PASADENA, Calif. -- Where can you plunder comedy and drama in the same place? Hospitals, workplaces and neighborhoods have all been tried in television, and so have hotels. TV has mined that ore hundreds of times, from the loony digs in "Fawlty Towers" to the ritzy clientele of "Hotel."
Bob Newhart hosted an inn in "Newhart." The mob explored the riches of Miami's hostels in "Magic City." Hawaii was the place to stay in "North Shore," and Jamie Foxx toiled at his aunt and uncle's hotel in "The Jamie Foxx Show." "Hot 1 Baltimore" was a rest haven that had seen better days, and the British "Hotel Babylon" explored the seamy side of the elevator.
So while the idea is not original, ABC is venturing a newer version this summer with "Grand Hotel."
Based on a Hispanic series, the show stars Demian Bichir as successful patriarch Santiago Mendoza, who is running the last family-owned hotel in Miami with his glamorous and determined second wife, played by Roselyn Sanchez.
The sun-drenched series is executive produced by Eva Longoria ("Desperate Housewives,"). "This was a format from Spain," she explains. "And it was a period piece, and we contemporized it to modern-day Miami ... It has a lot of themes of 'Upstairs, Downstairs,' but we thought it was very unique to have the upstairs be a Hispanic family and to show a different community.
"It's based in Miami, so we're authentic to that world," she says. "So nine of our 11 cast members are people of color. So we're really proud of the adaptation that we did."
Executive producer Brian Tanen continues: "So often you see those underrepresented groups playing the housekeeper, playing service industry jobs. And so it was special for us to be able to represent the 'upstairs' as people of color, which is very true to my hometown of Miami."
The Mexico-born Bichir, who's best known as the persistent cop in "The Bridge" and the chief of the drug cartel in "Weeds," says, "This is my third time on American TV. And basically I respond to the same thing ... I'm looking for strong material, whether it's on TV, films or theater. And that's what I found here," he says.
"And to me, it's about the human experience and who's in charge of it. And I love Eva ... No one can say 'no' to Eva. And a great, powerful captain can lead such a big ship into a happy port. And the beauty of that is that they can gather the best artists on every position, not only in the fantastic cast that we have, but in every department. So that, to me, is what I'm looking for as an artist. And I couldn't be happier and luckier to do my third TV project with this family."
Earlier in his career Bichir -- who is an important star in Mexico -- had tried his luck in Hollywood, only to return to his homeland when jobs didn't materialize. Today he says, "My mother called me 'pata de perro' (dog's leg). I could never stand in one place. I could never stand still. So I've been moving a lot. And my equation is really, really simple: I go where I'm loved. And wherever there's a good project for me, I will fight for it. I will try to open new avenues ...