Ann Serrano Lopez serves as the Principal of GEORGE LOPEZ PRESENTS, a film and television production company. Previously Mrs. Lopez has been the executive producer for the 2009 Nickelodeon & Warner Premiere film Mr. Troop Mom, George Lopez's 2009 and 2007 HBO comedy specials Tall, Dark & Chicano, and America's Mexican, as well as the ABC Television film Naughty or Nice.
She produced the television specials Ray Charles: 50 Years in Music and America's Hope Award honoring Oprah Winfrey. Mrs. Lopez started her career as a casting director. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband George and their family.
Ann Lopez is the Co-Founder and Principal of the Ann and George Lopez Foundation. She guides and approves the foundation's strategic goals, helps develop the organization's overall direction, and advocates for and focuses public attention on the foundation's key issues. She served with her husband George as the National Kidney Foundation's spokespersons from October 2005 after donating a kidney to him earlier that year until December 2009. She has selflessly worked to improve and save the lives of people confronting the challenges of chronic kidney issues and this will continue to be a focus for The George & Ann Lopez Foundation.
LatinoLA.com Contributing Editor Al Carlos Hernandez, had an opportunity to speak candidly with one of the most potentially powerful women in Hollywood. Ann is a graciously kind person with a razor-like wit and a confidant willpower as strong as iron.
AC: Who was your greatest supporter while you were growing up?
AL: My greatest supporters growing up were my parents and grandmother. They lost everything in Cuba but with their education and hard work they succeeded. My grandmother was a very resourceful woman. She sewed all my clothes when I was young. She didn't like banks because of what happened in Cuba so she would drill holes in chair legs, wrap her money really tightly and put it in the legs of the chair. She taught me the art of the "deal." She could talk anyones price down. To this day I enjoy a purchase much more if I get a really good deal on it.
My father passed away in 1987. He was a funny man and loved stand-up comedy. He would have loved to have met George! My dad never looked back at what could have been. He knew he was never going back to Cuba and embraced America and the American dream. He told me I could be anything that I wanted to be. He pushed us to always strive to be better and work harder. My parents, like so many immigrants, were a daily example of what can be achieved through hard work.
AC: What was your dream? Looking back as a Latina, was it harder for you to be accepted? Did it affect you later in life?
ASL: I've been living my dream since I was eleven years old! I always wanted to act. I have done regional theater, commercials and television. My father passed away in a car accident at age fifty-three. This was ten days before I was supposed to go to Williamstown Theater Festival and then on to New York. He had two medical offices. I closed the smaller one and brought that doctor over to the bigger office where my dad worked. I ran the business for over a year until we found a buyer. My dad was everything to me and his passing was devastating. I knew I wasn't in the frame of mind for New York. Los Angeles was sunny like Florida and I had three friends here so out I came.
I went to a really prestigious private school and a few kids there made "Cuban" remarks so I gave it right back to them. I have never been afraid to speak up for myself. I think being a light-skinned Latina has definitely shielded me from a lot of prejudice. But as an actress it put me in a never-never-land. My agents wanted me to change my last name but I refused. If I booked something in Spanish, my agents would only send me out for Spanish parts and vice-versa in English. I was constantly reminding them I could do both. Also it was hard to get them to send me out for Anglo parts on television - yet I was too light skinned for the Spanish parts. It was very frustrating.
AC: Did the fact that your parents were both doctors color your decision to give your husband a kidney?
ASL: I have been an organ donor since I got my driver's license at sixteen. It has always been something I believed in. The fact that both my parents were physicians and that I have been around hospitals all my life has made me at ease with all operations. The decision to give my husband a kidney was based on my love for him. I am with him in sickness and in health. I adore my husband!
AC: What prompted you to become an actor, then a media professional, rather than a medical doctor?
When you live with two doctors, especially before cell phones and beepers, you see the bad side of the profession ÔÇª. the late night calls, the interrupted dinners, the endless writing of charts.
AC: What was the moment you knew that you wanted to be in the entertainment business? What was your first memorable success?
ASL: I was in a school play at eleven and that was it. I knew I wanted to act. All "the firsts" are memorable: your first professional play, your first commercial, your first television role, and the first project you have made. What was really great was when I bought a car with acting money! That was fun.
AC: Do you think that there is a glass ceiling for Latinas? Are things getting better for Latinos in getting TV and film projects funded?
ASL: I don't think there is a glass ceiling for Latinas; I just think the ceiling is a little higher. You have to work harder to prove yourself. My parents always told me that as Latinos we had to work harder, prepare more, and dress better to succeed. And that is still true today.
