Maid in drama
Devious Maids cast. Picture: Supplied

When it came to portraying a Latina housemaid in Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry's latest TV offering, Devious Maids, actress Ana Ortiz looked to one of the most important women in her life - her mother.

The 43-year-old, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is used to playing the outspoken, tough-girl roles as opposed to the conservative types.

"The inspiration for creating my character Marisol really comes from my own mother," Ortiz explains while in Sydney this week to promote the series, which makes its Aussie debut on pay-TV today.

"I always play the sassy sidekick or the tough cop or the very outspoken ghetto princess. So Marisol was just a whole new ball game and I've really enjoyed discovering that."

Dubbed as the "downstairs cousin" of Cherry's award-winning Desperate Housewives series, which wrapped in 2012, Devious Maids delves into the lives of five Latina maids - Marisol (Ortiz), Rosie (Dania Ramirez), Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez) and mother-daughter duo Zoila (Judy Reyes) and Valentina (Edy Ganem) - who work for some of the wealthiest families and big-name celebrities in Beverly Hills.

The show is inspired by the Mexican TV series, Ellas son la Alegria del Hogar (which translates to "They Are the Joy of the Home") and former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria stepped in as executive producer alongside Cherry.

Although she later directed episodes of the show, which has just wrapped its second season in the US, Longoria was initially pulled in to oversee the Latina characters to ensure they didn't misrepresent the Latin community.

Despite her involvement, the show sparked widespread backlash from the Latin community ahead of its debut.

But within days of going to air, Ortiz says people had a big change of heart.

"We actually got open letters of apology and people saying 'Sorry we misjudged the show'," Ortiz laughs. A cold-blooded murder in the opening moments of the first episode sets the scene for the sultry drama, which abounds with the sharp-witted humour synonymous with Desperate Housewives.

From the outset, Marisol looks the part even though she doesn't have a thick Hispanic accent like the other women.

But her newfound employers don't know that she has her own sneaky agenda, which becomes clear by the end of episode one.

"That's been my favourite part," Ortiz says. "But she forms these really close bonds with these women, so at the same time she's lying to them.

"I love playing that sort of dynamic, and the scenes with the other maids are some of my favourites."

A long-time friend of Longoria, Ortiz jumped at the chance to work with the Latina actress.

"It's like working with one of your pals," she enthuses. "She's sort of a wonderful yin to Marc Cherry's yang. What he doesn't know about Latin women, he can really turn to Eva and get a great perspective that all of us really trust."

The West Australian

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