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‘Flamin’ Hot’: A Sizzling and Spicy Tale of Success and Overcoming Adversity

Jesse Garcia and Dennis Haysbert in FLAMIN’ HOT. Photo by Anna Kooris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Where to Watch: Hulu or Disney+

Date of Release: June 6th

Length of Time: 1hr 39mins

Starring: Jesse Garcia, Annie Gonzalez, Dennis Haysbert, Emilio Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Matt Walsh, Bobby Soto, Jimmy Gonzales, and Brice Gonzalez

Synopsis: This is the inspiring true story of Richard Montañez who, as a Frito Lay factory janitor, disrupted the food industry by channeling his Mexican heritage to turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos from a snack into an iconic global pop culture phenomenon.

Flamin’ Hot is a movie that will spice up your life! The biographical drama tells the inspiring true story of Richard Montañez, the son of Mexican immigrants who went from janitor to executive at Frito-Lay by creating one of the company’s most successful products – Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Directed by Eva Longoria and starring Jesse Garcia as Montañez, the film takes viewers on a heartwarming journey of perseverance, passion, and ingenuity. We see Montañez facing adversity at every turn, but he never gives up on his dreams of success. The movie explores the complexities of identity, race, and class, all while celebrating the power of determination to overcome obstacles. In my opinion, this is why the film is so relatable to its viewers. 

One of the standout performances in the film is given by Annie Gonzalez who portrays Montañez’s supportive wife, Judy. The chemistry between Garcia and Gonzales is palpable, and their relationship serves as a testament to the power of partnership in achieving success. During my interview with producer DeVon Franklin, he mentioned the importance of Richard’s support from his wife and how vital she was to his success. 

Annie Gonzalez, in FLAMIN’ HOT. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Another performance I applauded was by veteran actor Dennis Haysbert who plays Clarence C. Baker, another supporting and encouraging character who helped Richard in his pursuit of success. The chemistry between Haysbert and Garcia was a bromance for which I couldn’t help but cheer. I could see a hint of Pedro Cerrano, whom Haysbert played in Major League and Major League II

Brice Gonzalez (who plays Richard’s son) was adorable in this film, especially when he tried out the samples of Flamin’ Hot recipes. It brought me back to my childhood and my own reaction to tasting the spicy snack for the first time. His character added some cute heart-warming moments to the film. Also, how much Richard’s kids loved and believed in him was beautiful to see onscreen.

Flamin’ Hot also boasts impressive visuals with stunning cinematography perfectly capturing the film’s vibrant energy. There are plenty of mouth-watering shots of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos that will leave viewers craving a bag of their own by the end of the movie. I know I did! It’s worth mentioning how Longoria makes the challenging flashback scenes and transitions work, a testament to her directorial skills. I’d say Longoria had a successful debut as a director and I look forward to checking out her future projects.

Overall, Flamin’ Hot is a film that will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted. It’s a celebration of the American dream and a testament to the power of hard work and ingenuity. If you’re looking for a movie that will ignite your passion for life, Flamin’ Hot is one to watch.


DeVon Franklin on Flamin’ Hot: A Story of Perseverance and Belief

DeVon Franklin, Jesse Garcia, and Eva Longoria on the set of FLAMIN’ HOT. Photo by Anna Koori’s. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

DeVon Franklin is a well-known Hollywood producer, author, and motivational speaker who has made a name for himself by using his faith and values to guide his work. In a recent interview, Franklin shared insights about his latest project Flamin’ Hot, his views on the entertainment industry, and how he stays true to his beliefs in a challenging industry. From producing faith-based movies to navigating the complexities of Hollywood, Franklin’s unique perspective sheds light on the intersection of faith and entertainment in today’s culture.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): Why was it essential for you to tell this story?

DeVon Franklin (DF): It was important for me because I found it motivational and inspirational. My main thesis in Hollywood and what I’m passionate about is telling authentic stories that can be uplifting and inspiring. When Richard Montañez told me his story about seven years ago, I said “Wow, you know, this is motivating me and it’s inspiring me.” I feel like if it did that for me, it would do that for others. 

