Jennifer Lopez: 'I don't drink, I don't like the taste, and I've never done drugs either'
Published 25/01/2016 | 08:00
Jennifer Lopez is set to make a song and dance - and drama - of it this year as she juggles a new cop show, American Idol and a live concert series. She tells Mark Ellwood how she gets her work ethic from her Bronx upbringing.
Actress, singer and dancer Jennifer Lopez will redefine her status as a triple attraction this year, appearing in three different shows simultaneously as 2016 begins.
One's a drama, another's a reality show, and the last is a sequin-spangled live concert series. Lopez seems characteristically unfazed by the workload: "I can tell you - we've got a million ideas."
The first Lopez show is on TV, her debut as the lead of a prime-time drama, NBC's Shades of Blue. Co-starring Ray Liotta and erstwhile Sopranos moll Drea de Matteo, the 13-episode series is one of those gritty, moral-quandary-type shows, where she plays a single-mother NYPD detective who struggles with the obligations of her job.
"It's set in the world of cops, but it's really about human nature - how we're always riding a line of what's right and what's wrong, that slippery slope," Lopez explains, her Bronx twang gloriously intact.
She'll compete with herself as American Idol returns on rival network Fox in the same week. It's her fifth turn as a judge on this Pop Idol progeny that produced Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
Lopez owes much to Idol - and not just in terms of the enormous pay packet, reportedly around $20m (€18.5m), that she receives for her opinions.
Five years ago, when she first sat behind the Cowell-approved desk, her career was in the doldrums, with flop films (The Back-up Plan) and singles ('Louboutins' and 'Fresh Out of the Oven').
Joining the panel offered Lopez the chance to become the firm-but-fair, tough-loving judge - she even rushed onstage impromptu and grabbed the microphone from a contestant who was in danger of elimination and declared the singer safe.
Idol is a show for which she admits she would have auditioned in her teens, and one that has formed the bulwark for her career rejuvenation. "When they announce the winner, and you see that person's dream come true? It's such a human thing," she says.
Don't expect her to be so touchy-feely when it comes to the other auditions she's overseeing now - for dancers to be part of her back-up troupe in the Vegas show she's set to launch later in January.
There's no-one pickier, and little wonder given that she started as a booty-shaking background artiste for a slew of big stars from New Kids on the Block, then the world's biggest group, to Janet Jackson.
"Sometimes other people might like a person, but I'm, like, 'oh, they're a little bit weak in this part, there's not enough technique'," she says.
Her uncompromising attitude is typical of the girl born and bred in the Bronx. "I liked my upbringing there and it gave me incentive. Just the street smarts and the savvy."
This live gig, which started this week, is arguably the biggest single undertaking for Lopez this year, one she's expected to shoulder almost solo. The 46-year-old will be an intermittent presence for 20 shows over several months in All I Have.
The famously clean-living Lopez - "I don't drink. Don't like the taste. It would be a waste of money. Never done drugs either" - is an unlikely Sin City resident.
"I want [the show] to be a high-energy, Bronx kind of block-party," she says, "The most exciting shows make you dance, and scream and jump up and down. I want people to really let loose."
Lopez plans to switch the set list constantly so each evening will be a unique experience, whether covering Diana Ross or Selena, the Tejano singer shot dead by a fan whom Lopez portrayed in her first major acting role.
She's also going to take inspiration from whatever she's humming in the kitchen at home; right now, that's ballads by Sam Smith.
Lopez, though, knows why fans flock to those Vegas shows. "I'm going to perform all my chart hits, not a bunch of album cuts no one knows."
All I Have may be a musical retrospective, but she won't be revisiting other aspects of her past - like the deeply-slashed Versace dress she wore as P Diddy's date to the Grammys in 2000 and with which she ensured herself a place on magazine covers across the planet.
"Oh, I still have it, but we're going to do all kinds of new stuff - I redid the Versace dress for my Bronx homecoming show [in 2014], so I don't think I'll repeat myself."
Lopez brightens when she talks about clothes and glamour.
This is a woman with an entire drawer at home devoted to yellow diamonds, and who has called flicking through fashion magazines and flagging the outfits she wants to buy "my favourite thing to do".
"It's like a fantasy," she coos. "When you think of Diana Ross, Cher or Barbra Streisand, it's their costumes that became their signature."
However, hectic her workload might be in 2016, Lopez has managed to manoeuvre her personal life out of the headlines in recent months.
Max and Emme, the twins she had with ex-husband No 3, Marc Anthony (he followed restaurateur Ojani Noa and dancer Cris Judd), will turn eight in February.
Since her divorce from singer Anthony she has been reportedly dating twenty-something back-up dancer Casper Smart, though the relationship has waxed and waned over the last four years.
Her only recent flutter with tabloid notoriety came in the wake of her ex-boyfriend Ben Affleck's divorce announcement: magazines touted a possible reunion between the one-time couple (known collectively as Bennifer), rumours fuelled by the timely leak of decade-old home videos of the pair. The rumours seem to have been baseless.
Perhaps it's because Lopez had little time for anything other than work in recent months.
Her schedule should ease once the final victor of American Idol sings his or her final chorus.
Will she miss the show that has been such a major part of the last five years of her life?
"I have mixed feelings to it ending - it's a big celebration, but it's melancholy at the same time." She catches herself, and her signature steely optimism returns. "But something else will come up."