Drama, suspense and intrigue: Those elements were hallmarks of ABC’s Desperate Housewives, the primetime drama that helped lift actress Eva Longoria to stardom a few years ago.
When avid NBA, NFL and tennis fan Longoria watches SportsCenter, she sees similarities in the news stories unfolding on the program.
“It’s definitely addicting,” she said, “like a soap opera.”
Tonight, on the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter, Longoria joins ESPN’s storytelling trade as Go, Sebastien, Go! – the first of five shorts this year she will produce for ESPN Films under the Versus banner – debuts.
The film, which she also directed, tells the story of Sebastien de la Cruz, who in June 2013 sang the national anthem before Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Some viewers were apparently offended by de la Cruz proudly representing his Mexican-American heritage as he performed the song dressed in his traditional mariachi charro suit. Racially insensitive social media comments followed.
Go, Sebastien, Go! chronicles how de la Cruz, then 11, galvanized Spurs Nation. He was invited to sing before Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
“I knew that this would be the first film I wanted to direct,” said Longoria, who today visited ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters for a Car Wash. “I thought the way the Spurs fans, community, [Spurs head coach Gregg] Popovich and the team circled around this kid who was the target of so much vitriol – this American kid – I thought it was an amazing story that needed to be told.”
Longoria notes de la Cruz’s maturity in the documentary.
“He’s 13 now but he was 11 at the time. He’s amazing to work with,” she said. “He’s a performer, so he’s comfortable in front of the camera.”
Longoria is a lifelong Spurs fan and the ex-wife of point guard Tony Parker. She marvels at her friends – former Spurs forward Bruce Bowen (see sidebar) and assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo – and their transitions to becoming ESPN NBA analysts.
“I love P.J. as a human being. He is an amazing person to know,” she said. “When I found out he was working for ESPN I thought, oh my god, that’s so great. I feel like he’s an authority on everything.”
Longoria needles her friend Bowen and his trademark neckwear.
“I would love to see Bruce not in a bow tie once,” Longoria said. “He’s too young to be wearing a bow tie!”
She’s eager to continue to unveil films in the Versus series and raved about Queen V, an upcoming look at Violet Palmer’s experiences as a pioneering NBA referee.
“I’ve always been a fan of the 30 for 30s [ESPN Films’ acclaimed documentary franchise]. I was approached by ESPN to produce some of the short form [films],” she said. “They asked me what would I be interested in doing that’s sports-focused or sports-adjacent.
“I thought that the thing that matters most to me is my philanthropy and my activism. So I thought, why not do a series about obstacles off the field, off the court? What if that opponent was a moral opponent? That’s what I wanted to explore in Versus.”