George Lopez has been gearing up for the launch later this week of his new FX comedy "Saint George," which is about a successful entrepreneur grappling with a messy personal and family life. The series stands out as a personal touchstone for the 52-year-old comedian, whose résumé includes a groundbreaking network sitcom, a hip late-night cable talk show and sold-out arena performances.
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to Thursday's premiere.
Lopez was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication late last week after a performance at Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino in Windsor, Ontario. A cellphone photo of Lopez passed out on the casino floor popped up on the website TMZ and numerous blogs. Lopez later said in a statement that he had "tied one on…. I was trying to sleep it off, unfortunately it was on the casino floor."
Despite the blast of unfavorable publicity, Lopez elaborated on the incident further this week.
"'Saint George' might not be the particularly right title for me, but you don't become a saint until you get to the end of the road," said Lopez during a phone interview Monday. "There is still hope for me on the way to sainthood. But I can safely say that road is filled with tremendous potholes, and I fell into one last Thursday. If I had posed for a picture, I might have picked a better pose."
Though quick to make fun of himself, Lopez believes the recent event may be life-changing. Although his observational humor spiced with Latino flavor has propelled him into comedy's top ranks, he acknowledges he has had his personal struggles, including with alcohol.
"In my private life, I'm not perfect," said Lopez. "I never have been. I've talked about it for years. But it's safe to say the old George on the floor on the casino will become the new George who will start to create a better life. That is the way to best serve myself while not hurting those who love me."
Ironically, the incident may find its way into the world of his new television character, who is also at a personal and professional crossroads. The FX show is his first regular television gig since the cancellation of "Lopez Tonight," the party-fueled TBS late night talk show he hosted for two years.
Like his "Saint George" character, Lopez is dealing with divorce. After 17 years of marriage, Lopez split from wife Ann Serrano in 2010. The breakup came five years after Serrano donated one of her kidneys to Lopez, who suffered from a congenital disorder that caused his kidneys to fail.
Today, Lopez said he and his ex-wife, who have an 18-year-old daughter preparing to attend college, are in a "good place."
"There is a lot of honesty in the funny of the show," said Lopez, describing himself as a solitary person who still feels comfortable in the company of entertainers.
In "Saint George," Lopez's character is grappling with a split from his "WASPy" American" wife Mackenzie (Jenn Lyon) while also building a stronger relationship with their nerdy son, Harper (Kaden Gibson). In the show, Lopez lives with his domineering mother, Alma (Olga Merediz), who feels that her son can do nothing right, especially when it comes to women.
"This is a guy who's trying to find his way after divorce, with women, with family members," Lopez said. "It's a lot about what I'm going through."
It's a dramatic about-face from ABC's tamer family-friendly show "George Lopez," which ran from 2002 to 2007 and is now enjoying a successful afterlife in repeats on "Nick at Nite." That sitcom was a rarity: a major-network series revolving around a two-parent ethnic family.
As on "George Lopez," the comedian is a key creative force behind the scenes. He co-created "Saint George" and is one of the executive producers. One of his collaborators, Matt Williams, an executive producer of "Saint George" along with his partner David McFadzean, said Lopez is exposed even more in the new show.
"He's got a few more battle scars," said Williams, the head of Wind Dancer Films. "The other show had a spirit of exuberance as well as a degree of naiveté. But here, George is truly a man caught between two worlds. He's handling painful issues in a very funny way."
Like "Anger Management," "Saint George" is proceeding under the so-called 10/90 formula. The industry term means that if the first 10 episodes of perform well, the network is then obligated to order 90 more. (The arrangement will make it easier to sell shows into syndication.)
The network believes the two shows will complement each other well, even though ratings have been very modest lately for Sheen's program.
"Both these shows have family elements," said Chuck Saftler, FX Networks president of programming strategy. "They are guys trying to forge new identities after setbacks. They're both traditional multi-camera sitcoms and they have very distinctive views of the world."
Lopez said he is confident that the attention surrounding his misstep doesn't overshadow "Saint George."
"I'm taking responsibility for what happened," said Lopez. "I'm moving forward."
When: 9 p.m. Thursday