“For me, the best movies are on television. The characters are better, there’s more opportunity to explore and to do something I hadn’t done in awhile.”
Such are Jennifer Lopez’s reasons for staying put on TV with NBC’s Shades Of Blue following her American Idol judging stint on Fox. Having hit a box office heyday back in the early aughts with such romantic comedies as Maid In Manhattan ($94M) and Monster-In-Law ($82.9M), the actress also cultivated a niche following with her big-screen crime dramas i.e. The Boy Next Door, Out Of Sight and Enough. Shades Of Blue’s origins began when writer Adi Hasak’s TV spec script, who also serves as EP on the NBC show, landed in the hands of Lopez’s producing partner Elaine Goldsmith Thomas, who suggested Barry Levinson for the project and ultimately Lopez herself.
“It was edgy, and we were deciding whether or not to take it to cable, but it was Elaine who suggested NBC,” Levinson said today at TCA in Pasadena. “With Lopez attached, the series received an immediate 13-week order by the Peacock, bypassing the pilot stage. Similar to other projects that have starred Lopez, the actress told the TCA press corps that she has her fingerprints on a number of the elements in Shades Of Blue as EP including reading scripts, casting, “everything that was created from the ground up.”
“It had enough of a base for me to grow, and grow into something that doesn’t get worn,” Lopez said about her commitment to Shades of Blue, in which she plays, yes, another woman in peril — but with a twist. As Harlee Santos, a single-parent Brooklyn detective, Lopez’s character is nabbed by the FBI during an illegal cop op. Harlee is forced to be an informant on her police unit or face jail time. For Lopez fans, they’ll be stoked to know (if they haven’t already watched) that the actress gets to box again, a sport she took up during another action thriller, Money Train.
Said EP/showrunner Jack Orman about the setup going forward: “Harlee doesn’t accept being arrested. She doesn’t accept the choices she’s getting that she can either narc on her crew or go to jail and leave her daughter hanging. So what she does is a dance. The more she dances, the more she lies, and the more she lies, the more hot water she gets into.”
And as far as the head of Harlee’s Brooklyn unit, Lt. Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta), the EP said: “He doesn’t take to the idea of someone ratting on him lightly. This leads to complications to what is a big morality at the heart of the series.”
Shades Of Blue was one of the NBC shows today, along with Telenovela and Superstore, receiving high praise from the TCA press corps for its diverse casting.
Commenting on how the industry has come to embrace more diversity in casting projects, Lopez said: “I think it’s been coming for many years. And it’s not just race, but all different types of diversity. For me, the turning point was Shonda Rhimes and Grey’s Anatomy. That’s where TV got interesting again. I remember watching that and what was so interesting was where she placed different characters. Since then it feels like the norm. There’s no getting away from it.”
Said Levinson: “TV is always a reflection and indicative of the times we live in. When it came to casting, we wanted to show what a real New York City Police Department was like.”
Earlier, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters in a scrum session: “I’m thrilled about our diversity throughout the whole network. GLAAD documented us as the most diverse network. I think our casts are 41% diverse. And we just happen to get into business with Jennifer and Eva (Longoria). We cast America Ferrera in Superstore; it wasn’t even designed for her, but it’s a great coincidence.”
Shades Of Blue airs at 10PM Thursdays. In its premiere, the show was off to a solid start, winning the time slot for NBC in adults 18-49 for the first time since The Marriage Ref on March 4, 2010.