Eva Longoria recently stopped by The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon to play a little Family Feud and to talk novelas. Longoria was there to promote her new TV comedy, Telenovela, which also features Latino actors Laz Alonso and Jencarlos Canela. During the interview, Longoria broke down the three go-to moves every telenovela star has in their pocket: the gasp, the stare and the slap. Can Jimmy keep up? Watch and see for yourself.
Ok, it’s not as if any of us need an excuse to sit down and binge watch our favorite telenovelas. I mean we probably all already have a long list of favorites growing up watching them with our moms, abuelas, and tías.
Melodramas are part of our DNA, and we thrive watching the often times overly passionate scenes on TV with our favorite celebrities. One of the best things about telenovelas is that they have clear villain roles and come with a clear beginning and end. The short stories help us escape into an alternate reality where everything is a life-and-death decision.
And thanks to a surging pandemic, we’re spending more time than ever at home in front of our screens, looking for more content to watch. So why not work on this epic list of telenovela content to help get you through the holidays.
La Reina del Sur
La Reina del Sur was (and still is) an absolute game changer that’s exactly how it will go down in history. The series that starred Kate del Castillo is about Teresa Mendoza, a woman who gets dumped into the dark world of narcos unknowingly. She soon finds herself being persecuted by the Mexican cartel and escapes to Spain only to revolutionize the drug-trafficking world in Europe. There was no intention to make a sequel, but Telemundo caved after fans requested it for years and in 2019 released another chapter of the saga. Both seasons are available on Netflix now.
Aracely Arámbula is one of our Latin telenovela queens. And one of her greatest telenovelas is La Patrona, in which she portrays Gabriela, a single mother who works as a miner.
Of course, being the only woman who works in the mines brings out the bullies who make her life a living hell. However, things escalate further when she crosses Antonia Guerra. Things take another turn when she finds out that Gabriela Suárez is her grandchild’s mother, and she goes to terrible lengths to get rid her.
It’s a strong classic telenovela story that features two strong women who are determined to complete their goals.
Betty, En NY
Yo Soy Betty, La Fea was a phenomenon that captivated our hearts when it first aired at the turn of the century. The Fernando Gaitán original gave us a lesson about loving oneself and not judging others by their physical appearance.
Telemundo remade the Colombian hit in 2019 and cast Elyfer Torres as the titular character of Betty en NY. The network updated the series to modern times, but the heart of the story remains. One unique aspect of the particular transformation that Betty receives is that they kept her hair curly throughout, making a statement that curly hair is also beautiful.
If you’re obsessed with Elite (along with the rest of the world), then you can think of Rebelde as a way less intense early 2000s version of it. It’s a remake of the Argentinian series Rebelde Way, and it’s set in an *ahem* elite boarding school.
The show follows the relationships of a group of wealthy and scholarship students who, in true Breakfast Club fashion, join together despite their differences and start a pop band. Oh, and another fun thing: They all dress like they’re about to star in a Britney Spears music video. It’s truly amazing.
Pasión de Gavilanes
If you are looking for something steamy to watch, look no further than Pasión de Gavilanes. The Colombian classic pairs three hot men with three gorgeous women, and there are lots (lots) of passionate scenes between all the couples involved. Telemundo remade this telenovela again as Tierra de Reyes with a whole new cast and abs galore.
La Que No Podía Amar
Another Televisa production, La Que No Podía Amar, completely changed the telenovela rules. Our protagonista, Ana Paula, is not your typical heroine as she is not one to take orders from anybody. Our galán is also not the usual lead man as he mistreats everyone around him due to an accident that left him unable to walk. Despite their clashing, they somehow bring out the best in each other and create a magical love.
¿Donde Está Elisa?
A telenovela meets true crime thriller? Sounds too good to be true, but it’s basically the premise of this Telemundo classic, ¿Dónde Está Elisa?
As the family is engulfed in knowing Elisa’s whereabouts, deep, dark secrets start to unravel. How did Elisa disappear? Who is behind her disappearance? Is she dead or alive? The characters will ask themselves these questions, but the culprit of all this drama might just be at home.
This list would have a big gaping hole if we didn’t include the telenovela to end all telenovelas. La Usurpadora stars Gabriela Spanic as twin sisters Paulina and Paola, who trade places when the latter abandons her family and escapes with her love.
Paulina is the noble sister who ends up taking care of the Bracho family and finally making them feel like a family unit again. This sweet and bonkers story is one you have to watch if you call yourself a telenovela fan. Televisa adapted the story in 2019 with Sandra Echeverría as the twins. However, this time, it is set in the political world. This miniseries is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Credit: EVALONGORIA/AMERICAFERRERA/INSTAGRAM ; KEVIN WINTER/GETTY
The numbers are bleak. Latinos make up 18% of America’s population but only 5% of the number of speaking roles in movies in 2019 according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
Hollywood seems to be late to the party when it comes to Latino representation onscreen. But luckily, there are a handful of Latino artists and creators out there who are taking the fight to appear in front of the screen to behind the camera.
Take, for example, Eva Longoria, who was just announced to be directing and co-starring in the new action-comedy film, “Spa Day”
This marks the third movie the Mexican-American actress will be helming and the first Latina to ever direct more than one major studio film.
The other films on Longoria’s roster include a vehicle for her and Kerry Washington tentatively titled “24/7”, as well as the upcoming biopic “Flamin’ Hot”–a movie centered around Richard Montañez, the man who invented Flaming Hot Cheetos.
Longoria has been candid about how the decision to move into directing and producing has been a strategic one.
“One of the reasons I went into producing and directing was I wasn’t going to sit back and wait for somebody to create a role I wanted to do,” Longoria told Variety in 2018.
“You can’t just sit around waiting for [good projects], and I wanted to create that — not just for myself but for other Latinas.”
But her career transition isn’t unique as a Latina in Hollywood. She has joined the ranks of other Latinas in Hollywood who have began to produce and direct their own projects in order to finally see Latino stories told on screen.
All of these women have thrown their weight behind projects that otherwise wouldn’t be made if their names weren’t attached to them.
All of these women are creating stories that feature Latino stories and Latino talent–in front of and behind the camera.
America Ferrera explained the reason behind her conscious career pivot from acting to directing/producing: “My genuine heart’s desire is to tell stories that haven’t been told,” she told CBS This Morning. “It’s hard to get stories about people like us made. And then to get those stories told by us is very very uncommon.”
Although the endgame is to have Latinx stories greenlit without having to first be a famous singer or actress, the work these ladies are doing might be laying the foundation for an easier road for future industry players of Latino descent. Or as Longoria so eloquently put it: “If we unite and create opportunities for each other and pull each other up, there could be a lot more success for representation on TV.”