Araceli González saunters across the set in pale pink pumps and a matching silk robe, chatting amiably with her assistant and garnering gawks from the grips. With her long legs, ivory skin and prominent cleavage, she bears little physical resemblance to Gabrielle Solis, the petite, dark-skinned Latina vamp who lives on Wisteria Lane in the hit American TV show "Desperate Housewives." "When they told me they wanted me for the Eva Longoria role, I couldn't believe it, because I don't look anything like her," says González, who plays the character on "Amas de Casa Desesperadas," the first Spanish-language version of "Housewives," which premiered in Argentina in August.
That's not the only change marking the show's arrival in Latin America. Though "Desperate Housewives" has aired with Spanish subtitles throughout the region since 2005, executives at Disney, which created the show for ABC TV, are now developing local Spanish-language versions tailored to different Latino markets. They are confident that the darkly comic escapades of sexy suburbanites Susan, Lynette, Bree, Edie and Gabrielle can be adapted to any culture. In addition to the Argentine version (which also airs in Uruguay and Paraguay), a production for Colombia and Ecuador will start shooting later this month and a Portuguese-language edition is slated for February in Brazil. Negotiations are underway for Chilean and Mexican adaptations as well.
Manzanares, or Apple Orchard, Street certainly looks a lot like Wisteria Lane. "Amas de Casa Desesperadas" is shot on a replica of the original's Hollywood set, built on a lot in a leafy Buenos Aires suburb. Each version of the show will be filmed there with its own cast and creative team. Disney has signed some of Latin America's biggest stars, including respected Argentine veterans Mercedes Morán, Gabriela Toscano, Carola Reyna and Cecilia Roth--as well as González, the country's most famous actress and model. For the Colombian version, the former star of the country's popular "Ugly Betty" series (now remade for American TV), Ana María Orozco, will mark her return to television.
But Marc Cherry's Golden Globe-winning story lines have been altered to make the show more believable to local audiences. In the Colombian version, Gabriela and Carlos Solis will be portrayed as Ecuadoran immigrants, while in Argentina, they are played as provincial profiteers. "Gabrielle Solis is a successful Latino immigrant to the U.S. ... but people like her just don't exist here," says director Marcos Carnevale. "However, we do have nouveau riche people with bad taste like the Solises, so we tailored the characters to fit that image."
The same goes for Bree Van de Camp. Few Argentines could relate to her proper, tightly wound, Republican character, so the writers have transformed her into Vera, "the daughter of a military officer, with a conservative background," says Carnevale. "In the Colombian version, Bree will be known as Eugenia--a more common name in Bogotá's "prissy, high society," says Leonardo Aranguibel, production manager for Buena Vista International Television.
Yet in spirit, the show is a natural for Latino audiences. " 'Desperate Housewives' has many elements of a telenovela, which is the backbone of Latin American television," says Aranguibel. Disney is clearly counting on the popularity of the actresses--and the versatility of the scripts--to build a loyal audience throughout the region. "When I see Bree or Lynette or Susan on TV, I realize that I know many women similar to them in Argentina. And it's the same in Colombia and Brazil, too," Carnevale says. "These are universal women with universal problems." And they translate well into any language.