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EXCLUSIVE: Annie Gonzalez Explains Judy Montañez’s Importance To The “Flamin’ Hot” Story

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They say behind every great man is a greater woman. Well, in the case of Richard Montañez, the creator of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, he had a Judy Montañez. 

The Eva Longoria-directed and DeVon Franklin-produced film Flamin’ Hot written by Linda Yvette Chávez, is here and tells the true story of how Richard Montañez went from a lowly janitor to a hero that saved numerous jobs at his Frito-Lay plant after bringing some Mexican flavor that “burns good” to the Cheeto, giving us the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto.

Richard didn’t do it alone, and he had plenty of encouragement from his family, specifically his wife Judy Montañez, to help him remain confident even when it seemed like his idea would not pan out.

Flamin' Hot

Source: Searchlight Pictures / Flamin’ Hot

Before the film’s release, Cassius Life spoke with Annie Gonzalez, who plays Judy in the movie, and we talked about her taking on the role and meeting with her before filming.

Gonzalez revealed that Ms. Montañez disclosed that she was terrified of her past being shown in the film, but being a “reformed hood girl,” the actress reassured her it would only help with telling the story.

Flamin’ Hot Tells Judy Montañez’s Story As Well

“When I met with Judy, I remember she was really nervous because she was like, ‘I’ve worked so hard to shed that part of my life. It wasn’t a good time. I don’t want people to see that. I really work hard to be this Christian woman that you see before you today,'” Gonzalez told Cassius Life.

She continues, “And she was scared, and I was like, ‘Yo, mama, this is your testimony. This is a very powerful part of your story. You’re showing people that we are many things, and we don’t have to be defined by a single moment or a piece of our story. How dare anyone define me? You believe in God, mama, you understand; only God can judge you, right?'”

Flamin' Hot

Source: Searchlight Pictures / Flamin’ Hot

“And she was like, ‘Yo, I feel that.’ And I was like, ‘And I would never…’ And I think a big part of why she was so terrified is we very rarely get stories like this that show our full colors of us, especially in marginalized communities. It’s usually we have white people who are writing and telling our stories, and we’re the placeholders in it, and when we are in it, it’s a very one note.”

…we very rarely get stories like this that show our full colors.

The Importance Of Eva Longoria, Linda Yvette Chávez & DeVon Franklin Bringing This Story To The World

"Flamin' Hot" Dallas Screening And Q&A

Source: Richard Rodriguez / Getty

“And with this, it wasn’t that. I mean starting from Richard and DeVon meeting, and them being both people of faith who understood the project, and then him bringing on Eva, and then Eva bringing on Linda [Yvette Chávez], and then Eva bringing Federico Cantini [cinematographer]. And after that, a bunch of Latinos as heads of departments for the project. I think we’ve never had that. I didn’t even know that we could tell stories that give us colors of complexity, and we get to see the villain or origin story of something and then see the rise. Right?

I didn’t even know that we could tell stories that give us colors of complexity…

Everyone Needs A Judy Montañez In Their Life

Flamin' Hot

Source: Searchlight Pictures / Flamin’ Hot

Like Richard, everyone needs a Judy in their life. When asked who is the “Judy Montañez” in her life, it should come as no surprise that it was her momma.

“My mom. I’ve been in this industry since I was nine years old, and there was a point when I was like 20, and I wasn’t working, and I’m frustrated, and there was a lot going on… That weird age from 18 to 23, you’re like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here,'” Gonzalez told Cassius Life.

Annie Gonzalez’s Mom Believed In Her

Flamin' Hot

Source: Searchlight Pictures / Flamin’ Hot

“And I remember I would cry. I knew I’ve always wanted to occupy this space that I’m in right now, today. I just didn’t know how. And I remember one day I was crying to her. I had a very similar moment to Richard, where he’s sitting on the couch drinking a beer, and he’s just sulking. And I was like, ‘I’m not going to do it. I hate it. I hate life. I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t figure it out.’ And she’s like, ‘You got it, mama. I believe in you.’ And I’m like, ‘But why? Why?'” she continued.

I knew I’ve always wanted to occupy this space that I’m in right now…

“She’s like, ‘There’s something that I can’t explain. I just know you’re going to do all the things that you say you are. I believe in you.’ And I remember her having this unwavering faith in me gave me that strength, much like Judy gave Richard in that moment to be like, ‘Damn, you want to survive this world? Get yourself a Judy.’ And that’s my mama. She’s one of my biggest supporters. And she’s also one of my firmest hands. Much like Judy, she going to tell you where you’re messing up.”

Shoutout to momma. Flamin’ Hot is now streaming on Hulu.

Photo: Searchlight Pictures / Flamin’ Hot