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Entertainment Weekly

Film Festivals

Eva Longoria on her Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie and Hollywood beginnings

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The Sundance Film Festival has been going on all weekend, and some of the top talent from this year’s exciting lineup have been visiting the NRDC Impact Lounge to take part in the EW x NRDC Sundance Film Festival Panel Series about how entertainment can effect change.

Sunday morning, multihyphenate Eva Longoria, who appears in the festival title Sylvie’s Love, stopped by the space to chat with EW Editor-in-Chief J.D. Heyman. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful period piece,” she says of the buzzy new film, which will premiere at Sundance on Monday and in which she sings for the first time. “Its really a love letter to the jazz community.”

Owen Hoffmann/Getty Images

She also teased the hotly (sorry) anticipated Flamin’ Hot, a biopic about Richard Montañez, the inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, that she’s directing. “It’s a beautiful story about the Mexican janitor who worked at the factory and invented the hot Cheeto, and saved people’s jobs, and couldn’t read or write when he started,” she said. “His whole life, he was told ‘no. That opportunity’s not for you, ideas don’t come from people like you…’ And he was like, ‘Why not?’ It’s a very beautiful story [about] the man and his journey and how he succeeded in a world that tells you no.”

Hollywood, too, has a history of telling artists from different backgrounds ‘no,’ but things are starting, however slowly, to change. “People go, ‘You’re moving forward in the right direction,’” Longoria said. “I’m like, ‘We’re facing the right direction’ — which is huge.”

As an actress, producer, and director committed to telling diverse stories, she feels a heightened pressure to succeed with each project. “Normally, women and people of color get one bite of the apple,” she told Heyman. “So if it fails, that’s it. ‘Oh, these don’t work. Latino comedies don’t work. Latino dramas don’t work.’ You get one bite of the apple — and that’s still kind of true. So there’s an immense pressure I feel about [Flamin’ Hot] because I’ve got to get it right.”

Reaching all the way back to the very beginning of Longoria’s career, she remembered an early inspiration. Having grown up in Corpus Christi, Texas, just like Selena, “I remember going to her concerts as big as this,” Longoria said, gesturing toward the crowd in the intimate space. “To see her do everything, before anybody was doing it, was great to witness so closely. And then I was an extra in the Selena movie!”

When she left Texas for L.A., she didn’t want to be a struggling actress, so she got a job as a head hunter while pursuing acting opportunities. Her first big break was The Young and the Restless, which earned her much less than her day job — so she just did both. “I was a head hunter while I was on The Young and the Restless. I was doing it out of my dressing room,” she recalled. “It wasn’t until two years into The Young and the Restless that I was actually able to live off just acting.”

Her head hunter skills served her well once she broke into Hollywood, where she now wears many hats. “The business side of it has allowed me to utilize muscles that you don’t normally use as an actor,” explained Longoria, who said that her goal is “exploring and producing with purpose,” especially on projects that “tell the breadth of what our community looks like.”

“Innovation happens when you tap into a different talent pool,” she said. More and more, “it’s nice that we have all of these different storytellers telling different stories from different perspectives — and reflecting our global community.”

For the latest from Park City, follow EW’s coverage of Sundance here.

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