Eva Longoria Joins Coalition Set to Launch LA-Based Magnet School, Roybal School of Film and Television Production

Eva Longoria is helping “drive transformational change across the entertainment industry for students from underserved communities.”

The 46-year-old Mexican American actress, producer and activist has joined a coalition of industry leaders who are partnering with Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner to found the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, a specialized academy housed within the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

Eva Longoria

In addition to Longoria, the project is also being spearheaded by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry WashingtonMindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Working Title Films founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd.

The Roybal School is set to launch in fall 2022 as a magnet school, providing LAUSD teachers with access to storytellers, industry professionals and experts, while supporting students with academic education and practical training.

The inaugural program will be overseen by Principal Blanca Cruz. Roybal will feature a curriculum designed to meet standards prescribed by the state of California and the University of California system. Students also will receive real-world experience through a dedicated internship initiative.

The school will launch with grades 9 and 10, and include grades 11 and 12 over the next two years. The pilot program could be expanded later to additional schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

“This effort will help open the doors of opportunity for a diverse group of students from underserved communities,” Beutner said. “This groundbreaking program will help prepare students for good-paying jobs in the film and television industry by integrating practical industry experience and internships for students into the curriculum.”

Beutner explained how industry lessons could be woven into the curriculum: “Physics is involved in the choice of a lens by a cinematographer, math is part of the foundation for a musical score in a film, critical thinking skills are needed to design a set, screenwriters need a foundation in literacy, and a make-up artist needs to know the chemistry of the different materials they might use – all of this will be tied into the curriculum at the school,” he said.

“Our aim is to better reflect the diversity of our country,” Clooney said. “That means starting early. It means creating high school programs that teach young people about cameras, and editing and visual effects and sound and all the career opportunities that this industry has to offer. It means internships that lead to well-paying careers. It means understanding that we’re all in this together.”

The founding members will serve on the school’s Production Advisory Board, lending expertise and support with the intent of building a more inclusive pipeline of career-ready talent for the film and television industry, according to the announcement.

Said Avant, “Everyone involved with this effort understands the need to create points of access: access to resources, information, skills, and mentorship. It is our hope that every guild and company across the entertainment industry landscape joins our efforts to build a bridge to opportunity.”

Added Lourd, “We invite every interested and committed person and company in our industry to join this effort. We have the collective power to accelerate the academic and professional trajectories of so many students and bring about positive change.”

Henry R. Muñoz III Acquires Funny or Die

Henry R. Muñoz III is preparing for a little funny business…

The 61-year-old Latino designer, activist and philanthropist has acquired early digital video player Funny or Die.

Henry R. Muñoz III

Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Judd Apatow and Chris Henchy co-founded Funny or Die in 2007. Ferrell and McKay appeared in one of the company’s first breakout clips, The Landlord.

Muñoz bought Funny Or Die from its former stakeholders, a group that included AMC Networks, Turner Entertainment and Sequoia Capital. Ferrell will continue to collaborate creatively with Funny Or Die and serve as an advisor.

Muñoz be sole owner of the Funny Or Die brand, and the acquisition also includes its library, longform slate and social media portfolio of more than 40 million followers.

Financial terms for the transaction were not disclosed.

After the transaction, Muñoz will become chairman of Funny or Die. Mike Farah will continue as CEO. Michele Rosette, who has been the CFO of Funny Or Die since 2016, will remain in her role. Joe Farrell, who oversees Funny Or Die’s longform slate, has been promoted to Chief Creative Officer.

From its roots in short-form, viral video, Funny or Die has evolved into a supplier of series like Brockmire, whose run on IFC ended last year, and this year’s History of Swear Words on Netflix.

Other credits include true crime docuseries For Heaven’s Sake on Paramount + and the Feeding America Comedy Special for NBC.

The pivot followed challenges in recent years as smaller video purveyors have faced daunting economics when reckoning with the forces of tech giants like YouTube and Facebook. Like many digital outlets, Funny or Die had to lay off staff and restructure as it navigated the 2010s.

The arrival of Muñoz will enable the company to deficit-finance certain projects, the company said, promising to reveal more specifics about that strategy at a later date.

