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Flamin’ Hot Interview (EXCLUSIVE)

Premiering at SXSW 2023, Flamin’ Hot quickly won over the crowd. The story of a father, looking to better the lives of his family quickly turns into an unusual crowd-pleaser. Richard (Jesse Garcia) discovers that the Latino population remains wildly underserved on the snack market, and applying a new coating to Cheetos and Popcorn might tap into a new market. Who knew innovation could come from snack foods? Directed by Eva Longoria, Flamin’ Hot won the Audience Award from SXSW.

Before the premiere of the film, we were lucky enough to speak to two of the stars of the film. A two-time Emmy nominee, Matt Walsh brings comedy and resistance to Richard’s journey. Meanwhile, one of his co-workers is played by Alejandro Montoya Marín, an emerging director who released Millenium Bugs earlier this year. Walsh, Montoya, and actor Alejandro De Hoyos sat down with us to discuss Flamin’ Hot, as well as their upcoming action-comedy The Unexpecteds.

Also Read: Pride in the Spider-Verse: Spider-Gwen’s Trans Narrative 

Flamin’ Hot Interview

Flamin' Hot
Jesse Garcia in “Flamin’ Hot”

Alan: Thank you very much for sitting down to talk to me about your movies. I know we’ve got a couple of projects we want to discuss. So first, let’s kick it off with the one that we’re seeing today, Flamin’ Hot. Matt and Alejandro, what drew you guys to the project?

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Matt: Well, I personally worked with Eva on a movie called Unplugging, which I wrote, and we filmed in Tulsa during the pandemic. She’s the best, and she’s so sweet and talented. She was stepping into this job in Albuquerque, the Flamin’ Hot project which I guess she’d been working on for years. She texted me and said, “Matt Walsh, would you play an old white racist in my movie?” I texted her back. “No, but I’ll play a middle-aged white racist.”

Alan:  Right. And Alejandro?

Alejandro: I was drawn to it because I got hired.

Matt: Well, you know, Jesse, Jesse, the star.

Alejandro: Oh, yeah. But no, he was like, you should, you should audition for this.

Matt: Jesse was talking about it. He was helping find people to cast in the factory world. It’s a bunch of people that work with Richard. Eva needed someone that can just look like a factory worker, and Jesse’s like, “Oh, I think I have a friend.” I think Jesse threw your name out. And then yes, you got it through an audition. But you’d known Jesse since Austin.

Alejandro: Yeah, actually, since 2018 when I screened Monday here. He had worked with Robert on from Dusk Till Dawn. So like, we met through Danny Trevino, but also a local actor, a really nice guy. And yeah, he was like,”You should audition.” So I did. Then I was in front of the camera, loving every minute because I got to see people play on a big-budget movie. Oh, my God. Yeah.

Alan: Well, that was something I was going to ask you. I know you’ve directed previously in the past, what was it like to step out in front of the camera?

Alejandro: Oh, man, it’s so nerve-racking, like actors do a lot. They have to perform under ridiculous amounts of pressure and on the moment. I loved the experience because then I kind of know what I’m requiring of them. So now, when I do that, I should be a little bit more considerate. It makes me think of putting myself in their shoes. So it was a great experience.

Alan: Matt, I know that you’re playing a rather big part in the movie. Tell me more about the role.

Matt: Flamin’ Hot is about Mexican Americans starting in the 70s. They are getting in and trying to break the ceilings that exist in that world. I play basically the middle-class white guys who have all the good jobs, and I embody that. So I’m his boss, and he sort of has aspirations of being more. I’m like “don’t rock the boat, man, the status quo is great.” At some point, he calls corporate, and I’m like, “what are you doing!? Like, don’t get corporate down here, we’re gonna get fired or something.” I have tension with Richard, Jesse’s character. In the end, I think Lonnie (my character) changes in a good way. I liked being that guy who had an unlikely turn.

I also liked the nature of what they built. They built a full-on fake factory. Yeah. I grew up in Chicago, and I worked in factories a lot. My father’s business was moving heavy machinery. So they would go into the Frito-Lay, tear out the old machines, and install the new machine. So I saw a lot of these guys walking around, you know, the short sleeve and the clipboard. So I very much had a lot to draw on as well.

Alan: You also mentioned your background, Chicago, obviously, Upright Citizens Brigade, and all the cool things that you’ve done there. How was this as far as collaboration goes? Because that’s a big part of your career. How collaborative was Eva?

Matt: Well, yeah, having a history of Eva who can play and be loose and run with it, she allowed us many moments that were sort of just what did you call the movie? How do you call it Goodfellas

Alejandro: Meets Mi Familia.

