By Stone Phillips Anchor
Dateline NBC
updated 10/23/2005 7:59:54 PM ET 2005-10-23T23:59:54

Eva Longoria may play a “Desperate Housewife,” but cooking enchiladas in her real-life kitchen, this Mexican-American from deep in the heart of Texas is down home, hands on, and hard to keep up with.

These days, there’s not much time for home. When the 30-year-old actress isn’t heating up the small screen, gracing magazine covers, or posing as the new face of a major cosmetic company, she’s showing up at award shows likeMTV’s last August— in a get-up skimpy even by Gabrielle’s standards.

Eva is everywhere. We caught up with her at her home in the Hollywood Hills, a world away from Wisteria lane. 

If “Desperate Housewives” has become America’s primetime guilty pleasure, it’s because of scenes of Longoria’s character, gold-digger Gabrielle Solis, digging her teenaged gardener when her husband’s not around. Though she’s the only “Desperate Housewife” without an Emmy or Golden Globe nomination to her credit, Longoria loves the role, and admits, in her refreshingly candid way, that in some ways she relates.

Eva Longoria: The things we have in common are our ambition and our drive, and we want what we want when we want it. And I think I’ve been like that in my life. We’re very un-similiar in the family ties. She hates children and I want ten. She, you know, married for money—I would never marry for money. She’s materialistic. I’m not.

Stone Phillips, anchor: So how do you feel about the racy scenes? Is it easy for you to do those?

Longoria: No! It’s not easy. It’s highly technical first of all. It’s definitely “Put your arm here, put your head up, tilt it more this way, and if you could kiss her on the right side.” It’s really hard for me and I’ll tell you why: I think kissing is way more intimate than sex. I think kissing someone that you care about is a way more personal gesture. So for me to kiss somebody I’m not in love with is hard.

Phillips: Well, you’re a pretty good actress then, cause you look like you’re enjoying it. 

Longoria:  Ah… although I haven’t been nominated for anything?

Phillips:  Yeah, what’s with that?  You’re the only one who hasn’t been nominated.

Longoria:  I’d like to think that I’m too young. Oh, who knows?

Phillips:  Does it bother you?

Longoria: No, it doesn’t.  I don’t expect it.  When you don’t expect it you can’t be let down.

As unlikely as it seems looking at her today, Longoria says she has always felt like an underdog, dating back to her childhood days in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she grew up the youngest of four sisters in a close-knit Latino family.

Longoria: I grew up as the ugly duckling. They used to call me “La Prieta Faya” which means "the ugly dark one."

Phillips: This is hard to believe.

Longoria: People would literally walk up to my mom when we were little and they would go— “Oh my god, your daughters are so beautiful— and who’s this?” was skin and bones.  I was clumsy.  I was dark.  I was ugly.  So I think growing up, I didn’t depend on looks or the superficiality of being pretty because I wasn’t. I always knew that I’m gonna work have to work hard. Nothing’s gonna be given to me. And I think that comes from my mom and dad.

Her mother, a special education teacher, and her father, a tool engineer at an army depot— took their daughters out on the range at the end of each school week for lessons on how to live off the land.  

Phillips: So you were a country girl on the weekend?

Longoria: Oh my god, through and through, hunting with my dad since I six. I still go with him to this day. 

Phillips: Can you handle a gun?

Longoria: Yeah, I can handle a gun. Hello? Yes. I could skin a deer, I could skin a pig. I can pluck a quail—you name it, I’ve done it.

Phillips: A pioneer woman.

Longoria: A pioneer woman.

And her cooking? Family recipes as well. But there was something else about her family that Longoria says shaped the person she is today— a commitment to care-giving.

Longoria: My older sister Lisa is mentally retarded, intellectually disabled. And so, everything we did, every summer vacation, every trip we took, every holiday— everything was centered around Lisa.  “Can Lisa go?  Is Lisa going to be okay?  Is Lisa going to have fun?” 

Phillips: How do you think that influenced you?

Longoria: I think it definitely molds you into being aware that you have all these opportunities that she doesn’t have and she’ll never have— so you better make the most out of it.

Phillips: Sounds like she’s taught you some things.

Longoria: Oh, she’s taught us all a lot of things. She’s an incredible spirit, an incredible light in our family.

Her sister is not only a source of inspiration, but also of some endearing childhood memories.

Longoria: When we were little, my dad wouldn’t let us eat fast food. And sometimes on a Friday at the end of the month, my mom would get paid. She’d buy us a Domino pizza—

Phillips: Against his wishes?

Longoria: Against his wishes, but we wouldn’t tell him. And so we’d throw away the pizza box in my neighbor’s trash can and every time my dad would come home, Lisa would go “Dad- we had pizza!” I went, “Shhh... we’re not supposed to tell him.”

The spirit of care giving carried over to Longoria’s first career thoughts. In college, she studied to be a sports trainer— caring for athletes. But wrapping ankles would have to wait. After graduating in 1997, she won a local beauty contest and a trip to L.A. to pursue modeling and acting. She decided to give it a shot. And since soap operas had always been a family favorite, that’s where she set her sights.

Longoria: I took soap technique classes, I took soap opera acting classes, I took soap opera makeup classes— I took anything that has to do with a soap. Believe me I could do a movie with Al Pacino and it still won’t be as great to my family as when I had one line on “General Hospital.”

It took her three years to land a regular role, on the “Young and the Restless.” About two years later, she jumped to primetime in “L.A. Dragnet.” When that show was cancelled, she auditioned for producer Marc Cherry, who was casting a satire about the secret lives of suburban housewives.

Longoria: It was my fifth audition of the day. And I was like, “Wait, I didn’t read it.” And they said “Just read the sides of Gabrielle and I read it.”