A CBS special produced by Funny or Die last fall connected the company with Muñoz and wound up leading to the acquisition. Essential Heroes: A Momento Latino Event, hosted by Eva Longoria, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan, celebrated America’s diversity with a focus on Latinx culture and highlighted the impact of Covid-19.

Muñoz has operated at high levels in the realms of politics, art, business, public affairs and philanthropy. In addition to his own design practice, he has launched national movements including Momento Latino, TheDream.US and Latino Victory in support of the Latinx community. He is the cofounder of SOMOS US, a healthcare network in New York treating largely immigrant communities. It has been on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

His design firm, Muñoz & Company, is one of the largest and oldest minority-owned design practices in the country. It pioneered an approach to architecture, urban planning, and design that acknowledges the imprint of the Latino community. He also helped with the effort to create a Latino Museum on the Mall in Washington, DC, and is the Finance Chairman Emeritus of the Democratic National Committee, the first openly gay, openly Latino and openly Texan person to hold that position.

“The future of comedy and entertainment is in companies that empower talent and creative forces to make content that reflects the cultural identity of our country at this moment in our history,” Muñoz said in the official deal announcement. “Funny Or Die’s own rich history as a place of innovation and as a voice of new generations speaks for itself and our team led by Mike Farah is poised to seize this unique moment. I understand the responsibilities of owning a brand like Funny Or Die and I am excited to work with our team to make sure we have the resources we need to develop funny, original and diverse new content.”

He went on to note the importance of his sole ownership of the company. “I also understand the importance of being one of the very few Latinos in a position like this in the entertainment industry and I will do my best to make my community, our industry and our country proud as we move forward,” he added. Diversity and inclusion will be more central to the company’s mission moving forward, he noted.

Farah said Muñoz’s “unique background in social activism and business” makes him the “perfect person to guide FOD into the future.” He added, “The company is in great hands with Henry, and he’s brought a new sense of purpose to our mission to empower original, authentic creators in comedy and beyond.”

HBO Max Orders Family Comedy Pilot “Gordita Chronicles,” Starring Olivia Goncalves, to Series

Olivia Goncalves is preparing to Chronicle(s) her latest endeavor…

HBO Max has picked up to series the family comedy pilot Gordita Chronicles, starring the Latina actress and Hollywood newcomer.

Olivia Goncalves

The project hails from Claudia ForestieriJosh Berman’s Osprey ProductionsZoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures and Sony Pictures Television

Goncalves leads the comedy, written and executive produced by Forestieri and directed by Eva Longoria. Diana Maria Riva and Juan Javier Cardenas also star.

Gordita Chronicles, inspired by Forestieri’s life, centers on Carlota “Cucu” Castelli (Goncalves), a willful 12-year-old Dominican immigrant with a heart of gold. Cucu leaves her home and her parochial school in Santo Domingo to live in Miami and pursue the American Dream during the hedonistic 1980s after her father, a marketing executive with a large airline, gets transferred there. Cucu meets head-on the challenges of being an immigrant in a strange new world with humor, bravado and some really bad choices.

“We are thrilled to partner with Zoe, Eva, Josh and Sony Pictures Television to bring to life this beautiful coming-of-age story inspired by Claudia’s personal journey,” said Jennifer O’Connell, Executive Vice President, Non-Fiction and Live-Action Family Programming, HBO Max.

“HBO Max is proud to work with the powerhouse Latinx talent in front of and behind the camera for this series, which we believe will resonate with all families,” added Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max.

Cast also includes Savannah Nicole Ruiz, Noah Rico and Cosette Hauer.

“From the minute we heard Claudia’s childhood story, we knew it was not only incredibly funny, but emotionally poignant and an important story to tell,” said Jason Clodfelter, Co-President, Sony Pictures Television Studios. “Cucu and the Castellis remind us of the iconic sitcom families we grew up watching, but none of those ever captured a Dominican family’s experience of coming to America. This show changes all of that, and we are thrilled and grateful to dive back in and make a wonderful series for our friends at HBO Max.”

Brigitte Munoz Liebowitz serves as executive producer and showrunner. Berman, Chris King and Jennifer Robinson executive produce for Osprey Productions. Longoria executive produces via her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana executive produce for Cinestar Pictures. Sony Pictures TV is the studio.

Jesse Garcia to Star in the Eva Longoria-Directed “Flamin’ Hot” Film

It’s a flamin’ hot time for Jesse Garcia.

The 38-year-old Mexican American actor and former Quinceañera star has landed the lead role in Eva Longoria’s feature directorial debut Flamin’ Hot from Searchlight Pictures and Franklin Entertainment.

Jesse Garcia

Garcia will play Richard Montanez, the architect of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, while Annie Gonzalez of Gentefied will portray his wife, Judy.

Flamin’ Hot tells the true life story of Richard Montanez, the Frito Lay janitor who took inspiration from his Mexican American heritage to create Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the snack that disrupted the food industry and became a pop culture phenomenon.

Desperate Housewives actress and Telenovela, Grand Hoteland Devious Maids EP Longoria beat out several directors for the job after impressing Franklin and Searchlight with her authentic approach to the project.

“It has been my biggest priority to make sure we are telling Richard Montañez’s story authentically,” said Longoria in a statement. “I am so happy to have two extremely talented and fellow Mexican-Americans on board in these pivotal roles. Jesse and Annie have a deep understanding of our community and will be able to help tell this story of great importance for our culture.”

Also new to Flamin’ Hot is scribe Linda Yvette Chavez who has come aboard for revisions on the Lewis Colick-penned screenplay. Chavez is the creator of Netflix’s Gentefied and she’s also adapting I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter at the streamer for America Ferrera’s upcoming directorial debut.

Garcia appears in the Searchlight Pictures title Under the Same Moon, alongside Kate del Castillo and Ferrera. He has been widely recognized for his role in the highly acclaimed Quinceañera winner of the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. For his performance as Carlos, Garcia was nominated and won the prestigious ALMA Award (American Latino Media Arts) as Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture in 2007. Garcia can also be seen in The Avengers.

Gonzalez is a Chicana actress and East Los Angeles native. She grew up singing with the band Quetzal, (which has been a noted force in the Chicano movement), was one of the original dancers on Jamm X Kids for the WB and has been appearing on TV since the age of 10. She is most known for her roles in Gentefied, Vida, Shameless, and Legion. She was recently cast in the ABC pilot, Bucktown starring opposite Jane Lynch and Nicole Richie. Gonzalez also has a YouTube page with videos dedicated to her thoughts on spirituality, self-love, peace, positivity and living life as a Latina.

Roadside Attractions Acquires North American Rights to Rita Moreno’s Documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It”

Rita Moreno is ready to bring her life story to America…

Roadside Attractions has acquired North American distribution rights to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It, about the 89-year-old Latina living legend.

Rita MorenoA release is planned for June 18.

Roadside’s deal excludes the television license to PBSAmerican Masters, which will present the exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere of the doc after it hits theaters.

In addition to Moreno, others featured in the Mariem Pérez Riera-directed doc include George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

The film covers Moreno’s 70-year-plus career rise and struggles, from her beginnings in poverty on a Puerto Rican farm to becoming a rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscars, Tony Awards) winner.

She’s the first Latina actress to win an Oscar (for her role as Anita in 1961’s West Side Story). Despite the win, studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent.

“Roadside Attractions, I’m so pleased for your commitment to my story and especially for making it available to a broader audience. Curtain Up!,” Moreno commented.

“Stars like Rita are few and far between, her showbiz story and personal remembrances resonate for a large, diverse audience, and the heights she continues to achieve are a true crowd pleasing uplift after the year we’ve all had,” said Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff.

“Rita is an incredible inspiration to so many, hers is a success story for all women who feel alone as they struggle to assert themselves with courage and bravery against heavy odds,” offered director Pérez Riera. “We are so thrilled to bring Rita to theaters for audiences to spend time with a woman who, when speaking about herself, speaks to and for a lot of us.”

“There were only a small group of distributors we hoped would take notice at Sundance. Roadside was at the top of that list,” said film’s producer, ACT III’s Brent Miller and EP Norman Lear. “We think we’re in great hands with Howard and Eric at the helm and couldn’t be more excited for the world to know the Rita we now know and love.”

