Laughing Through the Pain

George Lopez and his real-life daughter co-star in a Lopez vs. Lopez, a new sitcom based on how they healed their fraught relationship

George Lopez and his real-life daughter co-star in a Lopez vs. Lopez, a new sitcom based on how they healed their fraught relationship

Watching George Lopez and his daughter Mayan take their familial banter onto the TV screen, it’s hard to imagine that the rift referenced in the pair’s new sitcom is based in reality. But both the veteran comedian and his 26-year-old offspring admit that the depicted dysfunction, as well as the recent reconciliation between the two, is 100 per cent real. “There was a time where we didn’t speak and were estranged for about three years. But the pandemic brought us back together,” reveals Mayan. “I started making TikToks with my family to reconnect. [Lopez vs. Lopez showrunner] Debby Wolfe was scrolling one day, and she saw one of our TikToks. The show was born from that idea.”

On Lopez vs. Lopez, Mayan plays a young veterinarian whose life with husband Quinten (Matt Shively) and son Chance (Brice Gonzalez) is largely in order, contrary to her father George, a contractor whose poor money management skills have resulted in the loss of most tangible possessions, forcing him to move in under his daughter’s roof despite their recent falling out. The result is, as expected, a fair amount of friction, but behind the scenes the union feels like destiny. “This is a gift of a lifetime, to be able to do this with my father,” says Mayan, with her dad adding: “To create a beautiful thing from something that was so painful and so much my fault is just a wonderful thing.”Lopez vs. LopezNBCThe show also reunites Lopez Sr. with The George Lopez Show creator Bruce Helford, who watched Mayan grow up in the wings of the sitcom during the early aughts. The exec producer, who also created The Conners and The Drew Carey Show, recognizes that while it is possible to replicate family dynamics between actors who barely know each other, their current endeavour features something unique. “There’s moments that the actors aren’t talking to each other, but the people in the show. It’s a fun game for the viewers, to watch and go, ‘Ooh, that’s George talking to Mayan. That’s for real.’ It’s really wonderful,” says Helford.

While much of the show is based on real life, the creators made sure to add some fictional elements as well. The character of Rosie, played by Orange Is the New Black’s Selenis Leyva, is not a true depiction of Lopez’ ex-wife, Ann, even if there are some similarities. “Yes, there is a little bit of maybe Ann Lopez going on,” say Leyva. “But I would love to just create a path to tell the story.” In fact, if George’s ex-wife Rosie is based on anyone, it is Wolfe’s own mother. “She is a lot of the Latina moms of writers in the room,” admits the showrunner. “She’s like a blend of many Latinas in one. So, she’s not as close to Ann as George is to the George character and Mayan is to Maya.”

Lopez vs. LopezNBCEven if the show is far from a docuseries, for Lopez Sr. the sitcom is a reminder of how family is the most valuable thing in life, and worth the public processing of one’s shortcomings. Mining it for laughs is just the cherry on the sundae. “It was very difficult to be able to have to look at your flawed self and be honest with yourself,” he admits. “Whether it worked out or not, I was going to do something that was entirely new to me and was going to take me on a very painful journey. But laughter is the best medicine. I don’t think it’s as good as antidepressants, but it can be a good medicine.”

The real-life relationship between Lopez and Lopez, like in many other families, continues to be a work in progress, which the two are happy to play out in front of millions. “This show really shows the pain of reconnection,” says Mayan. “It is ebb and flow. With this show, just like in real life, we are working on our relationship and we’re learning new things every day, so you’ll be able to see how our characters grow on and off screen.”

Lopez vs. LopezNBCIn fact, for both father and daughter to get to a point where their relationship can be fodder for humour, they appear to have agreed on the right formula. “I like to think of comedy as pain and time, and now I feel like there’s enough time that’s passed that we’re able to create laughter and create beautiful stories,” says Mayan. “The hope is that people will watch the relationship with Mayan and George or Mayan and Quinten or Mayan and Rosie and George, and be able to see their own families and be able to start conversations.” 

Lopez vs. Lopez premieres Friday, November 4 on NBC