How NBC Sitcom ‘Lopez vs. Lopez’ Is Defying Expectations

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How NBC Sitcom 'Lopez vs. Lopez' Is Defying Expectations

Mayan Lopez had to twerk the truth.

In August 2020, the up-and-coming comedy star posted a video reaction on TikTok with the truth about her parents’ divorce. While upside down and popping her booty to the music, she revealed that her parents — comedy icon George Lopez and producer Ann Serrano — ended their marriage because George cheated.

When Mayan posted the lighthearted video, she never expected it to catch the attention of director Debby Wolfe. Two years later, Mayan’s TikTok became the basis of hit NBC sitcom “Lopez vs. Lopez,” in which an estranged father and daughter reunite under one roof.

“Lopez vs. Lopez” is equal parts comedy and poignant commentary on the complexities of family, as the Lopezes learn how to forgive each other for the past. The series tackles not only stigmatized topics in the Latinx community like mental health and therapy, but also navigates discussions regarding racism and cultural appropriation in ways that are approachable for a broader audience.

“I really want ‘Lopez vs Lopez’ to not only be accessible and relatable to everybody, but I see it as a love letter to the Latinx community and these issues that don’t always get the spotlight in television and media,” Mayan tells HuffPost. “I always want people to watch this show and to be able to look at their family next to each other and start a conversation.”

(L-R) Debby Wolfe, George Lopez and Mayan Lopez attend the "Lopez vs. Lopez" press junket at the 2024 SCAD TVfest in Atlanta. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
(L-R) Debby Wolfe, George Lopez and Mayan Lopez attend the “Lopez vs. Lopez” press junket at the 2024 SCAD TVfest in Atlanta. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Paras Griffin via Getty Images

“Lopez vs. Lopez” is also the only Latino-led show on prime-time TV. Wolfe is the first Latina to be the co-creator and showrunner of a network sitcom, her reps confirm. And she is one of only two Latinas to ever have a sitcom on network television.

“It’s kind of crazy because it’s 2024,” Wolfe says. “It’s really disheartening to see so many great Latine shows not getting the chance to get more seasons and build an audience and develop.”

In the past two years, Latinx-led shows like Netflix’s “Gentefied,” HBO Max’s “Gordita Chronicles,” and Hulu’s “This Fool” were just some of the many that were canceled. (“Gordita Chronicles” was recently picked up for a second season by streamer Tubi, Deadline reported.) While there are still shows with Latina leads, like Netflix’s “Griselda” and “Queen of the South,” these shows focus on drugs and gangs, doing little to push back on stereotypes.

Beyond delving into stigmatized topics like generational trauma and alcoholism, “Lopez vs. Lopez” is putting different Latinx experiences at the forefront. From highlighting the intricacies of being a Latinx person who doesn’t speak Spanish to feeling alienated in majority-white spaces, the show aims to represent authentic aspects of Latinidad that are rarely portrayed onscreen. The show even delves into the nuances of raising a biracial child and the complexity of balancing an appreciation for both cultures while navigating the expectations of both society and family.

“We’re just telling real stories,” Wolfe said. “It’s resonating with people and people are talking about it and sort of changing their perspective on how they see Latines walking through the world. We’re not a stereotype. We’re diverse people with complicated feelings and who are not unlike your family.”

Wolfe said she helps train the lower-level writers in her writer’s room to be showrunners and encourages them to apply for writing trade programs. The “Lopez vs. Lopez” team has also had aspiring female directors shadow the in-house directors and hired Latine crew members behind-the-scenes.

“I don’t want people to stay with me,” Wolfe said. “I want people to grow and rise and be undeniable forces out in the world, so they can go out and pitch their own diverse projects and further the representation of Latines on screen.”

