Eva's not desperate or housewifely
Eva's walking down New York's Madison Avenue. I'm on Auckland's North Shore. Eva's wearing Carolina Herrera (or soon will be, as she's heading to the designer's store for a fitting). I'm wearing a striped T-shirt from Hallensteins and little else.
She's awake and ready to talk about her lightning visit to New Zealand to plug a TV shopping channel. I'm sound asleep, cheerfully unaware that Eva Longoria's management are incapable of calculating international time differences, so she's calling me an hour earlier than agreed.
The interview doesn't start terribly well, consisting mainly of me saying “Who?” and “Where are my pants?” and “Ow!” while stumbling into things. Longoria's very nice about it. “You sound a mess,” she says. “I'll call you back . . . ”
I'm dressed, I've found my dictaphone, and I'm staring at the unbelievably inane list of questions I'm “permitted” to ask Longoria, having grumpily accepted stringent conditions for this telephonic brush with fame.
Personal matters are out of bounds (that'll be the divorces from actor Tyler Christopher and basketballer Tony Parker, and the failure of a restaurant business she'd invested in). To make damn sure, I had to supply questions to her in advance and six were struck out, addressing, as they did, such controversial matters as where she might go while in New Zealand, what Victoria Beckham's like, and how useful she's found her university degree in kinesiology. Deviate from the list, I'm told, and I may get cut off.
So that leaves questions like this:
“Eva, tell me about your worst shopping experience!”
She mulls a moment. A New York cab honks in the background.
“One time,” says Longoria hesitantly, “I did go shopping and I bought a dress for a red-carpet event and while I was on the red carpet I discovered that the sensor was still on the dress. So that was kind of a nightmare. But I covered it. Nobody noticed.”
What a relief. Another shopping question, but with a Kiwi twist. “Anything you plan to buy while you're here?”
“Not that I know of. I've never been there, so I don't know what I would be buying. But I do intend to shop!”
Her voice is warm and friendly. Not ditzy at all. I'm starting to feel bad for asking such dim-witted questions. Next: does she see shopping as a patriotic duty in that it boosts the economy?
“I do believe that the more you shop, the more you can contribute to the economy. That doesn't mean buying things you can't afford, but I do think, particularly here in the United States, people who [feel] powerless shouldn't, because if they're the consumer, they're the ones who can change the economy.”
Longoria is warming up - because it turns out she's really into politics. This month she gave a soaring speech at the Democratic Convention. She's co-chair of Barack Obama's re-election campaign, and she's been doing this stuff for ages. “I've been politically engaged before I was famous.”
Was she always on the political left? (This question isn't on my approved list, but I've not yet been cut off. Looks like the interview control-freakery comes from Longoria's handlers, not her.)
“I'm pretty centre,” says Longoria. “The right has gone so far right that it makes people in the middle look like we're to the left. Protecting women's rights, making sure people have access to healthcare, supporting minority communities - that's not far to the left, that's fairness.”
Texas-born Longoria got political at 17, when she joined a protest against closure of a local special-needs school. As her fame grew (TV bit parts, three years in soap The Young and the Restless, then the 2004 breakthrough role as excitable adulteress Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives) she kept it up. “Fame has brought me a bigger platform to reach more people, but before that I was always registering people to vote, canvassing the neighbourhood, volunteering in campaign offices - every election since I was 17.”
And that's it. We're out of time. Longoria needs both hands if she's to try on a frock. One more question: what are you reading?
“A book about Ronald Reagan, The Role of a Lifetime. He's the barometer of success for a Republican, so I wanted to read more about who he was and what he did. You have to be literate on both sides. You have to have articulate and intelligent conversations with people.”
I am now officially feeling really bad for asking that stuff about shopping, but she doesn't seem bothered. Last, last question: where will you be going in New Zealand?
“I don't know.”
How long will you be here?
“I think a day.”
So you'll arrive, get driven around and get back on a plane?
Eva Longoria is coming to New Zealand on Wednesday to promote The Shopping Channel (Channel 18 on Sky) that launches tomorrow.
Sunday Star Times