DDF: You have given a lot of great motivational speeches and written a lot of books. I’ve read some of them and have seen Richard use the “learn to serve” practice. Are there other practices Richard used that you talk about? 

DF: Yeah. You know, it starts with service, you gotta serve your way to the top. You have to carry a crown before you wear one. Richard certainly exemplified that. Also, not allowing his job title to dictate his destiny, that was critical. He could have thought “Oh, well I’m just a janitor”, but he didn’t think that way. He’s like, “Well, I might be a janitor today, but tomorrow I could be CEO”. For him to see a vision for himself, that is when he realized his work was essential to his success. That’s one of the things that people may not realize, it’s there in the film in Richard’s journey. 

Also, Richard was a joy to be around. We portrayed it in the film that he became an employee of the month once, but he was employee of the month for years because he was working the hardest. He was there for his colleagues and his coworkers. He was there for his factory. My uncle used to say, “Our attitude determines our altitude”. I think people are going to see that in Richard’s story. He had the right attitude.

Another thing is support. He had the support of his wife, Judy, the support of his family, and the support of mentors like Clarence at the plant as well as the CEO, Roger Enrico. That support was essential for him to succeed in the ways that he did. 

DDF: What are some of the challenges you faced bringing this film to fruition, and how were you able to overcome them?

DF: You know, listen, making a movie is hard. I had a lot of challenges. One of them was getting the story right. Getting the script right where it needed to be and getting a studio ready to make the film was a challenge.

It took a long time, working on the budget and trying to figure out how we could make the movie that we wanted to make for the money that we were being given to make it. One of the most significant challenges in production was the factory. We had to recreate a Frito-Lay factory that was functional to produce chips, Doritos, Fritos, and Lays. It had to all work.

So it took a lot of engineering on our part from production designers and our art department and our director. That was the hardest thing that we had to do: to recreate an actual factory to the degree that it was functional and it looked believable on film. 

DDF: Flamin’ Hot touches on the themes of immigrant identity, hard work, and innovation. How do you hope audiences will receive these messages, and what impact could the film have on viewers? 

DF: You know, I hope the audience receives these messages. Well, I hope they receive these messages with enthusiasm and an open heart and an open mind. I do believe this movie is going to have an impact. We’ve tested the film in Los Angeles and Miami. We won the Audience award at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Those things are just indicators that this is a film that is connecting a strong chord with people. I think any of us can see ourselves in Richard; we all, at times, feel like an underdog. We all feel like we are underrepresented and overlooked. Yet, if we don’t let that be an excuse, then we can do great things. So my hope is the audience will take that away and that they, too, will become like Richard. 

DDF: What was it like witnessing the chemistry between Jesse, who plays Richard, and Dennis, who plays Clarence, on set?

DF: Oh, it was great. It was great, man. I mean I’ve worked with Dennis Haysbert before on my last film, and he’s a legend. I’ve enjoyed working with him. So when it came to casting, the part of Clarence was top of the list. It was great that he said “Okay, for DeVon, I’ll do it… usually I may not do it, but for you I’ll do it”. And so to see him and Jesse have such chemistry and for them to work together so well, to be able to bring the heart to the movie (and also some humor at times), that dynamic and that relationship was fantastic. It was [based] upon a real relationship that the real Richard had with a black mentor who worked in the factory. That character is inspired in part by real dynamics and a real story with Richard. So it was great to see Jesse and Dennis bring those characters to life.

DDF: This film was directed by the fabulous Eva Longoria. What was your reaction to the finished project, and where do you think her directing career will go after this? 

DF: My reaction was one of joy, one of amazement. Having worked on this film for so long, having a meeting with Richard and Judy, hearing their story, to be on set and to produce it, and then to see the final cut, it was unbelievable.

