Eugenio Derbez: ¡ROB! and the transition to Hollywood
What kind of drama and awkward tension do you get with a mixed-race marriage? Well, it depends on which races you mix. According to Rob Schneider, when a white man marries a beautiful Mexican woman, you get hilarity. ¡ROB! has got critics and audiences alike wondering where the line between funny and offensive can be drawn.
Eugenio Derbez plays Uncle Hector on the show, and he had a lot to say about the matter. He spoke about the ability of Latinos to laugh at themselves as well as his transition from Mexico to Hollywood.
AG: Hi Eugenio!
ED: Alexandria! How are you?
AG: I’m good how are you?
ED: I’m doing great.
AG: So, from my understanding, you’re in Mexico right now?
ED: Yeah, I just landed, just arriving from L.A.
AG: Oh okay, what are you doing in Mexico?
ED: I have to finish my own series. I have my own series, my own TV show here in Mexico, and it’s going to be airing in March, so I have to finish editing and producing, and that’s why I’m here.
AG: Cool! Okay well can you tell me a little bit about your show ¡ROB! and a little bit about your character? I know you play Uncle Hector, so can you give the readers just a brief little run-through of your character?
ED: Well, Uncle Hector is Maggie’s uncle, you know Maggie is married to Rob, and I’m her uncle, and I’m visiting from Mexico for a couple of days, for the weekend, but I’m not leaving! I’m staying forever, and I’m just this kind of uncomfortable relative, one that we all have. I’m just a kind of funny guy that is always asking for money, always staying overnight at Rob’s house. I’m always doing kind of…making people uncomfortable around me unconsciously, because I’m a nice guy, it’s just that I’m really not conscious about my…the way I am. Sorry about my English, sometimes I don’t remember some words!
AG: No problem! So did you ever have a relative like that?
ED: Yes! I probably have at least two of them! (laughs)
AG: So did you base Uncle Hector off of those relatives?
ED: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t tell you their names, though, it might cause some trouble for me! (laughs) But I think we all have a relative who you’re like, “Oh no, please don’t open your mouth,” a troublemaker, you know? So yeah, I have at least two of them.
AG: So how did you hear about the show? How did you get involved?
ED: I got involved, because Rob’s wife in real life, Patricia, she’s Mexican. Actually, the show is based loosely on Rob’s life. Patricia, his wife, is Mexican, so she recommended me to Rob. She said, “If you’re looking for a Mexican comedian, you should see Eugenio, he has his own show.” My show has always been rated really, really well over here, usually number one, and that’s the point. They want me to bring a new audience to the show, and my presentation to CBS was that, “Maybe I can bring all that audience I already have to America and watch the show now in English.”
AG: I know I grew up watching your shows, like Derbez en Cuando, with my grandma. I watched them every day after school with her, so —
AG: Yeah! So when I heard I was going to interview you, when I heard you were going to be on the show, I thought that was such a great idea to bring over that audience from Mexico to the United States, especially for a show like this.
ED: Yeah! Well I’m so happy right now to be performing in English. This is my first time on American TV, and I’m really, really excited about the idea of the start of a new career in the U.S. It’s weird, but it’s nice at the same time.
AG: So what’s that transition been like for you, from Mexico to the United States?
ED: It’s been hard, because I left my whole life in Mexico. My family, my home, my career – I have a company here in Mexico. I have all my writers, my producers, everyone’s here. It’s been hard, but it’s a dream come true to start working in the U.S., so I think it’s worth it.
AG: I think this is a really great show for you to make your start on as far as television goes here in the U.S. I know this show has received a lot of criticisms about portraying just stereotypical Mexicans, and some people have said it’s offensive, but being a Mexican-American myself watching the show, I thought it was hilarious.
ED: Yeah, that’s the thing. I think all the critics and all the Americans, old critics, they have no idea what Latino people like. You can watch everyone, all the reviews, they love the show. On Twitter, everyone, you can read my timeline, all the people on my Twitter, I can tell you, they are really honest, and they were just talking good things about the show. So, you know, these people, these critics trying to, I don’t know, defend Latino people, the way they think, I think they’re totally wrong. We Latino people love the show, and I know what I can do with my people, and the show is hilarious. It’s really funny, and they love it, so I don’t care about critics, I just care about what the people like and what the people watch.
AG: Very true. So, going back to your sketch comedy shows in Mexico, now that you’re making the transition to Hollywood and American television, do you have any plans for any kind of sketch comedy show as well for an American audience, besides Rob?
ED: Yes, I would love to. I was thinking about doing all my shows in English, translate all my comedy and all my stuff into English, try to make the same thing as in Mexico but in English. I think it might work, I just need to find a bilingual writer that could translate my humor into American humor and make a great idea, after Rob of course.
AG: You’ve been in American movies and now American television, I know you were in “Jack & Jill,” do you have any more plans for film as well? If you do, is there one you prefer over the other, TV versus film?
ED: Well, I love everything. I mean, I was thrilled to be in a Hollywood film like “Jack & Jill,” but at the same time, I love American television. I’m a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men —
AG: I love those shows!
ED: All of them! To be on American TV, for me, is a dream come true, absolutely, so I’m really, really, really happy. I love both! I also did Broadway, like five years ago, I did a play there, so I really can’t tell the difference, can’t really tell which I love more, theater, television or film. It’s just that every one of them has its own magic, you know? TV, you can reach a lot of people, films give you a certain status, and I love film, and theater has that relation directly with the audience, so it’s good, I love that also. I would love to do one film, one TV show, and one play a year, at least. (laughs) That would be my dream. I know it sounds really hard, but I would love to do that.
AG: I was going to say! That would take a lot of work, but I’m sure you can do it.
ED: Yeah, or at least combining the three of them in a couple of years, in the time span of two years or something like that.
AG: That would be awesome. Well, is there anything else you think the readers of Houston need to know about the show or about you? Anything you want to touch on that I haven’t asked about that people need to know?
ED: Just let me tell you, if people loved the first episode, I swear that the rest are way better, much, much better. The pilot, sometimes you have to tell the story, explain a lot of things in the first episode, and the next episodes are really, really, really funny. They’re funnier than the first one, so if you loved the first one, don’t miss the next ones. They’re really very hilarious.
AG: Well thank you so much for spending some time talking to me.
ED: Thank you, Alexandria!
Don’t forget to catch Eugenio in his new film with Eva Mendes, Girl in Progress, set to release in April. I will make sure to keep you updated!
*My Grandma Alejandro, who my sister and I affectionately called “Grammer” for short, lived with me and my family for 15 years. The first five years of my life, before I started kindergarten, my parents were both working and out of town all the time. Grammer became my best friend, and Spanish became my first language. I learned it by hearing Grammer talk to her cousin, my Tia Yne, on the phone all the time, and by watching her favorite shows and novelas on Univision with her. Even after she moved out, watching Univision with her was one of our favorite past-times.
Grammer was a “payasa,” and there was nothing she loved more than La India Maria and Eugenio Derbez’s sketch comedy shows. From Pepe Roni the Italian chef, to El Diablito, to Eloy Gameno the world’s most stubborn man, Eugenio had us in stitches all the time. I dedicate this entry, this interview, to the memory of my Grammer. Words can never express how much I miss her every day, but I can only hope that I am becoming someone she would be proud of. Eugenio said to tell Grammer hi, so this one’s for you, Grammer 🙂