Jennifer Lopez, The Actress: ‘Shades Of Blue’ Proves Jenny Is More Than Just A Pop Star On TV
There's been a shift in recent years when it comes to the relationship between pop stars and television. No, not in terms of Disney kids like Miley or Selena or Demi, who started off on some tween show as a means to launch a pop career, but rather established stars; those who regularly take the stage to captivate a room and entertain the millions watching at home.
Over time, pop stars began finding their way onto the television on a weekly basis: Britney did X Factor. Christina still regularly does The Voice. Mariah did American Idol. But none of those were acting jobs: They were judging jobs, vanity jobs, where their name and status is used to boost ratings, and inject fresh blood into a show that possibly needed help.
But what if we put a pop star in the lead role of a major network TV show?
NBC aims to answer that question by placing Jennifer Lopez in the lead role in Shades of Blue, a cop show where Lopez straddles the line between morality and corruptibility.
Shades of Blue is also not a show starring Jennifer Lopez — it is Jennifer Lopez’s show. It rest on her shoulders as executive producer, and NBC has marketed the show accordingly. She's listed above Emmy winners Ray Liotta and Drea de Matteo, positioned directly in the middle of the promotional posters.
Her character, Harlee Santos, is Jenny From The Block with a police badge, so the character isn’t a huge stretch from J. Lo herself: She’s a mother. She’s Latina. She’s a friend. She’s a boss. She’s sexually liberated. Harlee Santos is everything you’ve likely come to associate with the entertainer, but as a show catered to Lopez, that makes every bit of sense.
Cop shows tend to be big on action: Yelling, Jumping over cars. A testosterone-fueled sense of urgency and danger. Couple that with the fact that Lopez tends to be an in-your-face performer, and that hi-octane expectation seemed right in line with her performance style.
But it's the subtlety of the show that provides the greatest surprise.
Yes, Lopez handles a gun and runs after criminals. But the true strength of both the show and Lopez herself lies in the quieter moments of Harlee Santos as a person, not a cop. There’s a scene where Lopez speaks to a young Spanish girl and asks her to go inside, speaking in Spanish. It’s a short scene, but that doting sense of motherhood, protection and humanity at the core of Lopez’s character drives the show. Lopez is at her best when the show utilizes the mom card, which is likely as emotionally compelling as it is because Lopez is an actual mother. Her facial expressions, while sometimes stiff, often come through fuller when centered around Santos' daughter. The worry is palpable when Santos is worried she won’t be able to pay tuition. The heartbreak is real when she tells her daughter she can’t watch the recital. Lopez does a better-than-expected job of conveying all of this, while still being somewhat believable as a cop.
There are parts that can be fixed: One being that Lopez looks like the world’s most well-rested single mother/cop on the face of the planet. But that’s a show issue, not a Jennifer Lopez issue. Shades of Blue will presumably improve upon the pilot and, in doing so, give Lopez more to do — including all the yelling, screaming and shoot-outs of a traditional cop series.
Lopez gets an unfair reputation because of films like Gigli and Monster in Law. Those aren’t great films. But watching her on Shades of Blue proves she has an actual talent for the craft, unlike some other pop star forays into acting. (Mariah in Glitter, for one.) Jennifer Lopez is also not a stunt cast, like a Britney cameo on Glee or Jane the Virgin.
She’s a strong female lead on a major network show, proving herself as captivating on a small screen as she is on a huge stage.
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