Eva Longoria Previews ‘Grand Hotel’ & Remembers ‘Y&R’ Co-Star Kristoff St. John

Eva Longoria - TCA Winter Press Tour 2019
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

From Dynasty to Desperate Housewives to Revenge, ABC is known for being the home of sexy, drama-filled, sudsy primetime soaps! Joining the network’s lineup in June is Grand Hotel from executive producer Eva Longoria (Devious Maids; Telenovela), a sudsy serial that promises to be this summer’s guilty pleasure!

Part Upstairs Downstairs, part murder (missing person?) mystery, Grand Hotel is based on the 2011 Spanish series Gran Hotel. The drama tells the story of the Mendoza family, owners of the Riviera Grand, the last family-owned hotel in Miami. Promos for the show describe it as a “five-star hotel with five-star secrets!” The cast is filled (of course!) with attractive players involved in all kinds of romantic entanglements, mysteries, and scandals.

Longoria, who appears in flashback scenes as the Mendoza matriarch, chatted with TV Insider about what drew her to this project, which of her series she recently sat down to watch, and her late Young and the Restless co-star Kristoff St. John who recently passed away.

What was it about this show that you wanted to bring to television?

Eva Longoria: Oh my gosh! I was a big fan of the original show. I knew I wanted the English language rights to it. After I got the rights, Brian Tanen (executive producer/writer), who I worked with on Devious Maids; he wrote the show with (creator/executive producer) Marc Cherry. I said Brian has to reinvent this. He did it in such a beautiful way. We knew it had to be contemporary. We knew we didn’t want it to be set in the [past as the original was]. And I love shows that have Latinos depicted in different ways. This was an awesome way to combine all my passions.

You shot the pilot at the Fontainebleau in Miami.

Yes! It has an Art Deco feel. It’s one of the only ones in South Beach that has kept its original look. It was really authentic to the story that we were trying to tell. If this was a family-owned hotel it wouldn’t be like [a chain hotel]. It would have personal touches. ABC was like, ‘You’ll never get a hotel in South Beach during spring break!’ I said I want the Fontainebleau. I went and banged on the CEO’s door. I said, ‘We have to shoot here. You have to let us shoot here and [laughs] it has to be for free!’ And we got it! They [ending up letting] us use it for no charge! They were awesome. They bent over backwards for us. Then, we recreated the entire hotel on a soundstage [for episodes after the pilot].

Grand Hotel cast: Wendy Raquel Robinson as Mrs. P, Denyse Tontz as Alicia Mendoza, Chris Warren as Jason, Bryan Craig as Javi Mendoza, Anne Winters as Ingrid, Demián Bichir as Santiago Mendoza, Shalim Ortiz as Mateo, Roselyn Sánchez as Gigi Mendoza, Feliz Ramirez as Carolina, Lincoln Younes as Danny, and Justina Adorno as Yoli. (ABC/Ed Herrera)

Can you talk about going back in front of the camera for this show and playing the mom?

All of [this] was happening after I’d just given birth. I went back to direct when [my son] Santi was seven weeks old and I thought this will be easy because I’m not in front of the camera! [Laughs] Then, I thought this is worse! It was really fun to play [the family] mom. You mostly see me in flashbacks.

How did you juggle being a new mom with executive producing Grand Hotel?

It was easy because I was so embedded in the creation of the show. Brian [Tanen], the [other] producers and I have a great shorthand with each other. We all the share the same brain when it comes to set design, directing, actors, and casting… I don’t think I could have done it on another show. It had to be this one. I mostly direct and produce now. I prioritize all that in a way so that I can get everything done. I also have a great team.

Was it heard to say goodbye to Telenovela (the short-lived NBC sitcom)?

It was heartbreaking! I still love that show. I still think it’s the best show I’ve ever done. It was so funny. We were just watching it the other day, we were laughing and crying. If you think about the ratings we had [then], we’d be a hit today! We wanted it to come back in some way. It was a dream job and a dream character!

What do you like when you’re at a hotel?

Service, service, service! It is all about service for me. You need to feel like you’re being welcomed home. When I was in my 20s and would go to Las Vegas, I was like, ‘I hope there aren’t roaches in this place!’ (Laughs) Now, I’m a bit of a hotel snob!

What draws you to stories about Latinos?

Good question. There was a study out that said that Latinos are 18 percent of the population, but we’re 23 percent of ticket buyers at movies. We over-index in television, but we’re underrepresented on-screen and behind the camera, so I want to create those stories for our community because we can’t be what we can’t see and if all you see on the news and in the media are negative depictions of us you have to counter balance that with our storytelling and our perspective. When people see Latinos on TV and in media, it not only teaches others about minority communities but it also teaches us about what we think about ourselves. That’s I want to change. We to think of ourselves as more. I want to show that on TV.

Do you miss doing as much acting as you have done in the past?

I love producing and directing. When I get to act here and there, I realize that I do miss it a lot. I’m like, ‘OK, I have to figure out what I’m doing next because I love [acting] so much!’

The cast and executive producers of ABC’s Grand Hotel addressed the press at the 2019 TCA Winter Press Tour (ABC/Image Group LA)

Will you have any guest stars from Devious Maids show up on Grand Hotel?

Not this season. We have Katey Sagal (Married With Children) in three episodes for us, which is awesome. We have Freddie Stroma (UnREAL) and we have some other great guests. Jencarlos Canela (Telenovela) plays [El Rey,] the resident singer and we have him for many episodes.

Can you preview Katey’s character?

She’s not a good person. [Laughs] That’s all I can say about that!

You’re a great social activist. What’s next for you in that part of your life?

I’m doing a trip down to the boarder for the migrant caravan that’s down there so I can see how we can approach it in a more humane way.

Do you have any memories of the late Kristoff St. John (Neil, Y&R) from when you were on the show as Isabella?

He was there when I was there, but I never worked with him. It was heart-breaking to read. He was so nice. He was a beautiful human being, a lovely, lovely person.

Kristoff St. John (CBS)

Grand Hotel premieres Monday, June 17, 10/9c, ABC