Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Puerto Rico's hunky Carlos Ponce raises the (soap) bar

Cruel Love’s Carlos Ponce got his start in telenovelas but has since carved out a diverse career path.

Puerto Rican star Carlos Ponce will never forget the moment he was told off by a stranger while dining at a restaurant. “I remember sitting at lunch with the lady who played my mother a couple of times in telenovelas. She played the bad lady. And there was a couple sitting next to us in the restaurant who got up, threw a few insults (at us) and walked away,” recalls the 41-year-old actor in a phone interview from Mauritius. 

“And because I was the good guy in the telenovela, they looked at me like I was a traitor for having lunch with this lady. They told me I should be ashamed of myself. I guess we are doing our jobs when people really believe we are these characters we play.”

Some would say a good job, in fact.

Ponce, with his baby blue eyes and chiselled jawline, was barely in his 20s when he landed his first TV soap role in 1993 on Guadalupe, after catching the eye of a talent director at a Mexican TV station. His career took off after that, and he landed a leading role his second TV project, Sentimientos Ajenos, signally the start of a series of successful TV soaps.

Now after two decades in the business, Ponce says telenovelas haven't changed much in 20 years and calls it a “classic genre”. Nevertheless he believes Telemundo, one of the biggest American-Spanish TV networks in the Americas, is shaking things up.

“They are very avant-garde. They are always trying to think outside the box when it comes to storylines. We don’t just follow the typical Cinderella type of telenovela. There is always something fresh, something new, like a whodunit?” he says.

Ponce could be referring to the Telemundo series Cruel Love (a.k.a. Perro Amor), a 60-minute Spanish-language soap in which he's the main star. The series begins with a wedding between Ponce's character Antonio (Ponce) and Daniela (Maritza Bustamante). Antonio leaves his bride at the altar as part of a dare posed by his cousin Camila (Maritza Rodriguez), but his actions have dire consequences as Daniela is the daughter of his father’s business partner.

“Antonio is a very arrogant character. He thinks that if he wants it all, he can have it all. He is spoilt, so he has to find someone who would keep him grounded,” Ponce says. 

Then in comes Sofia (Ana Lucia Dominguez), the wedding caterer. “She’s the one who is going to make him start doing all the right things,” say Ponce. 

Cruel Love is a long-running soap that spans a whopping 129 episodes.

“You have to get into it. You have to form a background for them. You have to know who his mother and father are, where he comes from, what kind of upbringing he’s had – a happy or suffering life. Study the synopsis, find out what it is that you can do differently to better develop the character,” Ponce says. 

Ponce says that fatherhood has influenced the roles he chooses to take on.

“Perhaps I am not as risky as I was when I was younger. At this point, my children are all old enough to understand that they are roles, and it’s not their daddy, it’s just a character I’m portraying. But usually, I try to keep it clean,” he says with a laugh, adding his four kids are allowed to watch him on the telly. 

Beyond the telenovelas, Ponce is among several Latin American actors who have leaped to Hollywood. Viewers may know him from his guest roles in 7th Heaven and Lipstick Jungle on the telly, and also from his appearances in Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Just My Luck, and no one can forget his performance as the sexy yoga instructor in Couples Retreat.

“I’ve gone back and forth since I was very young, doing some television in English and certain telenovelas in Spanish. I’ve done more outside of telenovelas than I’ve actually done telenovelas,” Ponce says.

Asked if the lack of Latinos in Hollywood is a result of discrimination, Ponce says: “There is room and a lot of hunger for Latino actors in Hollywood. There are just not many who are willing to take the gamble to move to the United States and audition because they have already paid their dues. And with English being a different language, you have to go through a different process.”

But the actor – who has also built a name for himself as a TV presenter (even hosting the prestigious Miss Universe in 2006) and a successful singer (his 1998 debut album topped the Latin Billboard charts for nine weeks) – will continue to take the gamble. He hopes to delve deeper into comedy in the future, starring in a sitcom, Cristela, next.

Cruel Love airs weekdays at 5.10pm on Diva (Astro Ch 702).

Tags / Keywords: Carlos Ponce , Cruel Love , Perro Amor , Telemundo , Diva , TV , Entertainment


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