"I hit the lottery with Housewives," Longoria says in the current issue of PEOPLE

Credit: Cliff Watts

After eight seasons on Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria needed to take a break.

Not to say she looks back on her years on the ABC hit with any negativity. In fact, she still has a picture of her with costars Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Nicollette Sheridan in her living room.

“I hit the lottery with Housewives,” the actress, 40, says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “But when it was over, I made a conscious decision to not jump to another show right away. I wanted to cleanse America’s palate of Gabrielle Solis.”

Longoria dove into producing and directing projects like Lifetime’s Devious Maids.

For more on Longoria’s new chapter – including her recent engagement to Latin media mogul José “Pepe” Bastén – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE

Even when developing her new NBC comedy Telenovela, Longoria originally was only going to serve as producer.

“But when I read the script, I knew I had to do it,” the former real-life soap actress says of playing over-the-top Spanish soap star Ana Sofia Calderon, a performance that is drawing comparisons to the likes of Lucille Ball. “It was so fresh and fun. It was the comedy I’d always wanted to do. It’s my love letter to telenovelas.”

Telenovela premieres Jan. 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.