Clockwise from top left: Selenis Leyva, George Lopez, Al Madrigal, Debby Wolfe, Mayan Lopez and Matt Shively of NBC's "Lopez vs. Lopez" at the 2024 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, California.
Clockwise from top left: Selenis Leyva, George Lopez, Al Madrigal, Debby Wolfe, Mayan Lopez and Matt Shively of NBC’s “Lopez vs. Lopez” at the 2024 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, California.

JSquared Photography via Getty Images

In addition to being underrepresented on screen — a 2023 report found that of the nearly 1,000 shows produced and aired by August 2023, only 33 of them featured a Latinx lead — Latinxs in Hollywood have been typecast as criminals or menial laborers, or are highly sexualized. “Lopez vs. Lopez” not only uplifts Latinx creatives on and off screen, but is an effort to dispel the idea that Latinx people are the same.

“I think the biggest thing our industry really fails to recognize is that Latine people are not a monolith. We come from different countries. We speak Spanish in different ways. We have varying values and traditions,” Wolfe explained. “I think society wants to put us in a box. There’s definitely a lack of education, and I hope that by being specific on the show, we are entertaining, but we’re also educating and we’re telling our stories.”

“I see us as breaking those stereotypes,” Mayan added. “Showing that [Latinos] can be in positions of power and don’t always have accents. Both my mom and my dad for the last 35 years have really fought to not perpetuate that stereotype. And that is definitely something that has passed on to me.”

“Lopez vs. Lopez” also makes an active effort to acknowledge and celebrate Afro-Latinx heritage on the show. By casting Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” star Selenis Leyva in the role of Rosie, Mayan’s mother, the series provided a platform for an often overlooked identity in the Latinx community.

“[We’re] showing our community, as much as it’s showing mainstream America, that Latinos — we look really different. A lot of times we, in the Latino community, gravitate towards the celebration of our Spaniard bloodline and we don’t really acknowledge the Afro bloodline that we have,” Leyva told HuffPost.

Selenis Leyva (left) as Rosie and Brice Gonzalez as Chance on "Lopez vs. Lopez."
Selenis Leyva (left) as Rosie and Brice Gonzalez as Chance on “Lopez vs. Lopez.”

Nicole Weingart/NBC via Getty Images

Leyva’s character is a single mother who is not only navigating her divorce and questions of forgiveness, but also learning to embrace her individuality and honor her success as an entrepreneur. It balances the more serious topics in the show with positive Latinx experiences. “

“We’re showing a Latina mom — a grandmother at that — and also a business owner,” Leyva said. “I love that we are showing everyone that Latinas, especially women after the age of 40, can still be sexy, smart, and in control. So for me, this is a really exciting project because I feel like I am representing a lot of women that are not usually celebrated or seen on TV.”

Her character also challenges the idea of what motherhood looks like in a culture that is rooted in tradition. Leyva said that audiences are trained to see mothers as sort of asexual and one-dimensional once they have their children. But not on “Lopez vs. Lopez.”

“They haven’t taken her identity as a woman away,” Leyva said of her character. “It’s about time that we start seeing Latinas as full-rounded women. And that to me is the most exciting part of playing Rosie.”

While authentic Latinx representation is the focal point of “Lopez vs. Lopez,” Wolfe, Leyva and Mayan all stressed that the show was created for everyone to enjoy.

“[Our onscreen family] just happens to be Latino; our issues are the same that any other family would go through,” Mayan said. “And being really the only show on network television with the majority Latin cast, I think we have a responsibility that we take quite seriously to share our stories and to inspire other projects and really integrate the space with even more stories and even more projects for a Latino community.”

“We’ve been taught that there’s only room for one of us and that the opportunities are few and far in between, but I always say we have to start making more room,” Leyva added, when asked about the frequent cancellations of Latinx-focused shows. “I think that if we hold on to that kind of energy more and support shows that reflect us, that look like us, that sound like us, we would have fewer cancellations. We would be sending a message saying, no, we demand to be seen. We demand to be heard.”

“Lopez vs. Lopez” Season 2 premieres Tuesday on NBC.

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