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NBC’s latest live musical aired just a month ago, but when Jennifer Lopez appeared at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Wednesday, talk quickly turned to the network’s upcoming live production of Bye Bye Birdie.
“We’re going to keep it period. It’s going to be very authentic,” Lopez told reporters. “We just want to push the envelope of how great these live musicals can be. I’m excited to take it on as a producer and as a role.”
Lopez will exec produce the live event and also star as Rosie, a role originated by Chita Rivera in the original 1960 Broadway production. Lopez revealed it was her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas who came up with the idea of potentially producing Bye Bye Birdie as a live telecast on NBC.
“We just thought it was a great part for me to do, and [NBC] loved the idea,” Lopez said. Rosie “is such a great role, and it got watered-down a little bit in the movie version.”
Part of Lopez’s hope in staying authentic is that the live production will be close to the initial script, particularly when it comes to Rosie’s struggles as a Puerto Rican woman about to hit middle age and in a relationship with a man afraid of commitment.
“There were all these dynamics that were in the original play that didn’t make in into the movie,” she said. “So it will be interesting to play that part and be a woman who’s pushing 40 and feels like, ‘Are we ever getting married?'”
In addition to exec producing and starring in Bye Bye Birdie, which will air live on NBC in December, Lopez also stars in and exec produces Shades of Blue, which returns for season two in March. Despite her busy schedule, which also includes her Las Vegas residency and her upcoming NBC dance competition series, World of Dance, Lopez said she worked hard to maintain an active role on the cop drama behind the scenes.
“I think everybody knows I’m there to help in whatever way I can and to not direct but help produce in any way I can,” Lopez said, pointing specifically to her work with the cop drama’s various directors on set. They “ask my advice on the show and where this is going or that’s going. … It’s a great role to have, to be that involved in the whole vision of it.”
Lopez was also asked how she juggles the multiple projects in her life. “Somehow I always am able to focus and get it done. I do one thing at a time and put my full attention on what I’m doing at that moment,” Lopez said. “I’m able to compartmentalize that way.”
Case in point, Shades of Blue had to take a hiatus after the first five or six episodes of season two so that Lopez could perform in Vegas. Exec producer Jack Orman said the break helped the writers plot the stories for the rest of the second season. “It kind of rejuvenated us because it gave us a little bit of a break in the intense schedule that is a one-hour drama,” Lopez agreed. “It was a learning experience, all of it. Learning to juggle all of the things that I do.”
Looking ahead, it doesn’t look like Lopez is going to slow down anytime soon. At least not until 2018.
“It’s a full year, but it’s creatively fulfilling for me as an actor, as a singer, as a dancer,” she said. “How will I feel a year from now? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll want to take a year off.”
Shades of Blue returns March 5 for season two on NBC.
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