American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramar Films are producers.

Diana Maria Riva to Star in HBO Max’s Family Comedy Pilot “The Gordita Chronicles”

Diana Maria Riva is beginning to chronicle

The 51-year-old Dominican American actress has joined the cast of HBO Max’s upcoming family comedy pilot The Gordita Chronicles, from Josh Berman’s Osprey Productions, Zoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures and Sony Pictures Television.

Diana Maria Riva

Riva, who recently started in NBC’s short-lived comedy Sunnyside, joins a roster of new cast additions that includes Juan Javier Cardenas, Savannah Nicole Ruiz, Noah Rico and Cosette Hauer.

They join newcomer Olivia Goncalveswho will lead the comedy written by Claudia Forestieri and directed by Eva Longoria.

The Gordita Chronicles centers on Carlota “Cucu” Castelli (Goncalves), a willful 12-year-old Dominican immigrant with a heart of gold. Cucu leaves her home and her parochial school in Santo Domingo to live in Miami and pursue the American Dream during the hedonistic 1980s after her father, a marketing executive with a large airline, gets transferred there. Cucu meets head-on the challenges of being an immigrant in a strange new world with humor, bravado and some really bad choices.

Riva will appear as Adela, Cucu’s mom. The actress appeared as Detective Ana Perez in Netflix’Dead to Me. Her additional roles include Man with a PlanKajillionaire, and McFarland, USA.

Cardenas takes on Victor Castelli, Cucu’s dad. He played Dante in The Walking Dead and Ben in S.W.A.T. His credits also include Snowfall, Damnation, Scandal and Lusa.

Ruiz will appear as Emilia, Cucu’s older sister. High School Musical: The Musical actor Noah Rico joins the cast as Yosmel “Yoshy” Hernandez, a Cuban refugee and Cucu’s first friend in Miami.

Lastly, Hauer joins as Ashley, a needy go-getter desperate to fit in, but nevertheless always sticks out.

Brigitte Munoz Liebowitz serves as executive producer and showrunner. Berman, Chris King and Jennifer Robinson executive produce for Osprey Productions. Longoria executive produces via her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana executive produce for Cinestar Pictures. Forestieri is co-executive producer. Sony Pictures Television is the studio.

Eva Longoria Named to Television Academy Foundation’s Board of Directors

Eva Longoria is joining the board…

The 46-year-old Mexican American actress, activist and former Desperate Housewives star has been appointed to the board of directors at the Television Academy Foundation.

 

Eva LongoriaThe foundation’s programs include an annual internship program, a media faculty conference and the College Television Awards in addition to its extensive archive of oral histories of TV legends, The Interviews.

Longoria will work alongside foundation chair Cris Abrego and the board to further the group’s work promoting inclusion in the TV industry and providing educational and professional development programs for students with diverse backgrounds.

“We are thrilled to welcome two exceedingly accomplished, inspiring and engaged trailblazers to the foundation’s board,” Abrego said in a release announcing the appointments. “As leaders in their respective fields, their expertise and thought leadership will help drive the Foundation’s initiatives and champion the advancement of aspiring professionals from underrepresented communities to ensure a more inclusive, next-generation television talent pool.”

Longoria has been has been leading the charge of diverse and female representation in the industry since her role on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, both in front of the camera and via her production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, which recently teamed up with ViacomCBS’ Entertainment & Youth Group for their First Time Directors program highlighting BIPOC and women filmmakers to produce 50 films across the group’s portfolio of networks and streaming services.

Eva Longoria to Direct & Executive Produce HBO Max’s “The Gordita Chronicles” Pilot

Eva Longoria has lined up her next directorial project…

The 45-year-old Mexican American actress/producer will direct and executive produce The Gordita Chronicles pilot at HBO Max.

Eva Longoria

The single-camera family comedy hails from Josh Berman’s Osprey ProductionsZoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures, and Sony Pictures Television, where Berman’s Osprey Prods is under a deal.

