×

Listen: Eva Longoria on How ‘Desperate Housewives’ Changed TV and Made Her a Better Producer

Eva Longoria still believes “Desperate Housewives” may have been TV’s “perfect pilot.”

“It has everything, it sets up everything,” Longoria told Variety‘s “My Favorite Podcast.” “It’s super balanced in its storytelling. It was beautiful, it was stylized, it was stylistic and was so unique.”

Longoria credits creator Marc Cherry, who spent years developing and pitching “Desperate Housewives,” and pilot director Charles McDougall for creating a show that made a splash right out of the gate. For her, the “Desperate Housewives” pilot was a masterclass in how to create and launch a TV show, and she says she still uses what she learned from that experience as a producer launching her own shows.

“I always reference back to the ‘Desperate Housewives’ pilot for many things when I’m directing,” Longoria said. “There are so many iconic things that happened in the pilot.”

On this edition of the podcast, Longoria revealed why that pilot is her favorite episode of TV ever, and also discussed the new ABC drama “Grand Hotel,” which she executive produces. Plus, “Grand Hotel” star Roselyn Sanchez also revealed her favorite TV episode: the pilot to Lifetime’s (and now Netflix’s) drama “You.” Listen below:

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Snap Stills/Shutterstock (2103329h)Left To Right: Nicollette Sheridan - Edie Britt, Felicity Huffman - Lynette Scavo, Marcia Cross - Bree Van De Kamp, Eva Longoria - Gabrielle Solis, Teri Hatcher - Susan MayerDesperate Housewives - 2004
CREDIT: Snap Stills/Shutterstock

The pilot to “Desperate Housewives,” the mid-2000s hit that put Longoria on the map, premiered on Oct. 3, 2004.

The episode introduced viewers to the neighbors of Wisteria Lane, and took place in the aftermath of the suicide of Mary Alice Young, voiced by Brenda Strong. Among the stars are Teri Hatcher, as single mom Susan Mayer; Marcia Cross as perfectionist Bree Van de Kamp, whose poise hides trouble at home; Longoria as Gabrielle Solis, who has a secret (she’s carrying on an affair with her teenage gardener); and Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, an advertising exec who put her career on hold to be a stay-at-home mother of four.

The pilot episode won three Emmy Awards: outstanding lead actress in a comedy series (Huffman), outstanding directing for a comedy series (McDougall) and outstanding single-camera picture editing for a comedy series (Michael Berenbaum). Marc Cherry was nominated for outstanding writing for a comedy series.

“ABC was in last place, and every network passed on ‘Desperate Housewives,” recalled Longoria, who was the first person cast on the pilot thanks to a talent holding deal she had with the network. “ABC was like, what do we have to lose?”

That was quite a turnaround season for ABC, as “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” all premiered in the same year.

“Desperate Housewives” was an immediate hit. “I remember we premiered and the next morning, we were working,” Longoria recalled. “I got a call from the producers — ‘we’re a hit!’ So what does that mean? I didn’t comprehend the monstrosity of it.”

Longoria credits Cherry for teaching her that “you and your director have to be on the same page in terms of setting up the tone of the show. [‘Desperate Housewives’] nailed this tone that was eerie but funny but serious and dramatic but light. That was Marc Cherry. He had a very specific idea.”

Roselyn Sanchez, Eva LongoriaEva Longoria Foundation dinner gala, Inside, Los Angeles, USA - 08 Nov 2018
CREDIT: MediaPunch/Shutterstock

As for “Grand Hotel,” Longoria directed the show’s second episode and also makes an appearance on camera. Sanchez (above, with Longoria) stars as Gigi Mendoza, the second wife to hotel mogul Santiago Mendoza, played by Demian Bichir. Based on a Spanish format but set in contemporary times, the show is a bit of an upstairs/downstairs look at the scandals and secrets that surround both the Mendoza family and the staff that works for them.

“We shot the pilot in Miami and re-created it in Los Angeles: the blue skies look of the show,” Longoria said. The executive producer said she’s also proud of putting so many women in top production roles on the show, including a female director of photography, stunt coordinator, editors, assistant directors and more.

“We wanted to put women in traditionally male roles,” she said.

GRAND HOTEL - ABC's 'Grand Hotel' stars Denyse Tontz as Alicia Mendoza, Bryan Craig as Javi Mendoza, Demi‡n Bichir as Santiago Mendoza, Roselyn S‡nchez as Gigi Mendoza, Justina Adorno as Yoli, and Feliz Ramirez as Carolina. (ABC/Ed Herrera)
CREDIT: ABC

Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode With Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.

Be sure to subscribe to “My Favorite Episode” on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week. 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content