Eva Mendes owns her role in Hollywood

Gossip blogs may be abuzz with chatter that Eva Mendes is pregnant, but the actress left no room for a baby bump on Oct. 8. Dressed in a chic, form-fitting and floral-patterned dress, Mendes not only dispelled baby rumors, but also lived up to her reputation as an up-and-coming fashion it girl.

As soon as the discussion at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel turns to fashion, Mendes reminds us that her craft comes first.

“I think there [are] enough celebrities with their own fashion lines,” she said. “I don’t want to just put my name everywhere. What I do want to do is get more serious roles, get meatier roles in Hollywood and really push myself as an actress.”

It is a goal the Miami native has been pursuing since her adolescence in Los Angeles, before she overcame typical teen issues-divorced parents, bullies at school and insecurities-to become the serious actress she is today. But true to her title as Cosmopolitan magazine’s “Fun Fearless Female of the Year,” being a woman of ambition does not mean she can’t embrace her image as a sex symbol.

“I think people need to relax,” she said. “I don’t like all of the political correctness. I understand that we have to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, but I’ve personally been called much worse than a ‘sex symbol.’ I don’t find that offensive.”

Indeed, Mendes picks her battles. At the top of her list: the lack of roles available to Latinas in Hollywood.

“Say I read a script and I love this character,” she said. “I call my agent and I say I have got to get in and see this director. I love this part. And then they’ll make the call. This is what I hear all the time: ‘The director loves you and knows your work, but they don’t want to go Latina.’ They don’t realize that is so offensive.”

Mendes concedes that Hollywood has made recent advances with Latina actresses such as America Ferrera on ABC’s Ugly Betty, but she said she is determined to make Hollywood more representative of the population.

“I am Cuban and I embrace that 100 percent, but I was born in the States, so I’m American,” she said. “As we’re growing as a culture, more people look like me. I’m not saying there has to be Latin movies out there, but just barely represent us. You know, we’re out there. We’re no longer just L.A., New York and Miami.”

The timing could not be better for Mendes to speak her mind. Her film We Own the Night, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg, hit theaters Friday.

The film tells the tale of two brothers, one a police lieutenant and the other a popular club manager, who find themselves on conflicting sides of the war on narcotics in New York in the late 1980s. But despite the dramatic plot, this James Gray-directed film has garnered most of its headlines for Phoenix’s opening sex scene with Mendes. The question on everyone’s mind: How did Mendes do it?

“Vodka!” she said. “We had to shoot it at nine in the morning and I kept stalling. Finally, I was sitting there with Joaquin and James. I started getting teary-eyed and I said, ‘I just have to do this!’ James and Joaquin looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s get her a drink.’ It was just to cut the edge and by no means was I plastered. And working with professionals really helped.”

Perhaps to balance the testosterone-filled We Own the Night, Mendes’ next project is a remake of Little Women with Annette Bening and Meg Ryan.

“There’s not one male in the cast,” she said. “I’m not a male basher in any way-I love men-but I had the time of my life without having a man on set. We really got along like sisters.”

While it remains to be seen how We Own the Night and Little Women will change the degree of Mendes’ success, she said some things have yet to change.

“I still have that 15-year-old that’s still very insecure in me,” she said. “Now I just get to utilize it because I’m an actress.”

Nick Maslow may be contacted at nick@miami.edu.