Susan Lucci – the Barbara Windsor of American soapland – has left behind a 40-year stint on All My Children to play privileged Genevieve Delatour on Devious Maids. The new offering from Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry about five Latina maids working in Beverley Hills households split opinion in the States ahead of its first series earlier this year, criticised for perpetuating stereotypes of Latin American women. “There has never been a show where the five leads are Laina maids. The criticism was mostly levelled at the show before it aired,” explains Lucci. People expected it to be stereotypical, whereas Ana [Ortiz of Ugly Betty fame, playing lead maid Marisol] was saying it wasn’t stereotypical at all.
“A lot of the actresses had a grandmother or someone in their family who had worked as a domestic worker but these people had real lives and full lives and loves and children and heartbreak and triumph that everybody else has. I knew that once people saw the show, they would know that the takeaway is nobody is a stereotype.
“I think you can make points and maybe dissolve some of the clichés and dissolve some of the actual prejudicial feelings that people might have – a lot can be done with humour and you can see how foolish it would be to make assumptions about anybody.”
Following the day-to-day lives of Marisol and her friends Zoila (played by Scrubs actress Judy Reyes), Rosie (Dania Ramirez), Carmen (Roselyn Sánchez) and Valentina (Edy Ganem) and their wealthy Beverley Hills employers, Devious Maids fills the gap left by Cherry’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Desperate Housewives. Starring Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria, the series concluded in 2012 – but Longoria has moved behind the camera to serve as executive producer on Devious Maids and is set to make her directorial debut during series two.
So, how does Lucci compare Genevieve with Erica Kane – the iconic soapland character who has dominated much of her career? “She’s different from Erica in that she’s somewhat of an innocent in many ways and there’s a naivety in some areas, although she has been married six times and is looking for husband number seven. That she has in common with Erica.
“She is someone who has spent her life attracting one rich and powerful husband after the next and now she doesn’t have a man in her life and she’s feeling she’s lost her mojo. It’s driving her a little bit crazy so she’s seducing the pool boy and the landscape artist – whoever – and also self-medicating. It’s a very different character. Erica would have said, ‘Yes, I can do this by myself’. She was very capable. Genevieve is bright but she’s not street smart at all.”