Mexican-American actress Eva Longoria is one of the most visible Latinas in entertainment, but filmmakers on her latest project needed convincing she could play an inner-city Latina.
Speaking Sunday at the Produced By Conference, Longoria fielded an audience question about juggling her identity as both a Mexican and American female. She touched on her casting in Universal’s upcoming “Low Riders,” a family drama set in the world of hydraulic cars that starts production on Tuesday.
“I kind of had to fight for the part because it’s this girl from East L.A.,” Longoria said of her character in the film. “I really had to be talking to Universal.”
Longoria said she appealed to producers by explaining that hydraulic vehicles were a part of her upbringing in Corpus Christi, Texas, as the modern low rider is said to have originated in El Paso.
The filmmakers also needed some convincing that the actress, a L’Oreal spokesperson, could shed her glamorous image. “This doesn’t look like East L.A., I get that,” Longoria said, gesturing to her outfit, “but I get really upset when producers don’t have imaginations. Like, ‘Oh, she can’t play it.'”
Longoria pointed to the gritty, Oscar-winning transformations of Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball” and Charlize Theron for “Monster” to illustrate her point. “Hair and makeup, we can do it!” she said, sitting beside conversation moderator and her “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry.
“Everyone has their cross to bear. Whether you’re gay, whether you’re a minority or a woman,” she said. “You have to do what you want to do, regardless of the oppressions we put on ourselves or that society puts on us.”
Longoria also shared anecdotes from her early acting days, about how some casting agents requested that she speak in Spanish or with an accent.
“I grew up in Texas, I’m Mexican-American and I’m close to my Mexican roots but I didn’t speak Spanish and I don’t have an accent,” she said. On one audition, she recalled that she was asked to “sound like Rosie Perez. And that’s not even Spanish, that’s from The Bronx!”
“Low Riders,” directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, will co-star Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir, “Supergirl” star Melissa Benoist, “Sons of Anarchy”‘s Theo Rossi and Nicola Peltz.
The Longoria-produced “Devious Maids” sees its third season premiere Monday on Lifetime. She’ll also produce and star in the NBC midseason comedy “Hot and Bothered,” a behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew of a telenovela.