“I’m producing with purpose”
Eva Longoria is living testimony to female empowerment. The former Desperate Housewives star is currently enjoying the best years of her life thanks to her energetic personality and indomitable spirit. And at age 44, she’s also found the true love of her life in her husband, José “Pepe” Bastón, the 51-year-old Mexican medial mogul and owner of Latin America’s largest TV empire, Televisa. Married for the past three years, they are also proud parents of a baby boy, Santiago Enrique, who turned one in June.
Interestingly, giving birth and raising a toddler did nothing to slow down Longoria’s Hollywood career. Her new ABC TV series, Grand Hotel, adapted from an original Spanish series, sees her wear multiple hats as producer, director, and actor. She even admits to having directed episodes of the series “while I was breastfeeding – it was crazy” and that it has been one of the best experiences of her career. Longoria also experienced the satisfaction of having creative control over the project
“Even though Desperate Housewives was a very successful and important chapter in my life, I don’t think I reached my full potential while working on the show,” Longoria says. “I was always looking to do more and this series has allowed me to invest myself more fully than anything I’ve done before…Women are natural producers. Our lives are all about multitasking, dealing with garish kids and taking care of others. We do everything.”
Grand Hotel also fulfils another of Eva’s dreams – it is one of the rare series which features a predominantly Latino cast. In addition, Longoria, a founder of the Time’sUp movement, made a point of hiring women and people of colour to occupy key crew positions.
“I’m producing with purpose,” Longoria explains. “Why am I doing this show? why this show, why this cast? For me, this show was about doing an upstairs/ downstairs show on television where the upstairs [people] were Latino. And that’s something you don’t really get to see – affluent, intelligent, successful Latinos.”
In addition to Grand Hotel, Longoria will be co-starring opposite Michael Peña, Benicio Del Toro and Isabella Moner in the family adventure film, Dora And The Lost City Of Gold, set for worldwide release in August. Longoria will also be back in action making her feature film directorial debut in 24-7, a female-driven comedy set in the financial world that sees her co-star with Kerry Washington as a pair of accountants attempting to solve a fraud case and do their jobs in the process.
“I like being behind the camera, I’m my own boss and I get to do what I want.”
Eva, you’re taking another step in your career by producing and directing Grand Hotel. Was that a longstanding ambition of yours?
EVA LONGORIA: Being a producer is a job that I like a lot, it stimulates me and feels more mine, more than acting. I’ve always had a business eye, and I’ve always been interested in figuring out what everyone in the crew was doing. I’ve always asked questions on the set and I’ve tried to learn as much as I could about how the machine worked.
Do you thrive on the kind of creative control that producing and directing give you?
EL: I liked the idea of being in control of the final product. When I was just an actress I had no say on the shooting, the music, or even how I dressed or wore my hair.
I realised that I had a talent for directing… and now with Grand Hotel and a film I’m preparing called 24-7 I’m able to fulfill that ambition…I like being behind the camera, I’m my own boss and I get to do what I want. It’s always nice to tell people what to do! [Laughs]
In Grand Hotel, your character Beatriz is a major plot point in the series even though she appears only in flashbacks?
EL: We learn at the very beginning that my character is dead and that’s why we only see her in the flashbacks. But that’s part of the big mystery at the heart of the series and during the course of the show audiences will get to see how everything unfolds and understand all the intrigues surrounding the characters.
Brian Tanen helped create Grand Hotel. What made you want to work with him?
EL: Brian had worked on Desperate Housewives and I loved his writing style and his way of injecting humour into a story. We both wanted to make something very contemporary and deal with issues about family, work, love, career, and children.
I also wanted to do a show with a mainly Latino cast and reflect that part of my heritage. And setting the series in Miami obviously made sense for the cast to be predominantly Latino and give it that kind of authenticity.
“I want to work even harder to bring about a lot of changes in society and make our world a better place that my son will inherit.”
Why did you choose South Beach as the setting for Grand Hotel?
EL: We thought that making South Beach the setting would add a lot of glamour and sexiness. We first shot at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami and then re-created the set in Los Angeles. Brian grew up in Miami, so he knew exactly how to tailor the story to the city and the kind of atmosphere you find in South Beach.
We’re also going to be seeing you star this August in Dora and The Lost City. You play Elena, Dora’s mother. Were you already familiar with the Dora story before you signed on to the film?
EL: Yes, I grew up with Dora. She’s an icon for us Latinos although I didn’t know that she was so popular not just in North America but in Europe. All my friends in London and Italy called me to tell me how excited they were when they learned that I was playing Dora’s mother.
Playing her was an honour and the film is so beautiful. It’s an adventure that involves the whole family and I look at it as a teen version of Tomb Raider. The public will love this movie and have a great time.
Did this role resonate with you even more deeply now that you’ve become a mother yourself?
EL: It was the first mom role that I played after having my son and becoming a mother has made me realise that I’ve totally changed my instincts and the way I approach my job as an actress, and how I play my role as a mom in a movie. During the filming, I found myself asking myself things like: “Wait, I could never let Dora do this or that!” Then I had to calm down and appreciate the fact that this was Dora we were talking about and that she can do anything! (Laughs)
As a founder of the Time’sUp movement, how do you feel that the situation of women in the film and TV industry has changed as compared to your days working on Desperate Housewives?
EL: I believe we’re heading in the right direction even though there are still many steps forward we need to take as women are still underrepresented not only within the film industry but in all other sectors of society. There are still too few female directors if we look at the numbers.
But with TimesUp things are changing. I’ve already seen positive changes happening during this year’s pilot season where many new TV projects are directed and run by women.
What kind of impression has your time on Desperate Housewives left with you?
EL: Desperate Housewives took 10 years of my life. I did it for a long time and it was fun to play Gabrielle Solis who I should mention was the opposite of who I am – she was very different from me as a person.
But that series showed that a series starring four female protagonists can be massively successful all around the world. It was rare at that time that a series like that could travel outside of the United States…But now we’re seeing many more series, especially with Netflix and streaming becoming so important, able to reach audiences almost anywhere.
You first feature film as a director is 24-7. What can you tell us about that project?
EL: It’s a comedy set in the workplace that centres around women. Kerry Washington is going to star alongside me. We wanted to explore the work situation of women in the wake of Time’sUp because a lot of things still haven’t changed in the workplace. That’s why it’s a comedy.
Has becoming a mother been a profound change in your life?
EL: Yes. Everything changes – your attitude, your goals, and all in a beautiful way. Now I want to work even harder to bring about a lot of changes in society and make our world a better place that my son will inherit. You want to do everything in your power to ensure that your child will grow up to be happy and healthy.