Salma Hayek, Diego Luna, Demián Bichir, Genesis Rodriguez and William Levy are just a few of the hottest Latin crossover stars right now, but the recipe to success isn’t as simple as flaunting good looks and landing on supermarket tabloid covers. In fact, each of those stars – and dozens of others – have worked hard in their own way to earn fame across mainstream and Latin audiences; something that Mexico’s No. 1 funny man Eugenio Derbez is trying to achieve as well with the debut of his first English-language comedy “Instructions Not Included.”
“I’m ready,” says Derbez, who has entertained Latin American fans for more than two decades as a comedian and telenovela actor. “I’ve always wanted to do an American movie – I need this type of vehicle to really achieve a crossover as an actor. So I wrote the script for me, just as an actor and it really evolved to become something that became much bigger.”
Derbez wrote, directed, produced and stars as the lead actor in “Instructions Not Included,” a feel-good flick about a womanizer whose one-night-stand with an American in Acapulco leaves him with a blonde, blue-eyed daughter whom he raises in Los Angeles. The film – which opens in theaters nationwide Aug. 30 – touches on serious issues like immigration, language, discrimination and race, all made palatable for mainstream audiences with the comedic timing for which Derbez is known. It’s the type of project Derbez says he’s been waiting to tackle for years, and one which he hopes becomes a success with audiences on both sides of the border.
“I was tired of being the funny guy. I’ve playing the same character for more than 20 years,” explains Derbez. “I wanted to show people that I’m an emotional guy, not someone who is always laughing and smiling. This is the movie I’ve wanted to make for years – a comedy with a lot of heart. Because if you have heart in your comedy instead of just a joke, you can leave people with something that will last forever.”
“I didn’t intentionally write it like that, but I did want to show the two worlds that I’m in,” says Derbez, who is married to Mexican singer/actress Alessandra Rosaldo. “That’s why I started it in Acapulco and ended it in Los Angeles. In fact, the movie starts out like a cheap Mexican movie and becomes a Hollywood movie at the end.”
And ending up in Hollywood is exactly where Derbez wants to be, although he’s no stranger to English-language entertainment. He starred in 2011’s “Jack and Jill” and his show, ¡Rob!, aired for a brief time on CBS.
“It’s really hard to do comedy that both Latinos and Americans love,” says Derbez of the show, which was criticized for its stereotypical depiction of Hispanics and was eventually pulled from prime time. “I thought ‘Rob’ was amazing. There was a lot about it that made sense on TV.”
Despite the show’s 2012 cancellation behind him, Derbez intends to return to television soon. He’s working on a new English-language show that will stream on YouTube and is eyeing a guest role on “Devious Maids.” After all, he explains, he helped make the original novela a spectacular success.
“I always wanted to do an English version,” says Derbez, who starred as Mundo on “Ellas son… la alegría del hogar.” In fact, he says, he was part of the team that pitched the Televisa novela to American television executives.
“I wanted to call the series ‘Desperate Housekeepers,’” recalls Derbez. “But for legal reasons, they didn’t go for that. And it’s amazing how successful the show has become in English – I need to talk to Eva Longoria about a guest role!”
In the meantime however, he’s concentrating on promoting “Instructions Not Included” – a film that says holds a lesson for all audiences, regardless of age, race or culture.
“I’d love for people to discover something about themselves through this movie,” says Derbez.
“For me, it’s about life testing you and moving forward.”