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Carlos Ponce keeps busy with ‘Cristela’

Puerto Rican heartthrob and Miami homeboy Carlos Ponce has crooned chart-topping Latin pop hits, starred in the telenovelas Guadalupe and Sentimientos Ajenos (even singing their theme songs), and hosted Latin American versions of The Voice and American Idol.

But until starring in the new ABC sitcom Cristela (8:30 p.m. Fridays), he hadn’t had many opportunities to show off his comedy chops.

“I came into this thinking I didn’t stand a chance when I auditioned,” said Ponce, who plays Felix, the long-suffering brother-in-law of the title character, played by stand-up comedienne Cristela Alonzo. “I’ve read for a lot of shows where there is a Latin family, but — how do I put this in the most diplomatic way? — the blend wasn’t necessarily there for what the stereotype is. The role is of Mexican descent, and I have my Miami accent, but I do my best to neutralize it as much as I can.”

The laughs don’t end with Cristela for Ponce. He’s also in writer/director Paul Feig’s upcoming comedy Spy opposite star Melissa McCarthy, who plays a bumbling secret agent, plus Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Jude Law. The film is set to hit theaters on Memorial Day weekend.

So is McCarthy (Identity Thief, The Heat, Tammy, plus the Emmy-winning sitcom Mike & Molly) as crazy in real life as she seems to be on-screen?

“Yes!” Ponce said with a laugh. “I’ve worked with a lot of comedians who turn it off, but she’s a lot of fun at all times. She makes you laugh on- and off-screen. She’s very witty and very spontaneous, and she’ll have a comment for everything — in a good way, a very good way. She’s definitely a lot of fun. And Jason Statham, seeing him do comedy is very interesting, because he’s always been such a serious guy.”

With all the acting gigs, plus raising four children between 12 and 15 years of age, Ponce hasn’t had much time for music.

“When I was touring and I felt my kids started needing me at home, I kind of put that on hold,” he said. “And every time I do a project, at least most of the time, somehow I get involved musically. I’ll either write a theme song, or I’ll present it to some of the singers, because music is very important to me. But I’m not sure I could be touring at this moment. [With Cristela] I have a little bit of a schedule, and it’s a little more fixed, so I can plan around recitals and school and soccer games and golf games — whatever the kids are doing at the moment.”

Another way Ponce bonds with his kids is by doing voice work for animated films, including Rio, Free Birds and The Pirate Fairy.

“You do these things because you want to see their faces,” he said. “They’re growing now, but they’re still at the age where they want to see the family movies. And it’s something that we always do — every weekend we’ll catch one movie. But a lot of times they’ll give me a private screening or a premiere, and this is one of the very few things that they can show off with their friends, because we can invite them.”

Ponce is also busy with a different sort of project in Miami.

“I’m about two or three weeks from opening a salon, on Northeast Second Avenue and 18th, downtown and midtown,” he said. “It’s called Duchess and Duque — Duque is Ximena, my girlfriend and partner. We’re almost there, and we’re very excited.”

Michael Hamersly

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