Matt: Yeah, and because it covers, you know, decades, and there’s a fair amount of narration. There are scenes in there that are just description. Like “the guys go out and load up the cars.” In those moments, Eva wanted them to be alive. She opened it up and said, “Say what you would say” or this is a photo moment where Richard gets an employee the month that I’m jealous, so “do whatever you want.” She allowed that to play, and I could also pitch her jokes or ideas on the scene. She was very receptive.

Alejandro: Yeah. She let me do like a lot of improv. Like, what would you do here? And I’m like, Well, I would say this, do it.

Alan: So even though this is her first feature, she clearly had a handle on everything. She seemed to be really on top of it.

Matt: She’s a very capable human being. She can multitask, she’s also kind, and she’s smart. Eva put together a great team. The DP on this movie. Federico [Cantini] was also the DP on our movie we shot in Tulsa together. She’s like, I love this guy. He’s Argentine and he’s kind of brilliant. She wanted him and she had to fight for him. She pulled and she fought for Jesse. I think she has a strong taste, and it was just what you need as a director. You need to know what you like.

Alejandro:  Exactly. But one of the things that I saw on being on set with her is she was building a team of painters, skateboarders, actors, fighters, directors, and musicians, all Latino. They’re from all the realms, man, and that’s what she was doing. It doesn’t happen often when someone genuinely wants to showcase it. There’s no ulterior motive. She’s like, “No, I want to make a movie that people can feel proud of being Latino watching,” and that was her goal the whole time.

Alan: Well, so as a director, what were some of the lessons you took away from watching her on Flamin’ Hot that you’re gonna use on your next couple of movies?

Alejandro : She’s way too cool, dude, because she’s been on set. She’s got the experience to know, “I don’t have to fight this right now.” I never saw her snap. Not once, or half, nada. She was always chill. She looked like she was having fun. She brought her kid to set with her. It was a great set. Very amicable. I learned to be patient.

Matt: She had a steady hand on the wheel.

Alan: Now, I know you guys are also working on another project together. Why don’t you guys tell me a little bit about it.

De Hoyos: The Unexpecteds. it’s totally unexpected. We just finished shooting the Albuquerque part. We have a couple more scenes in Los Angeles. Just a couple.

Alan: Awesome. Can you give me some background on the premise?

Alejandro: Of course. It’s an action comedy with a little spice of drama. And it’s about four friends or five friends that bet their life savings on a YouTube scam artist. All right, and now they have to figure a way to get their money back.

Alan: That feels very relevant. Were you guys already writing this before the last few months? Or was it because of stuff like FTX?

Alejandro: I had come up I had the idea like, at least a year ago because I started, obsessing about YouTube. Because it’s a whole other culture of people who are entrepreneurs, artists, and then I started seeing anyone could just get up do a little scam. And a lot of the times people do a scam, they get conned. They’re just like, We’re sorry.

I was like, well, we’ve all gotten scammed. And I have a lot of friends and people that I know that I’ve done bigger amounts. So I wanted to do a movie that was like, the good guys win or you know, the good guys get their shot to get back, you know?

De Hoyos: I think it was interesting because when we started talking, we’d been talking for years. It’s like, let’s do a movie together. It was very recent, like six months ago, probably that day. I said, Okay, can you come up with something where there’s a father-son relationship? Because I’m big into family and stuff like that? He’s like, Yeah, dude.

I said, “but I also like action” because I like martial arts and Alejandro would tell me yeah.  It’s so interesting because you combine this story that you had in mind with what I was requesting. He went to work, and it took you three months to get the script pretty much ready.

Alejandro: Yeah, and then we were polishing it.

De Hoyos: And then Matt got involved, and he has these ideas. We all had our ideas.

Alan: At what point did you get involved in Matt?

Matt: He’d been talking to me about it. I remember you going, “do you think a movie about YouTube scammers is a good idea?” We became friends on Flamin’ Hot, that’s how we met.

Alejandro: Yeah we bonded over Wong Kar-Wai.

Matt: Yeah. And during, during Flamin’ Hot because I was, you know, away from my family living in a hotel, he’s like “here’s some DVDs.” He turned me on to Wong Kar-Wai. I was like, just getting a film class through him. So I was always inspired by his interests and talent. We just kept talking. At some point, he showed me the script and we talked about ideas. And he (De Hoyos) plays the dad of one of the guys who got scammed. He works for a secret government organization. Like he’s a badass.

De Hoyos: Yeah, don’t want to know what we do.

Matt: So he comes into sort of these, like, whatever, just normal people. And he kind of has the worst team, but he’s like, alright, we’ll try this.

Alan: What’s it like to act and produce in the same film?