Written by Claudia Forestier, The Gordita Chronicles centers on a willful, chubby, 12-year-old Dominican who struggles to fit into hedonistic 1980s Miami as her family pursues the American Dream.

Brigitte Munoz Liebowitz serves as executive producer and showrunner. Longoria executive produces via her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. Zoe Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana executive produce for Cinestar Pictures.

Sony Pictures Television is the studio.

Longoria will be making her film directorial debut with Searchlight’s Flamin’ Hot, an inspiring biopic about the janitor turned executive who created the flaming hot Cheetos snack. She’ll also direct the workplace comedy 24/7 and star alongside Kerry Washington for Universal and direct the action comedy Spa Day for Sony.

The former Desperate Housewives star made her television directing debut on Devious Maids in 2014. Her television producing/directing credits also include ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Versus, and episodes of Black-ish, The Mick and Telenovela.

Longoria made her pilot directing debut with the CW’s Glorious.

 

Paramount+ Rebooting Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer” as Live-Action Series

Dora the Explorer is getting the live-action television treatment.

The Nickelodeon series will be rebooted for Paramount+.

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer, which ran for eight seasons, will return in live-action form aimed at kids 6-11.

The series follows Dora Marquez, a 7-year-old Latina with a love of embarking on quests accompanied by her talking purple backpack and Boots the monkey.

Kathleen Herles, Caitlin Sanchez and Fatima Ptacek have previously voiced the character of Dora on the long-running animated series.

A live-action film adaptation of the series, starring Isabela Moner, was released in 2019. Dora and the Lost City of Gold also starred Eva Longoria.

Eva Longoria to Star in the Anthology Feature “Women’s Stories”

Eva Longoria is telling stories

The 45-year-old Mexican American actress has joined the all-star cast of the anthology feature Women’s Stories, whose segments will be directed by filmmakers including Catherine Hardwicke.

Eva Longoria

Longoria joins a roster of cast additions that includes Cara DelevingneMargherita BuyMarcia Gay Harden, Leonor Varela and Jacqueline Fernandez.

The film will be comprised of six segments directed by female directors from different parts of the world, shot in Italy, India and the U.S. They will range in genre from drama to comedy, docu-drama to animation. The cast will be all female.

The first four segments have been mapped out: Unspoken will be directed by Maria Sole Tognazzi (Me, Myself & Her) and star decorated Italian actress Margherita Buy (My Mother), the seven-time David di Donatello award-winner; Lagonegro will be directed by Lucia Puenzo (La Jauria) and star Desperate Housewives and Overboard actress Longoria; Elbows Deep will be directed by Twilight filmmaker Hardwicke and star model and actress Delevingne (Suicide Squad), Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) and Jasmine Luv (Starter Pack); and Sharing A Ride will be directed by Leena Yadav (Three Cards) and feature Bollywood star Jacqueline Fernandez and transgender model Anjali Lama.

Producing are Iervolino Entertainment (Waiting For The Barbarians) and non-profit production company We Do It Together, which campaigns for gender equality.

Chiara Tilesi, founder and President of We Do It Together, said of the project: “At We Do It Together, our mission is to enhance and change the image of women in films and media, from object to subject. We are dedicated to telling stories of women, both in front of and behind the camera. That’s why Women Stories is so important to us – we have brought together female directors, from all over the world, who collaborate and share personal stories from their own point of view. We are telling the stories of these heroines and their aspirations: from health workers to mothers, artists and business women, to name a few. We also want to be inclusive and have as many different perspectives as possible, which is why connecting globally is so important to us. Now more than ever, especially after the latest UN policy brief The Impact of Covid-19 On Women, it has emerged that gender inequality is still a very present reality and, unfortunately, we remain far from a solution. Some of the achievements that were made, are at risk of being erased once again. This is why it is so important for us to continue to tell stories about women, by women, but for everyone. Only together can men and women finally change these paradigms.”

Andrea Iervolino, President and founder of Iervolino Entertainment, added: “It gives me tremendous pride to collaborate with such an astounding ensemble, and to help deliver a message larger than the film itself. It’s important for us that this be done on a global scale, which is why we’re shooting, very carefully and safely, in Italy, India and the US.”

The project was initially announced five years ago in different form as Together Now.