Chicago prosecutor makes the case for Spanish soap operas
November 27th, 2016
Karen Kerbis works prosecuting bad guys in the gang unit at the Criminal Courts building at 26th and California. Away from the office, though, she’s a gringa pop star blogging about the Latin soap opera scene.
The Cook County state’s attorney just returned from Miami, where she met Telemundo soap-opera writers and actors and watched behind-the-scenes in filming “La Fan,” an upcoming American telenovela.
Actors tried to include her in a scene playing herself, “but there wasn’t enough time to work out the details,” she says. “Que Lastima! (how sad!).”
Kerbis came to the telenovela scene a few years ago when she was flipping TV channels and stopped on a Spanish soap opera (novela) on Telemundo. “It looked so much more interesting than anything else on TV,” she says.
Problem was, she couldn’t understand it, given she didn’t speak Spanish.
Undaunted, Kerbis decided to learn by watching. If relatives from Italy, Greece and Czechoslovakia could learn English watching “All My Children,” why not the other way around, she thought.
Kerbis “fell in love” with the limited-run shows with dramatic plots fueled by love triangles, seduction, betrayal and revenge.
“The insanity of a novela is beyond anything,” says Kerbis, who enjoys watching characters take crime-fighting into their own hands. “There’s a lot of craziness.”
So inspired by the soaps, Kerbis started writing her own ideas for stories. Then she began recapping (in English) the shows she watched for her blog, La Gringa Novelera on Facebook. Her Spanish has improved though she doesn’t always understand nuances of the language, which makes the blog that much more entertaining.
It even caught the attention of Telemundo writers.
José Ignacio Valenzuela (also known as “El Chascas”) sent a Facebook request, and he and Kerbis have been corresponding ever since. She interviewed him at a September speaking event in Chicago.
Kerbis has taken classes at Chicago Dramatists to beef up a script being considered by a TV producer. She writes a monthly column in Latin Connection magazine and is working on a book, too.
Telemundo has created a character based on Kerbis. Karen La Detective will appear in “La Dona,” a soap that premieres Tuesday on Telemundo. “She’s so beautiful,” says Kerbis. “She just stares at people and they start confessing.”