Despite her fame, Eva Longoria considers acting almost an ancillary aspect of her career. “I’ve always been a producer and I’ve always been a director,” she said during the final day of the PGA Produced By Conference in a panel moderated by her Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids cohort Marc Cherry. “[B]ut happened to fall into acting.” She added later that she considers acting the vehicle that makes her work as a producer, director, and philanthropist possible.

“I grew up in Texas… I’m close to my Mexican roots but I didn’t speak Spanish and I don’t have an accent,” Longoria said, explaining how she’s straddled the hyphen of being Mexican-American. While she’s benefited from being able to play from either side of that hyphen, on her latest project,  her new show Hot & Bothered, in which she plays a telenovela star that does not speak Spanish. Longoria felt that specifically reflecting of her own experience in her character was vital. “The main thing I wanted to get across was this insecure soap star who never belonged in Anglo-American because she looked Hispanic and then she doesn’t belong in the Hispanic market because she sounds the way she does and doesn’t speak Spanish.”

Her personal experience also played into her involvement with Lifetime’s Devious Maids, which features a largely latin cast. Creator Marc Cherry was very concerned about how his characters would be portrayed, and to ensure he didn’t fall into stereotyping, he approached Longoria to help him get it right. Cherry credits Longoria with giving him the idea focus on the ambitiousness of the characters. “They’re more than maids, they’re people with dreams and aspirations” offers Cherry. That portrayal is critical, as the show received minor criticism prior to airing from people who assumed it would make minority and immigrant workers the butt of the joke. Longoria, who grew up in a working class home herself, explained why that reaction was misguided. ”You’re saying these people don’t have a story to tell,” she said. “You’re saying all they do is go and clean your homes. [But] they have big lives and complex lives and amazing lives.”

When it comes to her producing style, Longoria admits she likes to be hands-on. “I touch everything [involving production], and I want to, and I love it.” As part of that, Longoria said she is particularly glad that she is “creating opportunities” for people in the industry. “I’m very much into developing young writers and getting them experience.”  Furthermore, she is motivated  by the problem-solving aspect, and by working within the limitations.  In television production “there’s never enough time and never enough money.” But she described herself as “forever the optimist,” who attacks obstacles “ with guns blazing.”

With everything on her plate, Longoria says her ultimate goal is to give back. “I’ve always seen acting as a means to an end, which has been my philanthropic work… I’ve always always knew that was going to be my life’s work.”

 Ross Lincoln contributed to this report.