Dave Karger
January 26, 2012 AT 06:05 PM EST

Two months before separating last July, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced they’d be appearing in Q’Viva, a genre-defying reality show in which the pair (along with live-show director Jamie King) travel to more than a dozen Latin countries to discover the best singers, dancers, and musicians. Fifty-two acts are then brought to Los Angeles to audition for a chance to perform in an upcoming Las Vegas show. I visited the downtown Los Angeles set during the audition rounds earlier this month and talked to Lopez, Anthony, and King about what makes Q’Viva different, how American Idol prepared Lopez for this new venture, and what it’s like for Lopez and Anthony to work together as exes.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It sounds to me like one of the things that makes Q’Viva unique is that you guys don’t give screen time to untalented people like Idol and X Factor do.

MARC ANTHONY: That’s absolutely right.

JENNIFER LOPEZ: I don’t know that there is another show like this. There’s no winner. This is about creating a live visual experience about Latin culture, rhythm, dance — the likes of which have never been seen. So there is no show to compare it to. We’re casting a show, and you’re on the journey with us.

MA: It’s a callback — the only thing is that we’re rolling cameras on it. This is very, very serious business.

How has the filming gone so far?

JL: We went to these countries and we ate the food, walked the streets, and came upon people we didn’t know we were going to meet. Some people we knew we were going to meet that we saw on video. But some people ran up to the car and were like, “Can I audition?” And I was like, “Okay.” And they were amazing.

JAMIE KING: It makes it harder, because the talent is all so strong. There’s not a lot of weak people in there.

JL: The question is what’s going to work for the show, what’s going to represent Latin America in a way that we, being of Latino heritage, can be proud of. It’s a big responsibility.

Are there specific acts with whom you’ve really connected?

JL: There’s one little boy, Lucciano from Argentina, that can’t get his visa to come here. That’s part of the show too: We do find this amazing talent and sometimes we can’t get them over here to the States to give them this opportunity. But I’m still going to fight for him. We’ll see!

MA: I met this extraordinary dance troupe from Mexico City that did a little bit of everything, they were street performers, and there was one who I kept wondering, Why isn’t he performing? And they said, “He can’t because he doesn’t know who he is.” He had no identity, no name. They left him in a park when he was young. I was not ready for that. But the world needs to know about this talent.

JK: There’s also some people that we found, like this tango couple from Argentina, who are already at a high level, but it’s like, Where can they go? Can they be seen outside of Argentina? How far can we help them grow?

Jennifer, how would you say a year and a half on Idol has prepared you for this?

JL: It’s such a different experience. The traveling is nothing like Idol. And then actually putting together the live show will be a mess! But amazing at the same time. But it’s helped me in being able to spot talent really quickly.

So what’s the level of ribbing that goes on among the judges panel?

MA: You have no idea.

JL: Well, we’re friends. We know each other. I don’t know if people know that Marc and I know each other. So we have a lot of fun.

MA: I’m just getting to know her. She’s a little difficult, but she’s actually not as bad as I thought she’d be. I was really nervous coming into today, because I had heard nightmare!

JL: He, on the other hand? Everything is true. All a nightmare.

Q’Viva premieres this Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7pm on Univision (it will also air on a yet-to-be-announced U.S. network starting in March). In the meantime, check out this exclusive preview:

Dave on Twitter: @davekarger

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