EXCLUSIVE: Eva Longoria on Championing Fellow Actresses: 'Their Success Is My Success'

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The actress also talks to ET about channeling her inner strength to play a feminist and her forthcoming HBO project.

Eva Longoria is a woman of many hats.

Not just because she dons an assortment of them as Margot
Beste-Chetwynde, a feminist and bourgeois widow, in the 1930s-set miniseries Decline and Fall, premiering in the U.S. Monday, May 15 on Acorn TV. But Longoria,
who funded her quinceañera working at a Wendy's in her hometown of Corpus
Christi, Texas, at 15 years old, is a bona fide go-getter.

That same moxie eventually landed the 42-year-old stalwart her
breakout role as the amusingly self-obsessed, gardener-bedding Gabrielle Solis
on ABC's juicy dramedy Desperate
. Later, she worked behind the camera, producing and directing
episodes of Lifetime's Devious Maids and
NBC's short-lived romp Telenovela,
which also cast her as a lurid soap star.

MORE: Eva Longoria Discovers Her Roots During Visit to Ancestors' Spanish Town

In addition to a recent Empire
, Longoria de-glams for the gritty drama Lowriders, released this past weekend, and stars in Jamie Foxx's
summer-bound directorial debut All-Star
. Longoria is also a brand ambassador for L'Oréal, a clothing
designer and dream maker. The Eva Longoria Foundation, yet another feather in
her cap, helps fellow Latinas build better futures.

Longoria's affable charm and feminist principles were on
full display during a wide-ranging interview with ET, when she talked about her
many projects, maintaining her Wendy's-born strong-mindedness and why, should showrunners revive Desperate Housewives, she'd be "the first one to sign

ET: What do you think
Margot stands for as a woman?

Eva Longoria: I
mean, I think Margot… I think she's a man! [Laughs]
She was very wealthy, she was very powerful and she slept with a lot of men. And she dated who she
wanted and when she wanted and how
she wanted. She was just a worldly woman, and that was rare for a woman in that
time period. So, it really drew me to the role. Then, I just thought the themes
the author dealt with [English writer Evelyn Waugh's book was published in
1928] are so contemporary. It deals with racism and classism and sexism. It's
amazing how relevant this piece is even though it's a period piece.

What parts of Margot
do you relate to most?

Her strength. I think I'm a pretty strong, independent woman
and I got to draw upon that for her. It was so fun to play that independence
and intelligence in a period piece, because it was a time when women didn't
have a voice, so I was able to bring my voice to Margot and that move threw all
the other characters off. They were like, "Who is this woman?"
Everybody was so puzzled by her. But I think she's oblivious to the challenges
in this show – that's why she can say or do whatever she wants. People are
afraid to challenge her, and so she kind of rolls over people and just kind of
gets her way with everything.

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Is that how you got
to where you are in your career -- just rolling over everybody?

[Laughs] No! I
think definitely being driven and intelligent and strong and strong-minded works in your favor.

Yeah, from flipping
burgers at Wendy's to your own BBC production, you've certainly come a long
way, Eva.

But the woman who flipped those burgers, who went into
Wendy's and got that job by herself, had the same characteristic that I have today
that makes me want to go and produce. It's either in you or it's not, and
either you cultivate it and nurture it or it goes away.

How do you cultivate

I was fortunate to be surrounded by strong, powerful,
educated women, so I didn't have to look far to see what I wanted to be. I knew
I was gonna be successful because everybody around me was successful. I didn't
know what I was gonna do, but I knew who I wanted to be. 

Who are some powerful
women you admire and who empower you?

In my life, it's my mother and my sisters. My girlfriends.
It's nobody famous. It's all these women I collect in the world to be by my
side who I admire and try to emulate. But, for me, I absolutely love seeing a
Zoe Saldana succeeding. I love seeing a Gina Rodriguez succeeding. Their
success is my success. They're opening doors. Whether it's me opening doors for
Gina or Zoe opening a door for me, we're all tied together. And I don't just
mean by ethnicity or gender -- just as human beings, we're all connected.
So, that is important to recognize. I think the people who fail in life are the
people who fail to see that. 

You get gritty in Lowriders and go glam in Decline and Fall. Do you like getting
dressed down as much as you like getting dressed up?

Oh yeah! Oh my gosh, when I read film the script for Lowriders, I was so excited to morph
into something you wouldn't recognize as Eva Longoria. And the same with Decline and Fall. People had to do a
double take -- like, is that Eva Longoria? Because it's me in a period
piece with a wig and fair skin. I like surprising people. 

Tell me the eye candy
on this new FOX pilot you're a part of, Type
, will be just as alluring.

Wellllll….. I
don't think so! I don't think anybody's gonna be having their shirt off! [Laughs] This pilot that I did for FOX is
super smart and elevated. It's with some of my comedy crushes: Ken Marino, who
I've been dying to work with; I adore Andy Richter and his comedy; Kyle
Bornheimer and I were both on Brooklyn
together, and I just remember turning to him going, "God,
you're talented." So, I'm surrounded by amazing comedic talent in this FOX
pilot. We'll see where it goes. But Telenovela
was a special idea. It was a special project because it was something I hadn't
seen before on television and that's what made me want to create it and do it. 

Considering your
sociopolitical activism -- and your new role as Margot, who's a feminist
-- do you specifically look for projects that might be influential beyond
mere entertainment?

It depends on the project. I think people are gonna walk out
of the theater of Lowriders thinking,
"Wow, I didn't know that," or "Wow, I learned something."
It really, truly is a magical film. It has an indie feel but a huge movie look.
So, I think that's the best of both worlds, when it looks like a huge movie,
but at the heart of it it's a small story that everybody can relate to. Then
there are times you do things just to entertain and just to make people laugh. 

Are you interested in
merging your activism with your acting?

Yeah! Sometimes I do. There's a project that I have with HBO
Film called A Class Apart, and it's
based on the documentary by the same name about the first Mexican-American
civil rights lawyer who argued in front of the Supreme Court in 1954 -- that is an important story to be told.
It's entertaining and amazing, but it's an important story for our community, and
so I was so happy that HBO has developed it with me. We're close to the finish
line on it. 

With news of a
possible Roseanne revival, and with Will & Grace set for a comeback in
the fall, what would it take to get you on board to return to Desperate Housewives?

Oh, nothing. It would take nothing. I would jump at the
chance to play Gaby Solis again. I miss her! I miss her skin and I miss being
in her skin. The minute Marc Cherry says, "We're going back," I would
be the first one to sign up. I love that show and I love the magic that we had.

Decline and Fall
premieres Monday, May 15 on Acorn TV.