There is prejudice in Hollywood. Don't think there isn't. The things I have heard coming from the mouths of studio executives would make your toes curl. These executives have a Latina housekeeper, a Latina nanny, and a Latino gardener - that is what they see, so that is their reality of Latinos. Until we have more Latinos as writers, casting directors, producers, directors, and in decision making executive positions this will continue. We are making strides and we have to keep getting our voices heard in a positive way.
Latinos have to step up their game to compete in Hollywood. Educate yourself and study your craft. Educate yourself as to how the industry works. It is called "show BUSINESS" for a reason.
AC: You have worked as a casting director, actress, and film/TV live performance producer. Which media platform do you enjoy the most and which is most rewarding? Which falls under the "been there, done that" category?
ASL: I have worked in every aspect of the business because they all fascinate me and, quite frankly, I get bored easily. I really enjoy it all. On our last film, Mr. Troop Mom, I developed the script, sold it, was in casting, picked wardrobe, was on set for six weeks, was in editing everyday, and worked on the music. I am a very creative producer. I would have to say that editing is my least favorite - it is so tedious ÔÇô but it is also so important.
AC: What do you consider your greatest achievement? Which production are you the most proud of? What kinds of projects do you plan to do in the future?
ASL: My greatest professional achievement has been my husband's success and his growth as an artist. We have worked as a team every step of the way. We make every decision together. I talk to his agents everyday and handle the George Lopez brand. Because I have been in every aspect of the business, I have been a great sounding board for George. In the old days, before we could afford a publicist, I did his publicity. I was his manager, I was his acting coach, I did the books, and sometimes I was even his bodyguard. I've been known to throw a drunk or two out of a comedy club!
I want to do projects that show Latinos in a positive light. I want to show Latinos as educated and positive members of society. I am not interested in border crossing stories or drug or gang themes. We have seen enough of that. Let's move beyond that and show a more positive side of the Latino experience.
AC: Having successfully worked in the entertainment business for many years, did you have any consternation about marrying a performer?
ASL: I don't think I could have married someone that wasn't in the business. It is a very difficult lifestyle for a non show-business person to adapt to.
AC: How hard is it to raise a daughter in "A List" Hollywood?
ASL: We are very un-Hollywood. We stay home and watch movies a lot. We don't go to a lot of Hollywood functions. We are pretty normal but it is hard to raise a daughter with a famous father. I asked Andy Garcia's daughter Alessandra how it was at school having a famous father. She said, "You don't understand, Ann. Kids come up to me and say their parents love my dad." For our daughter Mayan the kids themselves love her dad! Mayan has a great group of friends that like her for who she is and not for who her father is. Mayan has become very good at recognizing who wants to get to know her only because her dad is George Lopez. It is a burden that comes with her father's fame.
Mayan has inherited George's quick wit and is a great writer, singer, and she can act. She wants to get into the business so bad. We want her to ride her horse, go to school and have as normal a childhood as possible.
AC: You are the co-founder of the first Latino syndicated TV show. You truly have made history. Do you think that The George Lopez Show has changed contemporary culture in the way Latinos have been depicted? Is there a downside to that?
ASL: I think the George Lopez Show has changed postmodern culture. For the first time ever you saw a Latino family on television. George really wanted the show to be about an American family that just happened to be Latino. It is really about the family and the relationships within that family. The humor is character driven, not culturally driven. It definitely has Latino references, celebrations, flavor, and slang, but the stories could be about any family in America. The show crosses cultural boundaries. I think George Lopez helps America see that a Latino family is just like any other family. And, since the show is based on George's real life, there is an authenticity to the stories that people relate to.
For Latinos the significance of the George Lopez Show is profound. Millions of Latino children are seeing themselves represented in the landscape of American culture. That is very important. It shows them that they count. The impact of these positive images will hopefully give our Latino children the inspiration to dream big dreams and achieve their goals.
AC: You are the Principal of George Lopez Presents. What kinds of projects are you looking for to and what do you hope to accomplish?
ASL: We have sold two movies to major studios and are developing a television series, a children's special, a variety show, and a couple of positive reality shows. We are focusing on comedy more than drama.
AC: What would you like your legacy to be?
ASL: I would like my legacy to be the people that we help through our charitable works - especially through our newly formed Ann & George Lopez Foundation. I would like to have helped change the image of Latinos in film and television and hopefully to have inspired children to be positive members of society.