Airs Thursdays at 9PM on FX Network
In my first interview with George Lopez – January 2002, two months before the March 2002 launch of the landmark ABC series, George Lopez – Lopez quite candidly revealed that much of the comedic elements of the show were mined from his childhood memories of being raised by his relentlessly disapproving grandmother, personified in the series by the character of George’s mother Benny (Belita Moreno). Lopez recalled, “It wasn’t funny for me growing up, but it sure works on the show.”
In his current series, Saint George – launched March 6 (9p) on FX – his character still has a disapproving mother, Alma (Olga Merediz), but much of the comedy is manifested by the often inept machinations of two other relatives – Uncle Tio (Danny Trejo) and Tio’s son/George’s cousin, Junior (David Zayas). “They are both interesting characters. Tio is actually based on an uncle of mine who was always very competitive with me. He was my grandmother’s oldest son and she hung on his every word even though he really didn’t do much with his life. Well that’s Tio. Putting him together with Junior – who doesn’t really do anything but hang out with Tio – makes for a great comic duo.”
Saint George follows the much put upon life of a recently divorced, working class-bred Mexican American who has found success as an energy drink entrepreneur. Aside from Alma, Tio and Junior, George’s life is complicated by ultra Anglo ex-wife Mackenzie (Jenn Lyon), his nerdy 11-year-old son Harper (Kaden Gibson) and hyper-aggressive Concepcion (Diana Maria Riva), the sexy assistant principal at the adult education center where George volunteers as a history teacher.
“I empathize with my character a lot,” he affirms. “He has to deal with some complicated issues, personally and multi-culturally. He’s not all that centered, grounded or happy despite his success in business. He wants to be around people, to date again but he’s not comfortable doing it. And he’s very uncomfortable in the presence of Conception, who is so confident and sensually outgoing that she intimidates him. I know in real life, she would intimidate me.”
Lopez is also looking forward to dealing with his character’s almost total discomfort with an 11-year-old son who is much more Anglo in his outlook and demeanor than he is Latino. “Obviously Harper is not like any kid I knew growing up,” Lopez affirms. “But he is George’s son. George loves him and he’ll do whatever it takes to be the kind of father the boy needs.”
Lopez readily admits that the arc of the series during its debut episodes parallels much of what has happened in his own life. “Yeah, I’ve been divorced almost three years. I haven’t had much success with women, or done well with women who have cared about me. I’ve never been that willing a partner. I have to figure out why that is. I think much of it does come from my childhood where there was a lot of disconnection. George’s effort to connect with people is going to be a big part of the series. I also think, as people get older, they spend a lot of time alone because they become prisoners of their own past. I went to therapy and my therapist told me, ‘Listen man, you gotta find friends. If you don’t have friends now, in ten to twenty years, it’s going get really lonely.’ So, that is a big part of the journey my character takes on Saint George.”
There is an aspect of the show that is also about George’s commercial success as a businessman. Since the show’s faux energy drink, La Energia, gets so much play in the show, I ask Lopez if he plans to market the drink for real. He laughs. “We talked about marketing it. I think we’ve already secured the name and the rights. It is fantastic that in the show, La Energia is endorsed by the great baseball player, Albert Pujols. It was such an honor for me to have him agree to do the show.”
Lopez also affirms that the show won’t interfere with his first love, standup comedy. “Since My schedule with Saint George gives me the free time to go out on the road a bit, I am going to continue to put myself out there. I love doing standup. It has brought me so much, I don’t think I could ever give it up. Also, I’m hoping for another TV special next year. I am starting to write it. I’ll see how it develops and hopefully be able to put it up. Right now, it feels great to have a comedy series again.”
Saint George is executive produced by its co-creators George Lopez, Matt Williams and David McFadzjean, as well as Dete Meserve, and Judd Payne. Linda Figuerido is a co-executive producer/writer.
tags: Television, Latino, La Energia energy drink, comedy