Rick Bentley

Jennifer Lopez gets ‘Blue,’ Eva Longoria loves laughs

Jennifer Lopez as Harlee Santos in “Shades Of Blue” on NBC.
Jennifer Lopez as Harlee Santos in “Shades Of Blue” on NBC. NBC

Jennifer Lopez is a singer, dancer, actor, judge and producer. Each job has its own special problems, but Lopez calls making a one-hour TV drama the hardest work she’s done.

She went through that challenge to make “Shades of Blue,” NBC’s new police drama. The show moves to its regular 10 p.m. time slot on Thursday, Jan. 21.

The new drama, that also features Emmy Award-winning actor Ray Liotta and Drea de Matteo, best known for her role on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” is the first foray into scripted TV dramas. Her other TV work is as one of the judges of “American Idol.”

“A show like this is such an emotional roller coaster for me and a lot of the characters. It’s very challenging,” Lopez says. “At then end of the day, you just have to give it your all, put your heart into it, put everything on the line and see what happens. That’s how, kind of, I approach everything anyway.”

Lopez plays Harlee Santos, a single mother and resourceful detective at the heart of a tight-knit crew of Brooklyn detectives, led by Lt. Matt Wozniak (Liotta). As a big illegal job looms on the horizon, the FBI catches Santos in the act and pits her against her own unit. As a newly turned informant, Santos struggles to safeguard her on-the-job family and avoid arrest in order to stay with her daughter.

Lopez is new to a television drama, but she’s got plenty of experience in films, including starring roles in “The Boy Next Door,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “The Wedding Planner,” “The Back-up Plan” and “Gigli.”

When she started looking for her next movie project, Lopez discovered the best scripts were for TV projects.

“The characters are better. It was just a really exciting opportunity to do something that I hadn’t done in a while, in a different way than I had done in a long time,” Lopez says. “For me, the script itself, the story itself, the idea of it from the very first time I spoke about it with my producing partner Elaine Goldsmith Thomas, I knew that there was something that could go on.

No matter what, picking the next project comes down to a gut feeling for Lopez. The project has to be interesting to her.

“Shades of Blue” comes with additional demands since Lopez is also an executive producer. She gets enough time to do the acting work, but the rest of the time is taken up with reading scripts, dealing with how the sets look and checking all the wardrobes. The job was easier because her character was so well developed in the script.

“It was really just tiny tweaks here and there,” Lopez says.

It also helped that the final episodes of “Shades of Blue” were filming when this season of “American Idol” started. Lopez worked on “Idol” on the weekends.

Working every day was stressful.

“It was challenging. It was hard, but we got through it, and I just tried to take it day by day. And again, it’s just kind of compartmentalizing. … I don’t let people burden my mind with other stuff when I’m acting,” Lopez says. “I really feel like it needs my full attention, and then when I go off and do ‘Idol,’ it’s a little bit more of a fun thing on the weekends, and I try to just look at it as that, reuniting with ‘Idol’ family and listening to people sing, and not trying to take it all too seriously.

What’s next? She’s adding more work. She signed a three-year deal with the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas to do 40 shows a year.

But, TV remains the toughest challenge.

Eva Longoria loves being funny

“Desperate Housewives” was a blend of comedy and drama. Whenever the script took on comedy elements, Eva Longoria would get extra feedback from the fans who loved when her character of Gabby was funny.

Now, she gets to be funny all the time as the star and executive producer of the new NBC comedy, “Telenovela.”

“It’s been so nice to spread my wings and just do solely comedy. And, then, for it to be physical was just a bonus because I’ve always loved it. I’ve always liked it,” Longoria says.

In “Telenovela,” she plays the willful but popular diva Ana Maria, star of Latin America's most beloved telenovela. She’s battling to stay on top in a world where the drama on camera is nothing compared to the drama off camera.

It’s also a world where Maria’s hunky co-stars are willing to lose their shirts without excuse.

Longoria is best known for her role in “Housewives.” During the show’s eight-season run, Longoria won two Screen Actors Guild Awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe. She also won two Alma Awards and a People’s Choice Award. Other television credits include a recent arc in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Simpsons,” “George Lopez” and “The Young and the Restless.”

Getting to have a voice in all aspects of a show is giving Longoria the opportunity to help bring more diversity to network television.

“I think there’s a lot to be done to have more diversity in front of the camera, but it starts behind the camera,” Longoria says. “I think our show is a great example of it because we’ve done such a great job obviously in front of the camera, but the writers’ room is very diverse. Our crew is very diverse. Our directors, who we use, are very diverse. But as far as why did I intently start producing to help Latinos? I actually started producing because I like bossing people around, and I’m really good at it.”

Longoria is also the executive producer of the Lifetime series, “Devious Maids.” She’s able to work on both shows because “Telenovela” wrapped just before the fourth season of “Maids” started filming.

Not only is she a producer, but Longoria plans to make a guest appearance on the season opener. All she will say is that she will be playing a heightened version of Eva Longoria.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

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