Mayan Lopez has been the breakout talent of the season. In the golden era of television, we all have our set expectations when it comes to multi-cam comedies because they’ve been around for decades and, in recent years, have seemed a little passé, but creator and star Mayan Lopez breathes new life into the sitcom world with Lopez vs Lopez.
It’s a show that she’s seemed primed for her entire life. Daughter to sitcom star George Lopez, Mayan credits seeing her parents’ team work behind the scenes as part of the masterclass in comedy she witnessed while growing up (her mother Ann Serrano was a producer for George Lopez’s sitcom in the early 00s.) “They’ve been doing it for 35 years and yet my dad didn’t take certain roles because it was going to impact how the Latinx community was going to be represented. It made me want to do it now.”
Lopez vs Lopez isn’t your typical sitcom, and it’s not just because it’s George and Mayan playing a real-life version of their fractured relationship out on TV in front of a live audience week after week. As a Latinx family, they tackle issues like alcoholism, childhood trauma, and therapy, which aren’t usually covered in a multi-cam comedy. While some families speak about these issues behind closed doors, if at all, Mayan Lopez, along with showrunner Debby Wolfe and father George Lopez, is bringing this out in the open, and it’s resonating with viewers. The show was one of the first comedies picked up for a second season this year.
“Our relationship represents more relationships and aspects of the human condition than just us. Very early on me, and my dad saw that our relationship is bigger than us and it could mean more to people,” said Mayan Lopez.
Awards Radar’s Niki Cruz spoke to Mayan Lopez about growing up around the industry, generational healing, and her hit show Lopez vs Lopez.
Niki Cruz: I spoke to Debby Wolfe, and we were going down the list of all the canceled shows from Latinx creators, and she mentioned she has a group text with most of them. Knowing the fate of a lot of these shows, is there a lot of pressure to succeed?
Mayan Lopez: I definitely feel a sense of responsibility to continue because when there is a show about our people in the Latine/a/x communities, you can always look to each other of who’s going to do the next one. One show being successful allows for another one. Hopefully, we’re evidence that it can work, and it can work on network as well. People will watch, and we’re the highest index of English-speaking Latinx households. We show Hollywood; if you put stories about us out there, we will we will come and we will watch.
NC: What shows did you watch growing up that informed your taste as a storyteller?
ML: Looking back, I love Desi Arnaz. I always think of I Love Lucy and how he created the multi-cam. A Cuban-Latin man created the sitcom as we know it today. Seeing Ricky Ricardo and that household was the first time I got to see that, aside from my dad. People could potentially see themselves, and was he the butt of the joke sometimes? Yes, but he was also singing and showing Latin culture to the masses at that time. It was culturally, really significant. Aside from that, seeing Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a big one — I loved the writing on that show, and Seinfeld
NC: Growing up, did you ever think to yourself, yeah, all of these moments will one day make for a great television show, or did you have to get through to the other side of healing to know you had a show in you?
ML: I always wanted to write a book about my experience, which I hope to do someday, but I never thought it would be translatable to a television show. My dad can speak to this as well, but we never thought we would work together in this way. It was really Debby (Wolfe) seeing my TikTok at 2 AM in the morning to really put the idea in our heads that this show could happen because we have a divorce, a father-daughter strained relationship, and a reconnection.
I’ve gotten messages from people saying, “I’m able to talk to my family about these issues,” or “I’m having conversations with my dad,” or “I feel like I can reconnect with my daughter or son.” To know this was going to connect with people always drove me through those hard moments of making the show, where I had to be vulnerable and find the balance of not reliving those hard moments but revisiting it.
NC: The show is relatable because it puts it all out there. It’s nice to see a show say, yeah, we’re going to talk about toxic masculinity. We’re going to talk about gaslighting and childhood trauma, and therapy. It’s so refreshing to see that.
ML: And I think we do it in a way where we’re not preaching. It just happens to be what these characters are dealing with at that time. I think there are moments where we do drive it home, but it’s that this is what we’re feeling at that time. I think that’s what the fans responded to.
NC: Absolutely. It’s authentic. I thought back to the 90s sitcoms that had, a little melodic riff, and then they would get into the serious moment of it all, which didn’t feel authentic. Given the show’s authenticity, you and your dad had to get real with each other real quick. Was your dad up for that in the beginning? Was it something the both of you had a lot of discussions about?
ML: It was something that we had to figure out as we went along. Sitcom Mayan and George’s arc really replicates what me and my dad have gone through. I joke that this is the most time I’ve spent with my dad in the last ten years, but I think it’s really true. We’ve started to enjoy each other’s company and have a respect for one another, not just as father and daughter but as actors. I think having that trust as actors has really helped us gain trust as father and daughter as well. I feel safe with my dad on set when sometimes in life, I never felt safe with him, and now I do, and we were able to put it all on camera.
NC: When I think about the heart of this show, when you get down to it, yes, it’s a sitcom, but it’s also about generational healing. All of that considered, having this sitcom on primetime network TV with a Latina at the forefront also feels like a miracle.
ML: It does. I realized with my dad I’ve hurt him and he’s hurt me but I know why he is the way that he is. I used to joke that I have a master’s degree in my parent’s divorce [Laughs], but I do. My dad had a really hard childhood. My grandmother was not an easy person to grow up with to say the least, and I can see how that shaped him. He didn’t have a father, so he didn’t really know what a father looked like, but I know my dad loves me more than anything in this world, and I just adjusted over time. Now I’m able to have a fulfilling relationship with my father, but that took 10 years to figure out.
NC: I feel like everyone has that moment in their young adult life or their adult life when they realize oh yeah, my parents are just—
NC: And they’re just dealing with their own stuff.
ML: Yeah, and they’re doing the best they can. As you get older, you realize they’ve made the same mistakes that you have, and now they have wisdom but also can learn things from you.
NC: Tone is everything in writing, and striking that careful balance is key. We’re talking about trauma, but it’s also a funny sitcom with a specific perspective. How did you all approach that while breaking these scripts?
ML: Debby and the writers have done such a great job. We all have our own diverse stories and a diverse room, so it’s not just based on my experience but also Debby’s experience with her parents. You never compare trauma, but the emotions and what you feel are the same, so I think that’s what we were able to tap into. Even the cast, we all pitch in ideas from our personal experiences. It’s what makes the show beat with authenticity. It’s based on the experiences from our community, or being a minority, and also having familial issues.
NC: And now that there will be a season 2. What do you hope to explore?
ML: With George getting sober, the one thing I pitched to Debby is when someone gets sober, the people around them change along with the person who’s doing the changing. You have to give them the chance. You have to give them the chance to earn your trust back. You kind of have to let go of your set conditions of the person. I think that would really be a fun thing to explore in a sitcom.
[This interview was edited for length and clarity.]