By Samantha Highfill
June 12, 2019 at 05:58 PM EDT
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Eva Longoria is wearing four hats. Not literally, of course. It’s early September, and as she sits on the set of her upcoming ABC show, Grand Hotel (premiering June 17), she’s filling the roles of executive producer, director, actor, and mom, oftentimes all at once. In the past hour alone, she has directed a scene, rehearsed another, made a decision regarding the blinds on a new set, and breastfed her 2-month-old son, Santiago, and is now sitting down for an interview while she eats lunch. (At least until her son wakes up from his nap and she resumes directing while holding him.)

“I prefer to do all three,” Longoria says of acting, directing, and producing. “I felt like I wasn’t reaching my full potential as a human when I was just acting, so when I was on the set of Desperate Housewives, I used that time of my life as film school. It was [eight seasons] on a set. If you don’t learn something, you’re not paying attention.”

That mentality is the foundation of Longoria’s stunningly efficient work ethic, and she credits it to the most basic fact about her: that she’s a woman. “In life, being a woman is a disadvantage,” she says between bites of a turkey wrap, pausing briefly to answer a question from her makeup artist (because don’t forget that she’s also getting in front of the camera today). “Women have to work twice as hard. That’s why women are very prepared.” And that’s why Longoria has surrounded herself with women on this set, where her director of photography and two assistant directors are female, a rarity in Hollywood. “Women operate from a different engine [than men], and it’s so fun to work with like-minded people,” she says.

When it comes to this show, representation behind the camera isn’t the only thing of which Longoria is proud. In front of the camera, Grand Hotel — a remake of the Spanish series Gran Hotel that follows the drama within the walls of a family-owned hotel in Miami — boasts a cast composed mostly of Latino actors. “Diversity is a word thrown around so much, and so many people do it to check a box,” Longoria says. “For us, casting was organically Hispanic, because [the show is based] in Miami. We’re not just checking a box. We are being authentic to the world.”

It’s a fight that’s very personal for Longoria, 44, a Texas native who struggled to land roles when she came to Hollywood in 1998. “I wasn’t ‘Latin enough.’ And then I would go out for the Jane Smith roles, and I was ‘too Latin,’” she says. “Not everybody has an accent, not every story has to be a drug cartel, not everything has to be so boxed into our preconceptions of what Latino is. I operate from my perspective, and my perspective is that I am as American as apple pie, but I love mariachi music. You can be both. You can be layered and multifaceted, and those are the characters I want to show, particularly with women.”

Longoria fights for equality off screen, too, as a cofounder of the Time’s Up movement, which aims to create safe and fair work environments for women. The organization marked its first anniversary Jan. 1, and Longoria takes pride in a number of milestones, from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund (which provides women who experience sexual misconduct in the workplace with legal and public relations assistance) to Rotten Tomatoes incorporating more female critics. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. “We’re facing the right direction,” Longoria says. “I don’t know if we’ve taken a step yet.”

But on the set of Grand Hotel, where she and costar Roselyn Sanchez are rehearsing their next scene, each with a young child on her hip, Longoria has managed to create an environment that feels like a step in the right direction.

Grand Hotel premieres Monday, June 17, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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