George Lopez is playing hard to get. Taping a scene for his new FX sitcom, Saint George, he’s comically dodging unwanted advances from voluptuous actress Diane Maria Riva, who plays his boss at the adult education center where he volunteers. As she corners him on the sofa and straddles him energetically, Lopez sputters a rapid-fire series of one-liners. Finally, he flashes his signature bug-eyed look to indicate he needs a time-out, and the director yells, “Cut!”
“I think my leg is getting numb,” Lopez announces, teasing the actress. “No, not that leg.” The crew cracks up. And with a mischievous grin, Lopez is ready to shoot the scene again.
If anyone though Lopez was going to go quietly after his talk show, Lopez Tonight, was canceled in August 2011, think again. Set to debut in January, Saint George marks his return to where fans love to see him most—on TV. Not that the avid golfer has been spending his days hitting the links near his Toluca Lake, Calif., home. Lopez has been working nonstop—touring nationwide, publishing another hilarious memoir, I’m Not Gonna Lie, and taping his HBO comedy special It’s Not Me, It’s You. He has contributed voiceovers for Smurfs 2 and the forthcoming Rio 2, and is costarring in the comedy film Car Dogs with Octavia Spencer and Patrick J. Adams. Then there’s La Vida Robot, in theatres this fall, a film Lopez both produced and stars in, based on the true-life experience of a group of mostly Mexican high school students who, against all odds, create “Stinky” the robot for a nationwide science competition and ultimately beat out MIT students to win.
For all that, it’s his return to the small screen that has Lopez revved up today. Saint George follows the life of a divorced, working-class Mexican American who has achieved financial success and now faces the heightened expectations of an ex-wife, a teenage son, an overbearing mother and scheming relatives all hitting him up for money. The similarities to his own life are not lost on Lopez, 52, speaking on the Santa Clarita, Calif., set where the show is taped.
“I was born on the day of Saint George,” he says. “I can’t help but help people. In this show, I’m helping people, but I have to find out in life, as in the show, why I help people more than I help myself. That’s what we will take 100 episodes to figure out.”
For the FX series, Lopez negotiated the same “10/90” deal made famous by Charlie Sheen with his Anger Management sitcom: if the first 10 shows reach a set ratings goal, FX will pick up a guaranteed 90 episodes, taking the series straight to syndication. To meet that target, Saint George would be produced accelerated schedule, with 100 episodes filmed in less than two years. The pressure is immense.
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