Susan Lucci and Ana Ortiz say 'Devious Maids' has depth and heart
TORONTO - With its focus on five Latina household helpers in Beverly Hills mansions, the new dramedy series "Devious Maids" has been accused of perpetuating stereotypes.
But Susan Lucci, who plays the drama-queen employer of two Latina house workers, says the show premiering Sunday on Lifetime in the U.S. and Canada doesn't paint any individual with broad strokes.
"No one from this show, no character on this show is defined, whether they are the devious maids or the household owners," the venerable former soap star said in a recent interview.
"You come away thinking that no one is defined simply by what they do or how large or small their bank account is."
"I actually find it kind of, insulting is the wrong word, but I don't know why a person's story does not deserved to be told because they're a maid," added former "Ugly Betty" star Ana Ortiz, who plays enigmatic maid Marisol Duarte.
"So, you're only interesting in television if you're a lawyer or a doctor? I don't understand. These are people who are raising our children, who are cleaning our homes and know more about us than anybody. And these are women that I know — my grandmother, my aunts and stuff.
"Why that story can't be told with humour and passion and wit and sexiness and drama and all of that, because they're a maid? Please."
"Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry is the mastermind behind "Devious Maids," which is based on the Mexican TV series "Ellas son la alegria del hogar." "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria is also an executive producer.
The soapy story kicks off with a mystery: maid Flora (Paula Garces) is murdered during a poolside party at a mansion after getting into a confrontation with the married owners (Tom Irwin, Rebecca Wisocky).
We soon learn from Flora's fellow maid friends (Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sanchez, Judy Reyes) that she had a secret, and Marisol (Ortiz) stands a chance of discovering it as she takes over the late character's job.
Lucci, whose campy character Genevieve Delatour is reeling from her split with her poolboy as one of her maids (Edy Ganem) makes passes on her son (Drew Van Acker), said she was keen on the show before reading the script.
All it took was hearing one name.
"'Marc Cherry has a new show? Oh yes, I would like to be part of that,'" said the perpetually sweet and age-defying Lucci, 66, impeccably dressed in a form-fitting royal blue dress.
Then she read the script and found it to be "a real page-turner" filled with unexpected twists — including the first scene in which her character is found irrational and bawling under her bed.
"That scene under the bed was my audition scene," said Lucci, who delivered similar melodrama for 41 years in her Emmy-winning role as Erica Kane on the daytime drama "All My Children."
"I thought, 'I haven't ever read a scene that anybody's under the bed.' I thought it was so brilliant and so original, and that's Marc's storytelling. So there's a lot of funny and there's also a lot of surprises, intrigue and ... heart in the show as well."
"I think people are going to be so shocked at how we know Susan as this incredible dramatic actress but she is hi-LARIOUS-ly funny in this and it's so exciting to watch," said Ortiz, who played older sister Hilda on "Ugly Betty."
"For me, I've never gotten to play a character like Marisol. She's just so smart and she has such a passion for her family but she's very pragmatic. Usually I play these very wholesome, passionate women. Marisol is just very sort of calculated and that's really fun to play."
Ortiz noted the series comes at a time when there's an "upstairs-downstairs" trend onscreen, citing the film "The Help" and the TV series "Downton Abbey" as examples of projects showing the two economic classes colliding.
And she stressed every character has many layers.
"There's no caricature," said Ortiz. "You think the homeowners are going to be these mean, rich sort of arch characters and we're going to be these do-gooding maids, and everybody's complex, everybody has so much meat in each of their roles."
"So much meat in each of the roles, it's true," echoed Lucci. "It's good and bad in everyone."