He himself grew up in the upscale southern zone of Rio de Janeiro, where telenovelas are traditionally set, to a poet and art critic mother. At 18, he was discovered as a screenwriting talent and went on to work on films such as "Central do Brasil," about a homeless boy, before beginning to write telenovelas.
The world of television is more democratic than that of film, he says, and anyone with talent can theoretically make it. But as in much of Brazil, the top levels of this world are mostly controlled by the old elite, and it was not the middle class that wrote their own story here.
Notably, all of the main actors in the telenovela were white, in a country where more than half the population self-identifies as black or brown-skinned. But by the standards of the past, "Avenida Brasil" was nevertheless a daring program in what is still a very class-conscious country.
Even while singing the praises of the show and of the rising middle class, the press here can use language that sounds distinctly old-school, if not downright offensive.
"Loud, and with no manners, but still happy and friendly workers: those are the characters on 'Avenida Brazil', a mirror held up to millions of Brazilians that have recently risen out of poverty," wrote Exame, an influential local business magazine, while praising the show as an "audience champion and true phenomenon on the streets and social networks."
After a bit of a vacation since "Avenida Brasil" ended last year, Cordeiro is already at work developing his next telenovela, planned for 2015.
He writes alone but receives notes from three or four other writers. More than 150 people worked on "Avenida," and each episode cost about $350,000 to make.
There isn't a set idea he can talk about yet, but he's sure about some things. Someday, he wants to get back to his dream of making films, lamenting that few high-quality Brazilian movies have come out in recent years.
In recent years, the interchange between the world of Brazilian and American entertainment industries has increased, he notes, especially with the "Elite Squad" movie franchise, which won critical acclaim and some audiences here, and whose director, José Padilha, was tipped to remake "Robocop."
He rejects some predictable temptations. Enjoying a fruit dessert, he replies to one question: "If I can make something that is watched every night by 70 million people, why in the world would I want to go to Hollywood?"