Phillips: So you hadn’t prepared?

Longoria: No. I didn’t read the script. I didn’t read it. Marc Cherry asks, “So what did you think of the script?” like the whole thing. And I said, “Well I didn’t read the script. I only read my part.” And Marc Cherry goes, “I knew you were Gabrielle at that moment because it was such a Gabrielle thing to say.”

“Desperate Housewives” would wind up making everyone happy: ABC had a breakout hit and Longoria had a role that would rocket her to stardom.  A year later, she’s still getting used to her celebrity status.

Longoria: I went to a photo shoot the other day. There’s all this paparazzi outside and we pull up and I go, “Who’s here?” And they go, “You.”

I go, “No.” I thought there was a big celebrity here. Why are they all scamping about?

Phillips: So it hasn’t sunk in.

Longoria: I do that all the time.

Longoria may forget she’s famous, but she has found that when she talks these days, people listen. 

Dateline  /  NBC
Stone Phillips is at home with Eva Longoria, who demonstrates how she's making her favorite enchiladas.

Phillips: You have made some surprisingly candid remarks lately—

Longoria: Oh God.

Phillips: About sex.

Longoria: Have I?  Huh-uh.

Phillips: To the point where ABC wanted you to ease back on that a little bit.

Longoria: Oh, they were harmless about it. They were just like, “Could you stop saying ‘vibrator’?”

Her remarks came from an interview with Self magazine, which features articles on women’s health and sexuality.

Longoria: I think it’s very important for women to be comfortable about their sexuality and to not think everything’s a taboo. And so I made a comment in there about vibrators and the tabloids took it apart and just ran with it.  But I didn’t mean it in a vulgar way. I meant it in a healthy way.

Phillips:  A helpful, healthy way...

Longoria:  Helpful, healthy way for women.

Phillips: Has sex always been something that you have talked about?

Longoria: No.

Phillips: Freely, openly? 

Longoria: I guess maybe it’s been comfortable with me and my friends, or me and my sisters.  But I forget who I am sometimes, and that I’m on this big show, and I have to, unfortunately as much as I hate to censor myself, I should.

Phillips:  But you believe what you’re saying?

Longoria:  I do believe what I’m saying but it doesn’t mean everybody’s going to agree with it and it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get stuff for it.

Where Longoria would like attention to be focused is on causes close to her heart— like her role as national spokesperson for Padres, an organization helping Latino children with cancer and their families.  

She says it helps her keep life in Hollywood in perspective.

Longoria: So what if I don’t get this part? There are people dying with cancer? So what if I’m not wearing Oscar de la Renta or Carolina Herrera to the Emmys? So what if I didn’t get nominated for the Emmys? I have to go and do this— it's way more important.

Also important to Longoria? Reversing the stereotypes that have been so pervasive in Hollywood. She says the portrayal of Wisteria lane’s Hispanic couple is a step in the right direction.

Longoria: Let me tell you what the Latinos are most proud of when the role of the Solises came out was that we were the most affluent on the block. We were the richest people on the block and that we had a white gardener (laughs).

Phillips: Turning the tables.

Longoria: Turning the tables.

It’s why she’s careful about the parts she chooses. Like her first motion picture role, as a lawyer, in “Harsh Times,” and as a Secret Service agent in “The Sentinel,” due out next year.

With a new movie career and a hit TV show, it’s remarkable how un-Hollywood Longoria remains.  As thrilled as she’d be to have a star on the Walk of Fame, she still prefers a quieter life in the Lone Star state, where she goes every chance she gets— mostly to San Antonio, where her family now lives.  

Longoria: I’m just a Texan true and true. I want to move back to Texas as soon as I’m done with the show, whenever that is. You know, I’m never followed by paparazzi in San Antonio. I’m never bothered with people in the trees trying to get a picture of me in my kitchen in San Antonio.

Phillips: So you can be at peace in Texas?

Longoria: Absolutely. I go to the supermarket and I go shopping with my mom. I go to Wal-mart.

Earlier this year in San Antonio, she found something she wasn’t really shopping for— a soulmate.  

Longoria: He could be the mailman. He could be the banker. Anything.

Phillips: Or the point guard.

Longoria: Or the point guard. (Laughs)

The point guard who’s become her partner is San Antonio spur Tony Parker. They’ve been dating for 8 months. At 23, the Belgian-born French-speaking NBA star is seven years younger than Longoria, but she says it was “vive la difference” from the moment they met in the Spurs locker room.

Phillips: Was there instant attraction?

Longoria: Yes. He took my breath away. And I was just like... I had just come back from France so I spoke a little bit of French and I was like “Bon jour, Je m’appelle Eva” and he was like— “Blah bla bla [French imitation]” — and I was like- “Oh no, no. That’s all I know — ‘Hi my name is Eva’ that’s all I know.”

As for their future, Longoria’s determined to avoid past mistakes.  Three years ago she eloped to Las Vegas, only to see that marriage fail. These days, her recipe for romance still calls for lots of heat, but just a little more time.

Phillips: How’s Tony at enchilada frying?

Longoria: Tony doesn’t help out, he’s not allowed in the kitchen.

Still, we couldn’t help wondering if those homemade enchiladas aren’t the only things she’s got cooking.

Phillips: Do you want to get married?

Longoria: Absolutely. I do very much.

Phillips: He’s the guy.

Longoria: Oh with him?

Phillips: Oh.

Longoria: I’m just kidding. Thought you just meant in general. I would love to see what happens with Tony. I would love to be that person in the proper way. You know?  I want the engagement and the wedding and the kids and the family— I’m desperate to be a housewife.

One day, you may be able to try Eva's enchiladas.  In addition to everything else she's got going, Longoria says she's exploring the idea of opening her own Mexican restaurant.

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