Eva Longoria Comedy Jumps on TV’s New Telenovela Trend

Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

NBC is moving full steam ahead with its new Eva Longoria comedy, Telenovela. Just a week after first announcing a straight-to-series pickup for the show, the network has begun to round out the rest of its cast, adding three new series regulars to the mix.

As the name implies, Telenovela will offer a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of a Spanish soap opera. Longoria will star as Ana Maria, the star of Latin America’s most beloved telenovela, who strives to stay on top in a world where there is as much drama off-screen as there is on-camera.

The half-hour single-camera comedy series, executive produced by Longoria, Cougar Town’s Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein, and Universal Television, marks the actress’s first starring role on TV since her eight-season run on Desperate Housewives. Since then, Longoria has worked on the small screen in various capacities, including a guest arc on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a producing position on the Lifetime drama Devious Maids, which is based on a Mexican telenovela and is scheduled to soon enter its third season.

Following its pickup, the show is now working on rounding out the rest of its cast. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Amaury Nolasco, Jencarlos Canela, and Diana Maria Riva have just signed on as series regulars. Nolasco (Prison Break) will reportedly play Rodrigo, the villainous character on the show-within-a-show in the forthcoming comedy. Meanwhile, Riva (The Bridge) is set as Ana Maria’s best friend, Mia, and Canela (Hunted by Night) will play Xavier, another telenovela superstar and Latin heartthrob.

The show comes right as telenovelas seem to be having a moment on mainstream television. Jane the Virgin, a loose adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, has become a critical hit for the CW. The comedy drama, which was renewed for a second season after only a few episodes, earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Television Series – Comedy earlier this year. Star Gina Rodriguez also won the network its first ever Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical.

Though the show may be the latest to reference the popular drama format from Latin television, Longoria maintains that the show is for all audiences. “Our show is not a Latin show,” Longoria said at a recent panel, per THR. “The perspective is basically mine. It’s about a telenovela star who doesn’t speak Spanish.”

Still, the series certainly fits into the rapidly growing roster of cultural-themed comedies currently on the small screen. Aside from the CW’s Jane the Virgin, ABC has also recently success this season with the family sitcom, Black-ish. The network also has Eddie Huang’s 13-episode comedy, Fresh Off the Boat, due to premiere on February 10. The show, which is only the second Asian American family sitcom in television history to make it to network prime time, has been relatively well-received among critics, despite Huang’s open criticism of it in a blistering essay for New York Magazine.

We’ll have to stay tuned to see if Telenovela will be as successful in the 2015-16 season as Jane the Virgin has been since its October debut. A premiere date for the upcoming comedy’s 13-episode first season has not yet been scheduled, although it’s expected.

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