George Lopez stars in “Lopez” on TV Land.
George Lopez is one of the most famous comedians in the world. He’s back on TV with his second sitcom, “Lopez.” The series follows a semi-fictionalized version of Lopez and his day-to-day life, as he balances being a famous comedian while dealing with interpersonal relationships and trying to stay true to the Latino community in which he grew up. He also struggles to adjust to being a celebrity in a world where social media is a prevailing phenomenon. Sure, he’s been in movies, but television is where he feels at home.
“I like TV. I did movies, and I didn’t like waiting around. It was probably the movie with Jackie Chan [The Spy Next Door] where you’re waiting for a chair to be put on a wire and have the chair fall and have the bad guy get the chair and hit you with the chair. Then the stuntman, which is supposed to be me, falls down and then I’m lying there for the rest of the scene. I asked the stuntman to lay there for the next four hours. That’s when I was presented with the talk show [“Lopez Tonight”]. I thought, ‘something daily would be good.’”
For the past two years, the Oscars have come under fire for their lack of diversity. Lopez is proud of the fact that his talk show, “Lopez Tonight,” celebrated diversity. His broad appeal even earned him celebrity fans of his own.
“The talk show was very diverse. When Enrique Iglesias came on, he asked, ‘Can you take five minutes of my interview and interview me and my friend together?’ His friend was Pitbull. For the two years I had my talk show, Pitbull became known, and he came back and was always great to have. It was the same thing with Justin Bieber. My daughter played this YouTube video of Justin playing the guitar, and I went back on Monday and asked the guys, ‘Have you seen this kid from Canada?’ We booked him for the show, and it was the first talk show he was on,” Lopez reveals. “We had Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Sam Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince, 50 Cent, Kristen Stewart. We had so many diverse people on that show. When Prince was on, I asked him, ‘Why this show?’ He said, ‘I watch this show, and this show appeals to everybody.’”
Before winning fans such as Prince, Lopez was a struggling actor and comedian like countless others in Los Angeles. He found a fan in Sandra Bullock. Her determination to make Lopez a star was instrumental in getting his first sitcom greenlit. He’s forever grateful for her help and practically gushes when he talks about her.
“I was always appreciative of her when she was around. When we were doing the show, she would always come to the tapings. Back then, cell phones were just starting to take over. There was a rule on the show that, on the stage, you couldn’t text or talk on the phone. We had signs all over the place. I went to another show, and this actor was there in a chair. They told him that they were ready for him, and he said, ‘Hang on a second,’ so he could finish a text. I didn’t want that. Sandra was the only person that we allowed to text or use her phone on the set though. You’d look over and see her in the chair on her Blackberry. I was always appreciative of her.”
While Bullock was crucial in launching Lopez’s career, he’s well aware that he wouldn’t have had that opportunity if her name hadn’t been attached. He’s also aware of the fact that he can pay it back by helping up-and-comers get their break by attaching his name to theirs.
“One time Sandra said, ‘With George, I didn’t create a monster.’ She might have created a little bit of a monster. She had agents come and see me, and they said no. She had producers come and see me, and they said no. We went to the producer of “The Drew Carey Show,” Bruce Helford. He told me later that he only took a meeting with me to meet Sandra, but he liked me, so we got into business together,” he says. “I loved to pay it back by having people who weren’t known yet to be on my talk show.”
Even though “Lopez” was recently picked up for a second season, Lopez isn’t resting on his laurels. To continue to be successful, you have to continue to work.
“You have to prepare, and you have to train. Some people think people will find you if you have talent. People might find you, and you’re good that one time, but you have to be good all the time. The hardest thing with ‘George Lopez’ was to be good all the time. You have to work when other people are sleeping. You have to do things that no one else is willing to do. When Sandra said I was her guy, I was working twice as hard. I understood that I didn’t have a chance to be bad,” Lopez concludes. “Hollywood is hard for all people, and it can be twice as hard for Latinos. The Latinos that do make it have to find Latino producers and actors, which we try to do. There are so many dimensions to being a performer, and so many things you have to be good at. You can’t just sit around waiting for opportunity to knock.”
“Lopez” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on TV Land.