How often, really, do you see Jeff Garlin (the chunky "Curb Your Enthusiasm" co-star) transform into a sexy Colombian singer? Not often, so that's one reason to watch the loopy "Wizards of Waverly Place" at 8:30 p.m. today or Saturday (April 16-17) on the Disney Channel.
Another reason is to see Maria Canals-Barrera, who's had an interesting acting career. Here's a story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
An acting career can whisk people in
Often, that means waiting tables and
answering phones. Occasionally, it brings a life like that of Maria
She's acted in Spanish and in English.
She's had series roles as a sweet mom, a sexy computer technician and
(voice only) a superhero.
And sometimes, things get weird.
“You'll have to see when the whole family dresses as Shakira,”
she said of the new “Wizards of Waverly Place” episode.
Mostly, she's known as the Disney
Channel's designated mother-of-teens. “I'm rehearsing for when I
really have teen-agers,” she said.
Her own kids are 6 and 4, but her TV
kids are each 17 – Selena Gomez in “Wizards” and Demi Lovato in
the “Camp Rock” movies. “They're very professional, very good
people,” she said.
And they have almost-identical careers.
Gomez and Lovato met in Dallas, at auditions for “Barney &
Friends.” Both landed the job (they were Gianna and Angela on the
show); both later moved to Los Angeles and signed with Disney; they
even starred together in “Princess Protection Program.”
Canals-Barrera, 43, finds that
admirable; she didn't move West until she was 26.
She studied theater at the University
of Miami, had a breakthrough role in the wild comedy play “House of
Blue Leaves,” then did a pair of Univision novelas. “It was
non-stop Spanish,” she said. “My parents were born in Cuba” so
she could sort of keep up.
In her own native language of English,
she played Fig, the red-haired newspaper worker in “Key West,”
one of the early Fox shows. After moving west, she was the female
lead (and computer expert) on the short-lived “Tony Danza Show.”
Most Disney shows live much longer.
“They really stick with you until they get it right,” she said.
At first, she was Gomez's mom in a
“Lizzie McGuire” spin-off. Then the network scrapped that and
came up with “Wizards” and the ultimate mixed marriage – but
not because Jerry (David DeLuise) is Italian and Theresa
(Canals-Barrera) is Hispanic. The big difference is that he grew up
with magic powers, which he had to renounce when marrying a mortal.
The kids and other relatives still have
magic, leading to other problems, including the new one involving
Jerry's brother (Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) – a
chunky guy who has a transformation spell. “It turns out that he's
also a female Colombian pop star.”
Shakira turns up in the episode;
everyone – including Garlin and Canals-Barrera – dresses as her.
It's a strange duty – but maybe not
her strangest. In animated shows, she's been Hawk Girl and Fire and
Sunset Boulevardez. Acting whisks her to odd places.
– “Wizards of Waverly Place,”
8:30 p.m. Fridays, Disney Channel, plus frequent reruns. The Shakira
episode airs at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3:30 p.m. April 25,
– “Camp Rock” and “Wizards of
Waverly Place: The Movie” are at video stores and rerun on Disney;
“Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam” debuts this year.
– More. Tom Hanks has cast her in
“Larry Crowne,” a 2011 movie in which he is the director,
co-writer and star.