Talk about a dream girl. Gorgeous actress Edy Ganem—who portrays Valentina Diaz on the Atlanta-shot series Devious Maids, renewed for a sophomore season in 2014—is a true Hollywood success story. From a small town in Mexico to sprawling San Diego, she aspired to a career in acting. Relying on her own wits and clear talent, the Hollywood hopeful would follow her dreams to L.A. and wade through “random” jobs and various indie fare to land her breakout role in Lifetime’s small-screen hit created by Marc Cherry and executive produced by Eva Longoria (both of Desperate Housewives fame).
Fresh off a promotional stint in Rome, Italy, JEZ caught up with the bubbly, bright-eyed newcomer to chat about her road to Hollywood, living in Atlanta and those best Maid plans.
How was your experience shooting Devious Maids in Atlanta?
It was actually really cool. There are so many restaurants and little cute bars in the area where I lived, Virginia-Highland. I could just walk. There’s Highland Bakery, which is so good. They have this peanut butter French toast, which is crazy good. I felt like [in Atlanta] it was a little more chill, more relaxed, and easier to focus on doing what you have to do.
What other restaurants besides Highland Bakery did you like?
[One place] I loved was Two Urban Licks. I also went to Barcelona restaurant a bunch of times in the Virginia-Highland area. And I also really liked Fritti.
What was your favorite thing at Fritti?
How about the rest of the neighborhood?
It’s a cute area that you can just sit there and kind of see the people walking by. I just like the vibe. But I also remember, if we drove a little, there were some fun bars, and one I recall was Dark Horse [Tavern]. I loved it. They have karaoke downstairs. I was always too shy to do it. It was just really fun. And then there was another one, Limerick Junction closeby, and it had blues and Southern music, which I had never heard before. It was fun.
Did you make it to Buckhead and the Westside?
I went to a place called Johnny’s Hideaway. [On the Westside], I went to The Optimist, and I really liked it. And then we also went to Bacchanalia. It was nice, with beautifully done food.
Did you know the owners have a farm and grow their own produce, which is served in the restaurant? They’re known for that.
That’s the thing I really like about Atlanta, just the fact that it’s like a whole culture of the food and the restaurants. It’s something that I definitely got to experience there.
How is Atlanta similar to L.A.?
I feel like they’re similar in that there’s lots to do. There’s the aquarium; there’s museums; there’s restaurants; there’s bars. So I feel like L.A. has that when you want to do something, you can find something to do. You’re not going to be bored, but I feel like Atlanta has more of a homey feel to it. Another thing I never knew ’cause I had never been to the South before [is] Southern hospitality. And I really, really found it to be true.
Devious Maids first brought you here, but how did you get into acting?
I mean, I might have thought about acting, but it was one of those things where it’s like: I’ll be an astronaut, or I’ll be a rocket scientist or something. I just thought acting would be cool. But then I realized that I actually really wanted to give it a shot. And I have this weird thinking that… even if you fail, at least you know that you tried. You can look back and say to yourself, ‘Well, you [gave] it a shot.’ … So I kind of pictured myself as an older woman looking back and thinking if I hadn’t tried, I would never be fully happy knowing that I could’ve done something. I feel like people have dreams of what they want to do with their lives. And a lot of people settle with their third or fourth or fifth dream. For me, I knew what my ultimate dream was and I had to go for it, and if it didn’t work, then I could move on to the next one, you know? [laughs]
How long ago was that?
Around six or seven years. I [had] moved to L.A., and I didn’t really know a lot of people here. I had all these random part-time jobs that I had to juggle because I wanted to make sure that I was always putting my career in front of everything else. Then whenever all these weird, random jobs stopped working for me in a way that I couldn’t prioritize my acting, I would just quit and go to the next and be like, somehow it’ll work out, you know? I’m really lucky because I met good people, who pointed me in the right direction or introduced me to someone or referred me to an agency. I started doing more guest stars and indie films and things like that, and then the audition for Devious Maids came along and that’s…. the thing that changed everything. [laughing]
What did you do between getting the role and coming to Atlanta to film?
I was auditioning for things. I shot an indie film in Miami, which was really fun. It’s called After the Wedding. It will come out I think early next year, hopefully, fingers crossed. We’re gonna go back [to Atlanta] in mid-January, so right now I have a few auditions, and hopefully I’ll get something.
