STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Nominations for this year's Primetime Emmys Awards close today. TV networks have been waging slick ad campaigns on behalf of their shows, actors and actresses. And this year, there is a newcomer to the Emmy campaign. The Spanish language network, Telemundo is seeking to become the first Spanish network to win a Primetime Emmy. Telemundo is promoting its hit, "The Queen of the South," in Spanish, "La Reina Del Sur."
NPR's Carrie Kahn is here to check my Spanish pronunciation.
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CARRIE KAHN: "La Reina del Sur" chronicles the life of a naive Mexican woman, who falls in love with a drug lord and stumbles into becoming one of the world's most powerful traffickers.
In the season opener, up and coming narco, Teresa Mendoza, played by Mexican- born actress Kate Del Castillo, runs from ruthless drug thugs in aqua blue stiletto heels. Through the next 62 episodes, the show is shot in four different countries with multiple casts and in high definition.
MARTHA SARABIA: The quality of the production was amazing, definitely.
KAHN: Martha Sarabia is the entertainment reporter for L.A.'s La Opinion newspaper.
SARABIA: You usually don't see that kind of quality, especially all that money that was put into making it.
KAHN: Especially on Spanish language TV's nightly lineup of Telenovelas or soap operas. Telemundo's high priced gamble paid off. "La Reina del Sur" was the biggest hit in the network's history. And the season finale, last month, even beat out English language networks in all the major markets.
Telemundo's Vice President of Entertainment, Joshua Mintz, says the ratings were phenomenal and deserving of an Emmy.
JOSHUA MINTZ: It's a series that hooked millions of people for 62 episodes, night after night after night. And I don't know any other product in general market in our, you know, in American television that have done that.
KAHN: But while "La Reina Del Sur" played well with Spanish-speaking audiences and even had some cross over appeal, the bulk of the voters in the television academy don't speak Spanish and getting them to give it a chance is a tough task.
But despite the obstacles, Senior Editor for The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Ben Block, says the Emmy campaign is money well-spent by Telemundo.
ALEX BEN BLOCK: 'Cause they want to get the word out about the amazing growth of the network and the tremendous growth of the Spanish language programming in the United States. And this is as much about marketing as about winning.
KAHN: Telemundo mailed out 5,000 DVDs with English subtitles, placed ads in trade papers, and held screenings in L.A.
KAHN: Actress and part-time nurse, Julie Lippert, liked the show, especially that the lead character was a strong woman.
JULIE LIPPERT: I actually enjoyed the fact that she didn't just lay over and die. Or just be like, oh, my gosh - I can't do anything.
KAHN: It was the action-packed suspense that won over Peter Pasco. He's also an actor and a voting member.
PETER PASCO: Like it's really - it's nice. Like it's kind of like "Weeds" meets "24."
KAHN: The show's lead actress, Kate Del Castillo, actually had a recurring role on Showtime's hit "Weeds." She played Pilar, a fiery Mexican crime figure. Del Castillo says she's not worried about getting type-cast. She says there was so much more to the lead character, Teresa, in "La Reina del Sur."
KATE DEL CASTILLO: She makes the wrong decisions. She makes mistakes. She contradicts herself. She smokes pot. She sleeps around - she sleeps with married men. She drinks Tequila...
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DEL CASTILLO: ...and peoples love her.
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KAHN: Del Castillo says she never worked so hard, or has she been so proud of her work and the show's phenomenal ratings. She says an Emmy nomination would be even more amazing.
DEL CASTILLO: I would just be more humble and thankful and grateful, for doing what I love and what is my passion, and taking it to another level.
KAHN: But she says she's practical too, and realizes the chances of her name alongside frontrunners Kyra Sedgwick, Kathy Bates and Julianna Margulies is a long shot.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News.