Eva Longoria Goes Back to the Suds in the NBC Sitcom ‘Telenovela’

Eva Longoria in Telenovela
Danny Feld/NBC

The boobs are fake, but the laughs are real. Eva Longoria returns to TV in NBC’s Telenovela playing Ana Sofia, steamy star of the Spanish soap opera Las Leyes de Pasión, where the only thing bigger than the melodrama is the wind machine. The NBC comedy series gets a two-episode preview Monday, Dec. 7 (10/9c) prior to its January 4 premiere. Longoria gave us the soapy scoop.

You’ve rarely acted since Desperate Housewives, instead devoting your time to producing, directing and political activism. Why is Telenovela the show that got you back on the air?
I hit the lottery with Housewives, but when it ended, I thought everybody needed to cleanse their palate of Gabrielle Solis. I wanted to go away for a while. In fact, I was only intending to produce Telenovela, but when our writers, Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein (Cougar Town), turned in the first draft of the pilot, I said, “I must play this part!” It was just too fabulous.

So you didn’t miss acting until this script came along?
I was actually quite happy putting my full focus elsewhere—on my foundation (evalongoriafoundation.org), on charity work, on traveling. And I got a little rusty and dusty. I made an appearance on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and was kind of in shock. “What do you mean I have to get up at 5 a.m. and look good?” [Laughs] I forgot how this acting stuff works! I’m most comfortable behind the scenes. People always say, “Oh, so you’re one of those actors turned producers.” No. I think I was always a producer who turned actor for a little bit.

Latinos take their telenovelas very seriously. Will they respond well to a spoof?
This is a sacred genre to Latinos, but we’re in no way making fun of it. This is a great big love letter, and Latinos will be so thrilled this is happening on a major broadcast network. Besides, it’s what happens behind the scenes of our soap that’s crazy and over the top. And it’s not so far-fetched. There was a famous incident at a Venezuelan soap where the star was being slowly poisoned to death by her evil assistant. This is real life!

Did you also draw upon your stint as Latina crackpot Isabella Braña on The Young and the Restless?
Oh, you bet. When I was on that show, there were two stars who refused to work together—and they were in the same storyline! One refused to go to set unless the other one got there first. They fought over who had the closer parking spot. I was like, “Whaaat?” Who knew I’d someday be drawing upon that for inspiration? [Laughs] I should have been taking notes!