By Felicia Naoum
It’s easy to get lost in a label and to identify an individual by the label they are most known for. George Lopez is a comedian who stole our laughs on his hit sitcom, George Lopez in the early 2000s. Lopez, though, is so much more than that label. During our interview, Lopez wasn’t trying to make me laugh; he was just being real. He may be full of jokes on stage and his own truths that align with his own personal political beliefs, but this star isn’t full of just jokes. With Lopez, there is more passion than jokes. The star, named one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America by TIME shares his beliefs with me and is not apologizing either.
“You have not been shy about your political opinions and a lot of your comedy reflects your politics as well. Now more than ever, do you think comedians are going too far or do you feel there are no limits as to how far a comedian can go?” I ask.
Lopez says there is no limit. “I think when you’re a runner, you run as far and as fast as you personally can,” says Lopez.
And Lopez is running as far as he can. I quickly learn that George Lopez does things on his terms. Lopez touches on the current political state of America and how communication between individuals has changed because of politics. “Before, you could agree to disagree. The agree to disagree has left. Everybody believes they have the right to tell you what they want to hear,” shares Lopez. For the comedian, actor and talk show host, that’s not what comedy is about. So, he’ll continue running or running his own show so to speak.
The star admits that fans have left his shows before due to political differences and to be candid, Lopez is not stressing about it. “As you continue to be vocal about your political opinions, do you ever fear the loss of a fan-base for doing so?” I ask.
“I don’t. You know what’s been exposed. If they were a fan, they don’t leave; people who are not true fans, leave.” Just as Lopez is confident in his political beliefs, he is as equally confident in his fan base. He knows his real fans are out there. No sweat off his back. “There’s enough people; it’s balanced out.” Like most things in life, you can’t win at them all and Lopez knows that. “You will lose some and gain some,” confirms Lopez. I’m pretty glad I gained this interview though. Just saying.
Lopez is glad he gained someone, too. Famous actress Sandra Bullock has made a life-changing impact on Lopez’s life back when his career was struggling to gain momentum. To this day, the star still credits much of his success to Bullock for bring his name to the entertainment forefront.
“I read that Bullock is credited for discovering you.”
“That’s absolutely true,” answers Lopez.
Before going into details about how Bullock helped the star out, he shares how much harder it was to be successful before social media. As Lopez explains, “back in the day,” many stars had to truly wait to be seen — in-person. Almost a foreign concept now. Bullock, though, had just the person and project for Lopez brewing back in 1999. But a scheduled meeting to cross paths with Bullock’s partner did not work out at first attempt for Lopez. A year passed before Bullock’s friend caught up with Lopez, in July of 2000, to birth a television project that many sitcom fans have come to know and love: George Lopez. Bullock was also the executive producer of the show that changed the dynamic for Hispanic families and television.
“Was George Lopez groundbreaking for including more Hispanic families on television?”
“I thought it was groundbreaking in that it hasn’t existed before or since. There was never a show in syndication led by a Mexican American,”says Lopez with pride.
Not only did Lopez “lead” the show, in some ways, you could say he led the creation of the show as well. Lopez thought outside of his own race. He wanted to diversify the show while executives wanted to keep the theme of Latina characters consistent. Lopez wasn’t having it. “‘Let’s make the babysitter white. Let’s make them Asian,'” Lopez would encourage production. Regardless of where Lopez swings on the political pendulum, he is inclusive to all. “Certain people hire specific races; I didn’t do that.” Lopez believes that limiting races on television is doing a “disservice to a project.” So, he changed that. Case in point: the George Lopez sitcom.
All good things must come to an end. Lopez says he was “very disappointed” with the cancellation of the hit show that put him on the map. The star, though, is not looking back and still remains inclusive to all. Lopez reminds me of this when he answers this question of mine: “You have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was named by TIME as one of the most 25 Influential Hispanics in America. As someone of Hispanic descent who has reached triumphant success, do you feel you have a responsibility to the Hispanic community and your fame is your platform to output that responsibility?”
“I don’t think you owe anybody anything. This is kind of not a business of doing something for one particular person; you do it for everyone.” And while doing things for everyone may seem like an overwhelming amount of pressure, at the end of the day, Lopez, like many of us, just aims to give his best shot in life. “But, I know that there is no other responsibility than doing your best work possible.” While he continues to do his best. We’ll talk about his rescue dogs, next. He still does his best on his own terms. Take, for example, Lopez’s painter analogy. “If you were a painter, you don’t want someone looking over your shoulder saying, “‘That’s too much red.” In Lopez’s eyes, “you just want to paint,” as much or as little as you possibly can and with any colors you choose. That sums up George Lopez. And, I have a feeling that sums up his July 27 show at Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park (buy tickets here).
Back to the beginning of our interview, I asked Lopez to let fans know what to except at the show. He kept it brief and general saying that fans will have a good time and joked that “It’s always a good night when you can get away from the kids.” Maybe that’s not a joke, but still no spoiler alerts here. Speaking of spoiling though, I ask Lopez to share one thing about him that fans may not know. That’s where those rescue dogs come in. Yes, he rescues dogs and currently has six rescues in his home right now. “I’m an animal lover,” shares Lopez. Lopez opens up about his heartbreaking decision of giving his own personal dogs to trusted people who love dogs, so he could rescue even more dogs in need. If that doesn’t speak volumes to saving the world in some way, then I don’t know what does.
On a final note, Lopez surprises me. I ask this question to stars over and over again: “What is your advice for conquering dreams?” His take was one I haven’t heard before. It makes sense though because like I learned during our interview, Lopez does things on his terms and he always has. That’s how he arrived at the big stage. “Everybody has an instinct in their gut. Lopez says that “instead of asking people what they think you should do,” just do you. Lopez talks about how limiting living in a world of fear and self-doubt can truly be. Whether you are on or off. At 100 or at 55. Go with your instinct. Doing so has severed George Lopez pretty well. “My success was based on trusting my own instinct. Right or wrong, [I] trust my instinct.”
The part I love most — he doesn’t live in a world where he seeks outward approval. “I never asked anybody what I should do, or if they thought [a joke] was funny. I trusted myself. Too many people look for others to make decisions.” My oh my, the inner freedom he must be swimming in. I was going to delete this line. For a second, I thought the line might not be quite right. But, well, in this very instant, I took Lopez’s advice. Thank you, George Lopez.