THE WILDLY PROLIFIC ACTRESS, PRODUCER, TEQUILA MOGUL, AND PHILANTHROPIST RECENTLY ADDED DIRECTOR TO HER LONG LIST OF TITLES, WITH HER DEBUT FILM PROJECT, THE BIOGRAPHICAL COMEDY-DRAMA FLAMIN’ HOT, BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF HOW A FRITO-LAY JANITOR DREAMED UP THE IDEA FOR FLAMIN’ HOT CHEETOS, SET FOR A JUNE RELEASE
BY WILL HARRIS
The phrase “A lot going on at the moment” is one associated more with Taylor Swift’s Eras tour attire at the present, but when you take a look at all of the projects Eva Longoria currently has on her plate, maybe she’s the one who should be sporting a T-shirt with that slogan. Although she’s obviously best known as an actress, Longoria is kicking her directorial career up a notch this year, helming her first feature film (Flamin’ Hot), and she’s even got her own line of premium tequila (Casa Del Sol). It’s fair to say that Longoria has come a long way from working at a Wendy’s drive-thru in Corpus Christi, Texas – and, yes, that’s a true fact. She even went back to work at the location for a day in 2008 to raise money for charity. That’s just the kind of person she is, but it also speaks to what kind of work ethic she has.
“I wanted to have a Quinceañera when I was 15 and my family didn’t have the money, so I got a job at Wendy’s and paid for it myself,” Longoria told Redbook in 2016. “I couldn’t wait to get to work and make my own money. There was never any resentment, because I saw how hard my mother worked and all she did for my sister [with special needs], and I wanted to do whatever I could to help. We all did.” For all of the success she’s found in her field, Longoria didn’t start out with plans to pursue a career in acting. She graduated from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology, and it wasn’t until after her graduation that she entered a talent contest that took her to Los Angeles and ultimately led to her discovery by an agent. In no time flat, she was making her prime-time debut…as Flight Attendant #3 in a season ten episode of Beverly Hills 90210.
Thankfully, things took an upswing from there. A sizable stint on The Young and the Restless as Isabella Braña raised her profile enough to secure a new prime-time gig on the Dick Wolf-produced reboot of Dragnet. While it only lasted for a few more months after Longoria got the call, its cancellation freed her up for the series that would catapult her into superstar status: Desperate Housewives. The story has become legend amongst Housewives fans, but the part of Gabrielle Solis was originally written as a former runway supermodel…until, that is, when series creator Marc Cherry saw Longoria for the role. Indeed, she was the first person he saw for the role, and in an interview with Town & Country earlier this year, he recalled thinking that they didn’t need to audition anybody else. “I remember her as the only character on the show who seemed to be having any fun, usually with the gardener,” said Cherry. “Eva had this secret power that no matter what she does you like her. Not every actor you hand those kinds of lines to can do that. Eva could.” Desperate Housewives kept Longoria gainfully employed and in front of millions of viewers for eight seasons, during which time her profile was further boosted by other projects, including hosting Saturday Night Live (with musical guest Korn!), guest starring on George Lopez’s sitcom, and even doing an episode of the anarchic Adult Swim series Childrens Hospital.
Additionally, Longoria began landing movie roles, starring alongside Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland in The Sentinel, working with Ben Stiller in the Farrelly brothers’ 2007 remake of The Heartbreak Kid, and headlining the 2008 romantic comedy Over Her Dead Body. After the conclusion of Desperate Housewives in 2012, Longoria continued to act on TV and in films, but her career had already begun to turn in a slightly different direction a few years earlier when she made her debut as a producer on The Harvest, a documentary about agricultural child labor in America. In 2013, when she reteamed with Cherry to serve as an executive producer on the Lifetime series Devious Maids, she took another step forward, one which took her behind the camera for the first time to direct an episode. Other directorial opportunities soon followed, including episodes of Jane the Virgin, black-ish, and The Mick, among other series.
Finally, in 2020, just in time to be slowed down by the pandemic, Longoria secured her first chance to direct a feature film: Flamin’ Hot, the true story of Richard Montanez, who worked as a janitor for Frito-Lay and created – you guessed it – Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Obviously, it’s taken a while for the film to finally make it to theaters, but the important part is that it’s happening.
“I think probably the greatest challenge was making sure we stayed true to the theme of the movie, which is opportunity is not distributed equally,” Longoria told Variety in 2021. “And when that happens, you have to work twice as hard and twice as long and be twice as good. And you still have to persevere. The story is so many things. It’s rags to riches, it’s American dream 101, it’s about perseverance, it’s about the underdog. But at the end of the day, it’s also about one person’s perspective and struggle within themselves. So it’s a beautiful, beautiful biopic.”
Based on all reports, it sounds as though it was a beautiful experience to make as well. In discussing the film with People earlier this year, Longoria couldn’t even nail down a favorite moment.“I feel like I cried every day, [for] every milestone, I couldn’t have picked a better cast. It was in the middle of COVID-19, so until we rolled that first day, I couldn’t believe it. That was really a beautiful moment. Hispanic, Latina female directors, we get one bite at the apple, one chance. So that pressure, not just for me, but for my community and women in general – I knew I had to get it right.”