De Hoyos: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, I did it before with another movie. The Contractor, same thing. We shot that in Mexico, and I was the lead actor in that. A lot of martial arts too. It’s fun. It’s, it’s always about the team. I always say that, because I have some companies in LA but I get to be here right now. They’re running the companies, you know, it’s the team. And the same with this. Alejandro had this amazing team and crew. That was a big concern of mine because I didn’t know any of them. And then the crew, and the cast that he got also was great. Even if I lose all the money, I’m good. I’m good with the team that you created. I know that sounds bullshit, but it’s the reality.

Alan: It’s sometimes great to just make awesome art, especially when everybody seems to be having a really good time making it.

Matt: Yeah, and we were fortunate because February was a little slow. So we had all the best the Albuquerque mafia, all the department heads you could ask for. They happen to be free so we lucked out with the timing.

Alejandro: Yeah, we had an Oscar winner that won for Sound of Metal? Oh sound Yeah, Phil (Bladh), he did our sound mix, he was amazing. Ryan Halsey who just gaffed for Poker Face and Rian Johnson.  These people are constantly working on big productions whether it’s Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul.

Alan: Albuquerque has got a slew of TV television for a long time now.

De Hoyos: Yeah. And that was a pressure to be able to shoot this now. Because he kept saying now we have to do it now

Alejandro: I knew we were clear in March. It’s going to get it’s going to get busy. They all jumped from one project they finished. They wrapped three days later they start the next one like it’s gonna start getting bombarded. Then in October, there’s a slow period again.

De Hoyos: That’s when we’ll shoot the next one

Matt: Yeah, let’s finish this one (laughs).

Alan: Alejandro, I also I reviewed your film Millennium Bugs. One of the things that really stood out to me about that movie was how you use the soundtrack. It was just like a really perfect encapsulation of that moment. I saw that you guys are looking for pretty ambitious comps for soundtracks on The Unexpecteds. Shaun of the Dead and stuff like that. What are you looking at for the soundtrack on this one?

Alejandro:  We were just talking about this. I don’t know if it’s gonna happen, but we’ve been talking to Dave (Gahan) from Depeche Mode, and we’re trying to get him and Andy Rourke from The Smiths to compose a song. I’m just like, let those artists work. let them do their thing. I’m talking with Sleigh Bells and we’re hoping for Beach House.

Alan: They’re so good. I love Beach House.

Matt: I saw them this Summer with my kids. We were at the Greek, my kids are 15 and 13. There was so much weed. I’m like, Oh my God, what’s my bad father?

Alan: So out of curiosity. You are, obviously, working on The Unexpecteds. What’s next for you guys after that? Or do you guys have other projects that are kind of percolating out there?

Matt: I have an apple series I did about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in the capturing of John Wilkes Booth.

Alan: I saw that that looks very interesting.

Matt: Yeah. I’m very excited about that. And that’s called Manhunt. So that’s coming out, I think in the fall.

Alan: How about you guys?

De Hoyos: Yeah, for me, we just released The Man from Toronto, where I played the bad guy. So it’s still doing really well. 300 million viewers like in four days so that’s really good. And then Trigger Warning with Jessica Alba. I get to play her dad. Oh, that’s coming out this year. Then I did a Bosch episode because they come back as a guest star. So that’s what we’re doing.  Alejandro and I are already talking about our next film, a movie that I wrote with my son. It’s a lot of action. A lot of fun.

Alan: I can’t wait. And I’m sure you’re just like focusing on directing the one that you’re currently working on.

Alejandro: Yeah, editing, I’m editing. I’m writing. I’m always writing. I’m trying to also like starting to see if I could do a horror. That’s fair. Yeah. Like I want to change like, I like action comedy, but like, I’m going to the next I have a script. That’s Action, Comedy horror. So I’m trying to see if I can go down that road. Just to try different genres storytelling is storytelling. I don’t want to just do the same thing. That can be interesting.

Alan: Okay. Well, this is gonna be a really weird one Matt. So in my regular nine to five, I work at Enterprise in IT. In Ted, you play the branch manager of an Enterprise.

Matt: I forgot it was Enterprise.

Alan: How did you prepare for that role?

Matt Similarly, another boss I in that role, I got to be a fanboy about Tom Skerritt. So I invested everything into a guy with a secret crush. So it’s funny to play the duality of, like, you know, a job can be mundane, but having that dream or aspiration side that keeps us all going when we’re not at work. I think that’s what I embraced about that. And, I always knew it was real because Seth’s like, “we’re gonna get him,” and at the end he appears. So that’s how I approach that role.

Alan: Alright! Thank you all for speaking with me, and good luck tonight!

Flamin’ Hot releases to Disney+ on June 9th.

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Written by Alan French

Alan French is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and freelances for several sites. In July of 2022, he founded Sunshine State Cineplex to focus on indie and Florida Film. He began writing as an awards pundit at AwardsCircuit in 2016. He has covered theme parks, Movies, TV, the Oscars, and more.