Jaime Camil, the leading actor in a new telenovela being broadcast in Mexico, has expressed frustration and disappointment with Televisa, the parent company, for editing out scenes in which he is shown kissing male co-star Jose Rohn.
"Los Existosos Pérez" ["The Successful Perez Family"], an adaptation from an original Argentinian series, is a half-hour comedy of mistaken identity and intrigue set in and around a television news studio.
Camil plays Gonzalo González, a man hired by the station owners to impersonate top rated news anchorman Martín Pérez, after the star anchor has an accident and falls into a coma (Camil plays both parts).
Unbeknownst to the impostor, a very public marriage between the anchorman and his female news co-host is a sham, and is a cover for a long term relationship between the anchorman and another man.
The impostor suddenly finds himself trying to deflect the anchorman's male lover's advances without letting the lover know he is someone else, while secretly falling in love with the female co-host. Hilarity ensues [preview here].
I've checked out a few of the episodes that have been posted on YouTube and haven't been too impressed. It's not a bad show in particular, but it's not a good one either. Using the gay storyline to elicit laughs seems a bit retro, even though it's been described as a huge step forward for Mexican television. It doesn't help that the actors who play gay men camp it up a bit to project 'gayness' - and that includes Jose Ron as the anchorman's lover and an actor playing a gay network assistant. It's not in itself a bad thing, but it's a tired old stereotype nevertheless.
All of this would be par for the course and might not even merit a mention except that Camil spoke up last weekend.
Interviewed by a gossip show correspondent in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the telenovela is being shot, Camil said he was perplexed about several kissing scenes that had been shot between him and Jose Rhon which were either edited out or shortened when televised [see YouTube video below].
"They are editing them for a reason [and] I still fail to comprehend why it is," he says on camera, and ads that "it's a bit frustrating, as an actor, to undertake a creative process [to create] a character and, suddenly, to have it cut off based on false morals or double standards that sometimes exist in Mexico."
He does admit that it's up to the producers to decide what makes it on air or what doesn't and says that he is happy with the way that the show and his character have been developing in the two months since it was launched.
Mexican gossip show NX, which captured Camil's seemingly unguarded comments, ran the interview with commentary. Highlighting how homophobic Mexican media can be, a member of the show jokes that Camil is just angry because he had to shoot the kissing scenes several times and had to kiss a man over and over.
Still, this IS Mexico, where these huge media conglomerates closely guard their product and content and where these increasingly multi-national telenovelas are produced to be sold later to the lucrative international syndication market. To a higher degree than Hollywood, stars who are part of Mexican show-business rarely speak up or criticize producers or companies, particularly if you are currently part of the show you are criticizing.
In that light, I think it's huge that a well-known telenovela star like Camil, who is actually playing the show's lead, is willing to go on record about his criticism and willing to question whether there is homophobia at play.
It'll be interesting to see if Camil's comments lead to Televisa reviewing what it shows and doesn't show in a telenovela that is supposed to embrace gay characters. It will also be interesting to see if Univision, which is scheduled to air the series possibly on prime time here in the Unites States, will also cut the kissing scenes or let them stand.
An aside: The show does mark the return of legendary telenovela star Veronica Castro to Mexican television. You might remember, in a somewhat related vein, that she refused to play a lesbian role on a Mexican TV special because she did not want to kiss another woman.
- Related: OMG. Charytin doesn't want the gay kisses to air! (via Guanabee)