When it comes to their Flamin’ Hot Cheetos credibility, Eva Longoria and Jesse Garcia couldn’t be more different.
“I grew up with them [so much] that the first time I had a regular Cheeto, I thought something was wrong with the bag,” says Longoria, the actress-filmmaker-snack-connoisseur who runs Flaming hot – the inspiring new drama about the creator of the popular puffed candy.
As for Garcia: “Jesse had never had a Flamin’ Hot until the time of the movie [where he first tests it]reveals Longoria. Garcia’s inexperience with the snack is all the more amazing considering he plays Richard Montañez, the real-life Frito-Lay janitor who is credited with inventing the street corn-inspired twist and introducing the idea to corporate bosses to spice up their fries as a way to appeal to the country’s growing Latino population.
When it was announced in 2019 that Longoria would lead Flaming hot — inspired by Montañez’s 2013 book A boy, a burrito and a cookie and adapted for the screen by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez — social media was (surprise, surprise) skeptical. “There’s no way it’s real” and “please say ‘psych’” were among typical examples comments.
But skeptics didn’t know the story of the underdog at the heart of the film.
“We’re not making a movie about the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto story,” Longoria says now. “We’re making a film about this man’s incredible life and how he overcame all that adversity and not only survived it but thrived in spite of it. And it’s interesting to watch and that’s why the film resonates with so many people.Flaming hot debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in March and won the Audience Award.)
Longoria, best known for the long-running ABC drama Desperate Housewives, did not know Montañez when the project first came to him. “I was really ashamed that I didn’t know the story before reading the script,” she says. “I was like, ‘How can I not know that? He’s Mexican-American like me. I love Flamin’ Hot.’ So it was like the flavor you knew, but the story you didn’t know, and so I was immediately inspired and thought, ‘Everyone should know this story. There’s so many lessons we can learn from his life.
Annie Gonzalez, the gentified The actress who plays Richard’s wife, Judy Montañez, had heard rumors about the story growing up in East LA with a relative who worked at PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay. “But I didn’t know the whole story until I read the script,” she says. “I was like, ‘Yo, this is wild. I wanna do this!’”
Same for Garcia (QuinceaneraNarcos: Mexico)“I knew bits and pieces of it. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna make a dope movie or TV show. And whoever gets it will be a mega-star.
While Montañez has long touted his role in creating the snack and dubbed the origin story with his 2021 memoir, Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man‘s Moving from janitor to senior manageran investigation by the Los Angeles Times that same year cast doubt on his claims, citing interviews with Frito-Lay employees and a company statement calling his story an “urban legend”. Still, Montañez was embraced by Frito-Lay, rising through the corporate ranks to become chief marketing officer.
While throwing his spicy twist on their product to Frito-Lay costumes in the film, Montañez speaks passionately about how the Mexican and Latino population is underserved in the United States. These calls certainly resonate with Longoria. In recent weeks, she’s spoken candidly about the rarity of Latino filmmakers directing major Hollywood films while noting that the movies’ audiences are 28% Latino – but still largely ignored by mainstream releases.
“Now we have done our part,” she tells us. “We showed up, we wrote the script, we shot the movie, we edited it. Now it’s about marketing it and making sure the Hollywood machine is behind this movie like it is behind any other film.
“And making sure our community is also doing their part and showing up. Because our community is saying very loudly that they want more representation. And so hopefully the volume translates to an appearance because if they show up, then the studios go, ‘Oh, okay. It’s a great audience that we can create for and that we can create for. … And so for this film, it’s about us and for us and by us. And hopefully our own community will come forward and say, “Yeah, we want to see more.”
Flaming hot premieres June 9 on Hulu.
Watch the trailer: