By PETERSON GONZAGA
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Eva Longoria and Mel Rodriguez have known each other for more than 20 years, so when it came time to co-star as a longtime married couple in the remake of “Overboard,” it was easy for them to connect. It’s come full circle for both actors as Longoria, best known for her role on TV’s “Desperate Housewives,” recalls that their longstanding friendship helped them mold their characters as that fun-loving couple who will do anything for the children and friends.
In the Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg-directed comedy, “Overboard” Longoria plays Theresa, the best friend of Kate (Anna Faris), a hardworking, underappreciated cleaning lady who works aboard the yacht of a spoiled, arrogant bachelor named Leonardo (Mexican comedian/actor Eugenio Derbez). Theresa helps Kate concoct a plan to escape her financial woes as well as exact revenge against Leonardo’s bad behavior (Eugenio Derbez). She also drags her husband Bobby (Rodriguez) into the scheme after Leonardo has an accident that leaves him with temporary amnesia.
Longoria recently finished three projects while Rodriguez is a regular on the TV series “The Last Man on Earth.” At a press day to promote the comedy remake, the very pregnant and gorgeous Longoria together with Rodriguez spoke about their challenges as Latinos in Hollywood and the diversity in of the Latino culture that was included in “Overboard.”
Q: Mel, how did you and Eva meet?
Rodriguez: She was on the first film we ever did together. It was called “Deuces Wild.”
Longoria: I was an extra. He had lines.
Rodriguez: I had a couple of lines. I was very proud of those two lines. I just remember Eva being this like go-getter. She was working 10 hours a day and then coming to set and working for another 12 hours. She was always just this person who was very focused and incredibly driven. There are the partier types, and all that sort of thing. She was always like, “If there’s a purpose at the party, I’ll be there. If not, I’m not there. I don’t need to be there.”
We lost contact for a year, but we had some friends in common. I remember, I was doing a pilot with Ed O’Neill, and (Longoria and he) had just done “Dragnet.” I said, “So how’s Eva? You guys just worked together.” And he said, “Oh, she’s great. She’s lovely.” You know how he’s totally Chicago. And, “She’s lovely. I love her. She’s doing this show called ‘Housewives with Trouble,’ or something like it. I don’t know.’” (He laughs.) “Seriously Troubled Housewives.” And he was like, “She says she really, really likes the script, but who knows. You never know with these things.” And, you know, the rest is history. Isn’t that nuts?
Q: So how do you go from a 20-year friendship to doing these roles together?
Longoria: It was great because that’s our relationship—between Theresa (Eva’s character) and Bobby. Is that your (character’s) name, Bobby?
Rodriguez: Yeah, we did this a year ago. Bear with us.
Longoria: They’re best friends and they’ve been together forever. They’re high school sweethearts. They have this rapport with each other that was so fun to play. We actually wanted our own movie. We wanted to expand that relationship. We added a lot that they actually kept in because we just had such a good rapport and balance.
Rodriguez: Thanks to you too because you kept telling Rob (Greenberg, director) and Bob (Fisher, director), “I really want them to love each other.” They’ve been high school sweethearts, soulmates, and they’re really in love with one another, and they work hard together.
Q: What do you feel has been the biggest challenges in being pioneers in the transition of Latinos into Hollywood?
Longoria: Underrepresentation is a big problem. That stems from not having enough Latinos behind the camera—directors, producers (and) writers. We can’t just sit and wait. We got lucky because there are these roles that were written perfectly for us. Other than that, you can’t just wait for the role to be written. I know, for me, that’s why I went behind the camera. I want to create those stories and create those opportunities, not just for me, for everybody else. When I created (the NBC TV series) “Telenovela,” we had an all-Latino cast (and) I was so proud. With “Devious Maids,” I was so proud. I was just like, “Oh my God! This is a beautiful billboard.” To me, it was a beautiful visual representation of what the world we live in looks like.
Rodriguez: Yeah, that’s why I am so proud of you, honestly. Seeing you do all that stuff, taking the torch, and doing that. Over the years, seeing Eva do that and get behind projects and produce (them), it’s been very inspiring.