Have you had much opportunity to interact with Executive Producer of Devious Maids Eva Longoria? Was she in Atlanta during filming?
No, she wasn’t really in Atlanta as much. But here [in L.A.], it’s been a lot of Eva time. The more I get to know her, the more I admire her, and the more I’m so happy and feeling even more blessed. I’m already feeling like: Wow! This is insane. I am part of the show. I don’t even know if I’ve processed it. I’m working with Marc Cherry. I’m working with Roselyn Sánchez, with Dania Ramirez, with Judy Reyes, with Ana Ortiz, and the rest of the cast, and then, now, I actually get to know more about Eva Longoria. And she’s such a smart woman. I just think I hit the jackpot.
Do you think being in Atlanta helped foster camaraderie?
Yeah, I definitely think so. I think it allowed us to bond. [In Atlanta], we had more time to relax and have more of an open schedule whenever we weren’t filming.
Was everybody living in Virginia-Highland?
No. Judy was in Buckhead. Roselyn was right there by Piedmont Park. Dania was a few minute walk away, and Ana was about a five minute drive.
You’ve lived in L.A. and Atlanta, but where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small city in Mexico. It’s called Torreón, and it’s in the north. We actually moved a lot when I was little, so that’s where I spent most of my childhood, but I also lived in other cities… including Mexico City, and then in San Diego.
How old were you when you moved to San Diego?
I was probably like, 10 or 11, something like that.
And when you moved to L.A.?
I think I was like… maybe 16, 17.
Did you get right into acting?
When I moved here, the first six months or so, I had no idea how to get a manager or an agent. I didn’t really have a lot of money, so I also didn’t even have headshots. I was like, I don’t even know how to do anything. And then I decided to go to different acting schools, that taught different methods. I like to try different things, and I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with one more than another. I feel like I was able to take different things from all of them. So I studied with Larry Moss. I went to the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio in Santa Monica. I went to The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. I had other independent acting coaches, and then, finally, I found two [whom] I really love…
What did your parents think about you moving to L.A.?
My dad was kind of protective, like, ‘OK, where are you going? What are you doing?’ But at the end of the day, they’ve always been really supportive. … [And] they back me up in what I do. So I never feel like I’m going against my parents.
Do you have siblings?
I have two brothers, and one of them lives in Torreón. [The other] is in Mexico City, and he actually is also pursuing acting.
How about famous friends? Anyone you can’t believe you’re hanging out with?
George Lopez—I’m like, What the hell? I’ll get a text [from him], and I’m like, I just got a text from George Lopez. This is weird.
And do you have a special guy in your life?
I do. He’s not in the business; he’s in technology.
What do you like to do together when you’re home in L.A.?
We love to go to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, just walking there… [and] hiking [on] weekends; motorcycles. We actually both have motorcycles, but I’m not very good at it yet. I like skydiving, bungee jumping, whatever. I’ll try at least everything once. And then I love watching movies. That’s like one of my favorite things to do. I like Fellini films. I don’t know if you’ve seen Life is Beautiful but I love films like that.
So, foreign films then?
Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be. I feel like maybe they just seem to be a little bit more meaningful. But I love American films, like comedies and chick flicks. I love The Hangover. I could watch that over and over.
What are some of your other passions?
I love, love, love ballet. I go to Santa Monica College and take ballet there. I love music, so I listen to music. I really like reading, but I feel like lately I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to read my books, but I’m normally book after book after book.
Can you pick a few favorites?
I love all sorts of books. I love mysteries. I love adventures. I love chick lit. I really like The Da Vinci Code. I also really enjoyed The Fountainhead. It’s a very unique book compared to all the others I’ve read. I read a lot of fiction. I read all the Twilight books before the movies came out. I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Hunger Games; I read all those. And then I watch the movies.
You know, The Hunger Games is filming in Atlanta.
Yeah, that’s actually why we’re not filming in Screen Gems anymore, because they have the space. It’s their fault [laughs]. I love those films. I think they’re doing a great job compared to when you read the book.
Where was Devious Maids shot in town?
One or two mansions. But for the most part, we were always in the studios, which is Screen Gems in Lakewood. They’re recommending we move to the Decatur area if we want to be closer, which I’m happy [about] because I [wanted] to check it out and I never had the chance. I’ve heard good things. And then I feel like I can go to Stone Mountain more often. I like that for hiking. I thought it was great.
Looking forward to coming back?
Oh, yeah. I’m actually excited.