Synopsis : FLAMIN’ HOT is the inspiring true story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia) who as a Frito Lay janitor disrupted the food industry by channeling his Mexican American heritage to turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos from a snack into an iconic global pop culture phenomenon.
- Rating: PG-13 (Some Strong Language|Brief Drug Material)
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Biography
- Original Language: English
- Director: Eva Longoria
- Producer: Devon Franklin
- Writer: Linda Yvette, Lewis Colick
- Release Date (Theaters): Limited
- Release Date (Streaming):
- Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Exclusive Interview with Actor Dennis Haysbert
Q: Did you eat hot Cheetos when you were growing up? Do you have a fond memory of eating hot Cheetos?
DH: I don’t have a real memory of it. I liked all snack foods at that time. So I would have eaten it. I enjoyed it because it was on set all the time. So, yes, but we couldn’t eat it while we were on set because you put the orange stuff on your tongue — [and the color stayed there].
Q: The makeup people must have hated that.
DH: I had to keep brushing my tongue. “All right Dennis, no more Cheetos.” But, it’s very good though I have a preference for regular Cheetos.
Q: You grew up, the eighth of nine children, and have lots of sisters and brothers just like Richard Montanez — the inventor of these Cheetos. How much did you relate to his childhood growing up?
DH: It was almost identical. I grew up next to the youngest so I have a lot of older brothers and sisters paving the way for me, fortunately or unfortunately. I was the only actor to come out of the household but I learned all that by watching the everyday antics of my older brothers and sisters. They’ve always all been very supportive — as was the same for Richard and his family. Of course, you always have one or two naysayers but that’s all part of the family.
Q: Did you get a chance to talk to Clarence C. Baker? How was the character developed?
DH: Yes, he actually existed. He did all the things they say he did in the movie. I did meet Richard Montanez and he gave me a lot of insight into Clarence and spoke of him lovingly. That did a lot for my heart. I really loved this guy because of all the problems that he had. Those things came out. Jesse’s character, Richard Montanez, was trying to ingratiate himself with him. He was very resistant at first until he realized that this was a good guy deserving of his help.
Q: What was the fascination with the bond between each other that fascinated you? They needed each other in a way and were also helping each other. They encourage each other, their vision and dreams. That’s a really strong bond there.
DH: What fascinated me about it was nobody believes that these two men from different cultures could come together like this. I always say, “No, that’s, that’s a misnomer.” I think that all people, if you understand, or you put yourself in a place to understand the other person, anything’s possible. You can become friends as we have and you find out that our cultures — even the Japanese culture — in black culture and Latin American culture, all of them, are similar because they’re all based on love, family and heart.
Q: You started your career in TV series during the ’70s. It’s really difficult to maintain your vision and dream like Richard did in this film. How do you maintain your vision and dreams no matter how many times you get beat down as an actor? You had success on a TV series like “24” playing President David Palmer. You had consistent work but you needed to keep working. How do you maintain your vision and dreams while still struggling?
DH: Life is a struggle. It was no stranger to me. I love what I do. With every job I grow and that’s the key — you’ve got to keep growing, changing, and evolving. If you don’t, you get stagnant and therefore, stop. There are so many roles to play and so many things I want to do. I can’t afford to stop.
Q: Director Eva Longoria really believed in this story and was very passionate about this project and film. What was it like collaborating with her on the set? She not only had a great directorial vision but, at the same time, has performed as an actor for a long time. She had to understand the acting perspective as well. Talk about the collaboration, working with her,
DH: Working with Eva was absolutely wonderful because she is such a good actor. She brought her abilities for acting to her ability to direct and that helped us discover and perpetuate what we wanted to do as actors. She gave us that freedom to discover who we were as characters. She directed with a very gentle hand, there was a lot of encouragement there but it comes down to love, love for what you do and for what you think that the actors can do to support the system that’s set up. She was the mom of the set, we’re all her children and she wanted the best out of all of this.
Q: There was a scene in the movie when the Flamin Hot snack wasn’t selling well, initially, and Clarence, your character, came up to the Richard character — played by Jesse Garcia — actually encouraging him to try it again and not give up. Talk about creating that dynamic scene with Jesse because it’s such a significant moment in his character’s life.
DH: We all hit a wall sometimes, that wall of doubt and insecurity and sometimes you need somebody to give you a push and say, “Hey, look, dude, you got it. All you have to do is get hit — it’s like a boxing match. You get knocked down, you get back up, you take your eight count standing and continue on.” Basically that’s what I was encouraging him to do and in so doing, because if he failed to keep going, Clarence would have failed. Things like that made me emotional. For some men, you have to step up. Basically, he’s telling himself to step up.
Q: That’s so true.
DH: If you don’t step up, you can’t step up. So, I’m giving it that push and fortunately it worked out.
Here’s the trailer of the film.