Longoria: We still have a long way to go.
Rodriguez: There’s a lot of acceptance within society, for the most part. In the industry, there needs to be a little more acceptance of that, maybe.
Q: What about the news media?
Longoria: If all your seeing in the news media is one side of our community, then that ends up defining who we are as Latinos in America. That’s why television, film and storytelling is so important because you have to create the content that reflects the good guys—the doctors, lawyers, policemen and teachers. Those shows need to be shown because we are trying to combat a message in the news media that only shows the bad side sometimes.
Rodriguez: And represent what you see when you go outside your door into the world right now, what the reality is. The fact is there are Hispanic doctors and lawyers.
Longoria: And astronauts.
Rodriguez: We all live next to each other. We’re a melting pot.
Q: There is a real cross-section of Latinos in “Overboard.” You have Mexicans, but you also have Cubans.
Longoria: That’s great about the movie. You don’t have to explain it to anybody. Because our community is diverse. It’s diverse within diversity. Mel is Cuban-American. I’m Mexican-American. Eugenio (Derbez) is Mexican. It was like all these mixes. All of us being tied together through culture, but yet really different in nationality.
Q: This film shows your Latino-ness. Was it exciting for you to show that? And did you guys also do improvisation?
Longoria: Oh yeah, he did a lot of that. He did a lot of Spanglish. But this is not a “Latino movie.” This is a universal movie. It’s a general market movie that has universal themes. Everybody’s going to relate to it. Everybody’s going to understand it. Everybody’s going to identify with it. Taking on a remake of one of the most iconic films of the ‘80s seemed daunting. But once we read the script and we heard the gender switch, and then we saw the cultural infusion, it was so different. It stood on its own, while at the same time paying homage to the original. We just knew it was going to be a home run.
The gender switch really makes sense because as you look at Anna’s (Faris, who plays Kate), she’s a single mom with three kids and five jobs. That’s America right now. And the world really identifies with it. That’s my neighbor. That’s me. That’s my mom. That’s my best friend—this woman struggling to make ends meet. You root for her. The gender switch, where she plays the trick on Eugenio’s character or does the big lie, you really forgive it because you want her to win in the end.
Rodriguez: Succeed, yeah. We’re a (Hispanic) couple who also are small business owners who are really trying to make the best of the American dream.
Longoria: Rob and Bob, the directors, wanted to show that as well. They wanted us to be middle class, established. The people who worked for Mel were a different class. He wanted to show all these different flavors within this community.
Q: Your character is kind of similar to the role you played in “Desperate Housewives.” You are a schemer and a married woman.
Rodriguez: I think she has nothing to do with Gaby, with all due respect. Gaby was very selfish and rich. Theresa is not. Theresa is very giving and a blue-collar maternal person.
Q: But towards the end of the TV series, Gaby kind of grew.
Longoria: Yeah, that was her arc, but that wasn’t who she was. That’s where she ended up. I think Theresa would hate a person like Gaby. Gaby would be more like Eugenio’s character. She’s the antithesis of what she considers a good human being.
Q: What’s next for you?
Longoria: I’m producing a pilot right now in Miami called “Grand Hotel.” It’ has another great Latino cast with Demian Bichir and Roselyn Sanchez. We’re shooting that now. I just flew back (to do publicity for “Overboard”). I have to go back to the set tomorrow. That’s been all encompassing. I can’t even think. People kept going, “Oh, the baby.” I’m like “What?” (She laughs.)
Q: Isn’t that really your next production?
Longoria: “Grand Hotel” is my first baby that I’m giving birth to this week and then my “baby baby” in June.
Q: Are you nervous?
Longoria: I’m excited, very excited.
Q: Do you know what it is?
Longoria: It’s a boy.
Q: Have you and your husband (businessman Jose Antonio Baston) decided on a name?
Longoria: No, no name yet.
Q: Your mother must be freaking out.
Longoria: She already has grandkids. I’m her last one, so she’s like, “Yeah, yeah.”