As a kid, Mayan Lopez grew up on the set of her dad’s hit TV show, George Lopez. Now she’s ready to take the world of sitcoms into her own hands. With training at Conservatory Program at The Second City Chicago and Columbia College Chicago's Comedy Writing and Performance program under her belt, Lopez is making her major TV debut as star and producer Lopez vs. Lopez. Premiering Nov. 4, the NBC comedy tells the story of an old school dad who moves in with his daughter as they rebuild their relationship one argument (and plenty of laughs) at a time. While in New York City, Lopez took a break from her East Coast press adventures to speak with LA Confidential about bringing elements of her life to TV, Lopez vs. Lopez’s special guest stars and the key to navigating familial relationships.
You saw Funny Girl on Broadway last night. How was the show?
It was unbelievable, and I think it was really poignant for me to see because I was feeling a little low. And I'm like, “Oh, I want to put myself out there. I'm introducing myself” and seeing that show really resonated with me. I am a funny girl and I’m going to show it to the world and not be afraid of being myself. That was just the kind of thing that I needed to be inspired to continue going forward into my own debut into the world.
On Lopez vs. Lopez, you star and produce. What was it like balancing those duties?
It was interesting. I'm getting better at it now as the production has gone, but I think going into it, I was really focusing on the performance and being collaborative and sometimes producing had to take the back seat, but as I got more confident, I was able to take both by the horns.
From the beginning, luckily, Debby Wolf and Bruce Helford, the two main producers on the show, really wanted it to be a collaboration with all of us. Lopez vs. Lopez has always been like that with my dad and I. I think that that makes it so unique and real and authentic. I don't know if a real father and daughter have really acted out loosely based on what has happened in their real life. And so I think to be able to have both minds’ input on that in the show makes it very unique to hopefully anything that’s on television.
Why was it important to have differences between the show and your real life, such as being a mom?
I think it adds real-life stakes to it. In the show, Mayan and George hadn't spoken for 10 years, and I think with her having a child, she wants her son to have a grandparent and to have that relationship. I think it's important for his development and his life and so, I don't understand this, but I hope I can understand and empathize that as a mother, you want the best for your child and you want them to have those experiences and maybe you'll sacrifice some discomfort for the good of your family. I think for Mayan, personally, it's just as equally as giving to her because she wants to connect with her father and have a new relationship that they can build and go forward.
Mayan, the character, is different than I am. Going into it, I thought, “Oh, well, I've been in therapy for 15 years. I know my parents and I'm going to be teaching you some things,” but really, Mayan is very different than I am. She's a mother. She has more responsibilities in her world. She's the matriarch of her own family. She has the confidence to speak her mind, maybe more outwardly than I do with my dad. So she's actually taught me and given me a lot of confidence to have that goal going into my relationship with my dad in real life. She's someone that's a Gen-Z-millennial woman that speaks her mind and is educating and wants to reconnect with her father.
Does having a little bit of separation from your character help your performance feel more fun and even cathartic versus overwhelming?
It's both. It depends sometimes episode to episode where I'm willing to be uncomfortable as an actor so that the message can reach hopefully many viewers that will relate to the Lopez family, Mayan, George or any of the characters that we have in the show. And I think going into it, there's that level of separation, but also I bring some of me, Mayan the person.
It is a sitcom and we have the jokes, we have the funny all laid out for you. But I think there are moments where you see a real father and daughter having a conversation and I think that makes for compelling and very unique television.
What can audiences learn from watching Lopez vs. Lopez about navigating their own familial relationships?
I hope they know that you don't have to be perfect or you don't have to be perfectly healed or in a certain place for reconnection to start. I think you just have to have a willingness, bravery and vulnerability to try. Throughout my dad and I's trials and tribulations in our relationship, the love is what always brought us back together. And I think if you have two parties that are willing to do the work, I think beautiful things are possible.
Is there anything else you hope audiences take away from watching your show?
That it's OK to be vulnerable. You could be willing to learn. I think with Lopez vs. Lopez, it's the older generation versus the newer generation and I think you can learn things from both, and knowing that you could just keep going forward and laugh about it. You can also find the funny in those moments as a way of release. It’s universal.
We also have some incredible surprises. If you want a family to bring into your own home, I think the Lopez family will be a new one that you can fall in love with and we have some great surprises. Cheech Marin and Rita Moreno are on an episode this season, and so there's some stars that if you are Latinx, I think your stories specifically will be told.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Irvin Rivera