Sunday, November 19, 2017
TV and Media

Jennifer Lopez drops the glamour in 'Shades of Blue'

RECOMMENDED READING


Amid all the hustle and bustle on the corner of 150th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem, hardly anyone notices the woman checking her reflection in a car window.

Only when the paparazzi arrive do passersby begin to realize that Jennifer Lopez - yes, JLo herself - is in their midst, looking surprisingly approachable in jeans, tousled bob and a white T-shirt with a troubling brown stain.

The actress-dancer-singer-producer whose name has become synonymous with blinged-out glamour is filming a scene for her new series, Shades of Blue, and has just wrestled a perp to the ground, rolling in (simulated) dog poop in the process.

Much has been made of Lopez's make-under in the new NBC drama. As she says later in her plush trailer, "I wanted to change my look completely and be like the antithesis of what people are used to seeing me as." Getting dirty on a muggy August morning is just one more way she's bringing verisimilitude to Harlee Santos, the mildly corrupt Brooklyn cop she plays.

"We knew from the very beginning she was only interested in playing this character authentically," says NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. "The kind of sexy glamorous thing was never really part of her definition of the character, although she can't avoid being sexy and beautiful."

In many ways, Shades of Blue isn't so much a departure for the actress, raised just a few stops away on the 6 Train in the Bronx, as it is a return to form.

It's easy to forget the former Fly Girl and star of frothy romantic comedies Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner made her name playing tough girls in stylish crime capers such as Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight and Oliver Stone's U-Turn.

For NBC, Shades of Blue, whose two-hour premiere was directed by Oscar-winner Barry Levinson, allows the broadcast network to dabble in the kind of morally ambiguous tales more often found on cable. A struggling single mom with a teenage daughter, Lopez's character is perfectly willing to accept kickbacks to supplement her income. She and her fellow detectives are enabled by their boss, the quietly terrifying Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta, pictured), who uses the mantra "the greater good" to justify a wide array of malfeasance. But when Harlee is caught soliciting a bribe, the FBI pressures her into becoming an informant, pitting her against her work family.

"It's a character piece about human nature. Good people do questionable things. We're all trying to do our best, but we all make dumb choices at times," Lopez says.

The show is the first regular series role for Lopez, who had guest spots on such dramas as South Central early in her career before moving into film and music.

It's also just one of three major projects she's launching this month, in addition to her judging gig on American Idol, in its final season, and a residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas beginning Jan. 20.

"I have to approach this like I'm going into the biggest marathon race of my life and I'm going to win. That's the mentality that I have to have, I can't get nervous or scared," Lopez says of her intense schedule, adding, "but I'm overwhelmed most of the time." As if on cue, Lopez's 7-year-old twins bound noisily into the trailer and enthusiastically greet their mother.

Bypassing the traditional pilot process, NBC ordered Shades of Blue directly to series in February 2014, but filming did not commence until mid-2015 to accommodate Lopez's jam-packed schedule. This allowed show runner Jack Orman and his staff time to write most of the 13 episodes before filming began, a luxury rarely afforded in broadcast television.

"It was worth it in the end to be able to let the show have a process that was more thoughtful," Salke says. In a show of confidence, the network has given Shades of Blue a spot following The Blacklist on Thursday nights, where it will settle into its regular 10 p.m. time slot this week.

Shades of Blue also gets a pedigree boost from the involvement of Liotta and Drea de Matteo, who plays a fellow cop. Both actors are best known for their work in acclaimed mob dramas — Liotta as the gangster turned "average nobody" Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas; De Matteo as the ill-fated Adriana in The Sopranos.

Liotta admits to some initial apprehension about Lopez. "She was the question mark. All I really knew about her of late was her singing. ... My biggest fear was I'm just going to be in the JLo show. She's just going to be the main person, and I'm just going to give her orders from behind the desk."

But he says he has been impressed by Lopez's work ethic and unflinching commitment to the gritty material.

"She's a frigging machine," he says. "I was the diva."

Comments

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Ford EcoBoost 4003 p.m.NBCCFLSaskatchewan at Toronto1 p.m.ESPNewsEdmonton at Calgary4:30 p.m.ESPNewsCollege basketballMonmouth at Virginia1 p.m.FSFWomen: Maryland at Connecticut1:30 p.m.ESPNPuerto Rico Tip-Off, fifth pla...
Published: 11/18/17

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 300 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 3003:30 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballMaryland-Eastern Shore at GeorgetownnoonFox SunBucknell at Maryland8:30 p.m.Big TenGolfPGA Europe: Tour Championship2:30 a.m.GolfPGA: ...
Published: 11/17/17
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

"Transparent" actress Trace Lysette has accused actor Jeffrey Tambor of sexually harassing her on the set of the Amazon series.Lysette’s allegations mark the second time the star, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed dramedy, has be...
Published: 11/17/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

WINNERS:Taylor SwiftFollowing the death of his mother, Gloria, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon shared a touching story with the audience about his mom squeezing his hand three times and saying "I love you," when he was a kid. "Last week, I was in ...
Published: 11/17/17
Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

The parents in Runaways really are the worst.Hulu's new Marvel series follows a ragtag group of teenagers who have to band together to defeat their own parents, who are collective members of a secret criminal organization called the Pride.In the wake...
Published: 11/17/17
What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

GRIEF AND GUNS: THE PUNISHERMarvel fans first saw Marine veteran Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) in Netflix's Daredevil series. The brutish anti-hero finally gets his own series with The Punisher, exploring what he did after helping Daredevil (Charlie Co...
Published: 11/17/17
Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward is having a good year.At a glamorous ceremony Wednesday night in New York, Ward was named the winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about a Mississippi family's epic road trip. The book is Ward's third novel ...
Published: 11/16/17
Your heart can go on when ‘Titanic’ returns to theaters

Your heart can go on when ‘Titanic’ returns to theaters

It's the holiday season, so why not capitalize on a beloved film by bringing it back to theaters for a limited engagement?That's what Dolby Laboratories, Paramount Pictures and AMC Theaters are doing, announcing that a remastered version of Titanic w...
Published: 11/15/17

Wednesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballIndiana at Seton Hall6:30 p.m.FS1Montana State at Penn State7 p.m.Big TenUSF at Stetson8 p.m.820-AMButler at Maryland8:30 p.m.FS1Creighton at Northwestern9 p.m.Big TenCollege footballE. Michigan at Miami (Ohio)7 p.m.CBSSNW. Mic...
Published: 11/14/17