoria agreed with the premise. “It’s very hard to program to Latinos,” she said. “I am not saying African Americans are a monolithic group, because they are not. They are very diverse as well. But Latinos are definitely not a monolithic group. When you have the Cubans and the Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans – if you see our cast, just our cast, we touch all of that and then some…If you tell an East L.A. story, sometimes the New Yorkians don’t get it. And I’m a Texican. So sometimes I don’t get either coast.
“I don’t think, ‘If you cast it, they will come’,” she said. “These roles authentically had to be Latino. They are on a telenovela. So casting this show was very different than stunt casting the Benetton ad.”
Longoria said the TV industry “automatically” comes to her “with content that is Latino-themed or have Latino cues, but I don’t think that you can program to Latinos. I don’t think Latinos like that. I think they want good shows.” She described Telenovela as a “great big broad comedy that has a lot of Hispanic cues in it, and so I think a general audience can enjoy it and understand it and laugh at it.”
The series scored a big commitment from NBC at the pitch stage — a 13-episode order if Longoria committed to star, and a pilot order if she didn’t. Longoria had been developing Telenovela through her Universal TV-based UnbeliEVAble at NBC for some time. Written/executive produced by Cougar Town co-executive producers Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein, it’s based on an idea by Longoria who plays diva Ana Maria, popular star of Latin America’s most beloved telenovela who strives to stay on top in that world.