In the NBC crime drama, "Shades of Blue," Jennifer Lopez plays Harlee Santos — an NYPD officer who blurs ethical lines and is forced to work in the FBI’s anti-corruption task force while dealing with her own personal demons.
The show is gritty, violent, and it’s a different direction for Lopez, who’s been known mostly for her pop music and rom-com movies, but Lopez is branching out. She’s still a pop star and has in fact launched a new Vegas show called “All I Have.”
She’s also a producer, and through her company Nuyorican Productions, she’s producing two TV shows: “Shades of Blue” and the family show “The Fosters,” which is about a biracial lesbian couple with a bunch of kids.
The Frame's John Horn spoke with Jennifer Lopez about how a meeting with the head of NBC Entertainment got her in front of the camera for "Shades of Blue," how her music career has evolved over time, and how she values truthfulness and authenticity in all of her work.
On originally only being a producer for "Shades of Blue":
I could always picture myself in the role of Harlee [Santos] but it was never something that we thought we would do. We were just gonna produce it, and when we went into NBC, Bob Greenblatt loved the idea of the show and he said, "You have to play this role." And I said, "I've thought about it, but I really just wanna produce," and he said, "If you wanna do this, we'll do it right now."
It was kind of one of those things, you know, as a producer where you go, Okay, I have a go project right now if I do this and it's a great role." The truth is you don't come across roles like this everyday, especially women.
On the creative beginnings of her character, Harlee Santos:
You know, she wasn't originally Harlee Santos, it was Harlee McCord. There were different things about the character that just became tailored to who I am and who I would be in this character. Harlee is so different than me that it's hard for us to say that it was tailored for me, but in a sense it was. I just feel so different playing her than I do in real life.
On how she takes action on making her character diverse:
You know, in some of the movies I've done, I've played characters that are non-specific, where the name is kind of generic. And I've played Latina characters where you know that she's Latina. With this, it fit really well into the story that she'd be Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, that worked for this piece. There's a lot of Latin cops in New York, it's a very New York thing. We wanted it to be never diverse, the whole cast. So to have the lead be a women and be Latin was awesome.
On the importance of diversity in the entertainment industry:
It's definitely important to me that people are just people and roles should go to people who can play the parts, but the truth is that we have to create it. This role wasn't out there waiting for me. It's something we created for me. It's the same thing with the last movie I did, it's something we created for me. Nobody was saying, "Hey, let's put Jennifer Lopez in a movie about a mom in a suburban area who the boy next door becomes obsessed with her." Nobody was doing that.
They would think of a white actress for that role. We created that and we controlled it and I got to do it. It's about taking it into our own hands, not being victims, not saying, "Nothing's out there for us." Yes, we know that that's how the world is. Now how do we change it? What do we do?
On how she has control over what she makes:
"The Fosters" is the perfect example of something that came across my desk and I thought, Wow, this is great. Look at this family, this really reflects society. Here are two lesbian moms who have children from other marriages, who came together and now are adopting Latino kids. It was so diverse, but so reflective of what families are in this day and age.
It is important to me to be truthful, I guess, to be honest. I think those are the best projects, the ones that are the most true and honest, and I think that's what people want and what they relate to.
On the importance of being authentic:
I've always had a certain sensibility and a kind of idealism about life and love. That always poured out into everything I did, whether it was music or the romantic comedies I did for so many years. I just think that at this point in my life, you're right, I'm at the point where I can really pick and choose the things that I want to do and the things that are important to me, and this is what's important to me — authenticity.
I think having kids, too, changes a certain sensibility in you as well.
On devoting her cover of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" to her kids:
You know, I wanted to put that song in the show because of the fact that I do work a lot and my kids know that. I always want them to know that I'm always thinking about them and I say this in the show, that they're always on my mind. When I thought about which song to do, it's just the perfect expression from me to them.
I am someone who loves to dance, and metaphorically, what the song is talking about is dancing in life, to take a chance, to do what you want. It's just the perfect song with the perfect lyrics. The message I want to give me kids is, "I hope you live your life to the fullest. I hope you live with integrity, I hope you believe in God." All the things that the song says and that's why I chose that song.
On where she was when she wrote "If You Had My Love":
You know, I was kind of this naive girl, just making my first album. I had done some movies and made some noise in acting by doing "Out of Sight" and "Selena" and stuff like that. But as a person, I was kind of naive — looking for love, a hopeless romantic, and when I hear that, it does take me back. When I think about where I was then and where I am now, I'm very pleased with the mom I am, and the person that I've become. And the way artistically where my life is going, and the things that I'm getting to do at this point in my career after so many years, to have so many opportunities to have the drive to still want to create them.
On not being put in a box:
For me, I think for people, and for myself especially, there's many different sides to me. I am that person, that showgirl on that stage, J. Lo, giving that concert. And I am an actress, a true actress, who loves the art of acting and who loves producing and loves being able to sink her teeth into a meaty role. That's what I get to do here on "Shades of Blue" and I feel super grateful to be able to do both and do all the other things that I do.
But I'm not gonna be put in one box, like, You have to do just this or do this to be great at something. You can do many things and do them great and strive and thrive in those areas. That's just who I am, and if my life represents anythings, I think that's what it represents — that you can do whatever you want to do.
"Shades of Blue" is currently shooting its second season.