Eva is a phenomenal director. She will be one of the best and is honestly already one of the top directors in Hollywood. It’s just a matter of her continuing to have opportunities to show that. I’ve worked with a lot of filmmakers over my time as a producer. Also, I used to be an executive for Columbia Pictures, and so I’ve had experience with a lot of directors, and she is one of the best I’ve ever worked with. So I think that as far as her career goes, the sky is the limit. I feel like she’s going to only get more prominent as a filmmaker from here. 

DDF: What was your funniest memory on set? 

DF: Eva would bring her son to set. I think, at the time, he may have been two or three, and there was one time when he wanted to get in one of the boxes at the factory and go down the conveyor belt. So she put him up in the box and he went down the conveyor belt. It was just the cutest thing.

DDF: What is your earliest memory of experiencing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? 

DF: Well, before developing the script and hearing Richard’s story, I had never had a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. It wasn’t until we started working and started developing the script that I said, “I better try this product that I’m about to make a movie about”. I tried them, and I was like, wow! I understand the hype. They are highly addictive. I had to ration myself and say, “I’m only gonna eat these once in a while because if I make it a habit, it’s not gonna go too well. 

DDF: What was your favorite snack growing up since it wasn’t Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?

DF: Man, listen, Cool Ranch Doritos, Twinkies, Zingers, and that kind of stuff that I don’t eat right now. There used to be these apple pies, I can’t remember the name. Mother’s Oatmeal Cookies. I love those, man! So, yeah, those are some of the snacks I used to eat religiously, but what does Maya Angelou say? “When you know better, you do better”. So I had to move up off of some of that.

Check out Flamin’ Hot streaming on Hulu and Disney+ Friday, June 9th.


Grand Crew Cast Talks Representation, Relationships, and Why They’re More than Just a Black Cast 

Watch via these Stream services: NBC/Peacock/Hulu

Cast: Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Grasie Mercedes, and Carl Tart

From writer/producer/director, Phil Augusta Jackson (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) and creator, Dan Goor (also “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) comes a new comedy that proves life is better with your crew. 

Synopsis: This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles, and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in real estate who’s adventurous in romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene; and Fay, who’s recently divorced and looking to start fresh in LA. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.

Grand Crew cast: (left to right): Justin Cunningham, Nicole Byer, Echo Kellum, Grasie Mercedes, Carl Tart, and Aaron Jennings. 

Issa Rae’s popular series, Insecure, recently aired its last episode, posing the question “What Black-led series will be the next to have genuine relatability to the Black community?” My answer is Grand Crew! Not only is the series Black-led, but it’s mostly a male cast. Something not commonly seen on television. Grand Crew is a show about Black people navigating everyday issues where drugs, police, and violence are not the main focus. Taji Mag was able to talk to the cast and producers of the show to discuss the importance of having shows like Grand Crew on television. 

Representation is Everything 

When asked about the show being the next big hit like Insecure, Jackson said “Anybody that is saying it’s the next Insecure…I think that’s very flattering. I do think that the shows are very different [though]. I think highly of Issa Rae and Prentice as a team and as leaders behind the scenes. I was able to learn so much from them about the craft and the business. You know, like how to run a room and every job that I’ve had working with Dan on Brooklyn‘, too.” Jackson also added “As far as those comparisons go, we are not setting out to replace Insecure, especially after having worked on the show. I knew how special that show was. I think, tonally, the show’s different. I think the point of view is different. It does take place in Los Angeles, but it’s also a different part of Los Angeles.” 

What does the cast want people to get out of the show? Grasie Mercedes stated, “I would love it if people watch the show and are inspired to create more characters like this; to create more shows like this that just show different black, different Latin, different Asian, different people’s of color experiences, and not try to put us in these monolithic boxes that we are constantly portraying over and over again.”

Grasie Mercedes and Nicole Byer

Justin Cunningham added, “[With] the majority of black characters or diverse cast or diverse crew or diverse producers, whatever the makeup of the show, we can start to open our eyes to what is possible and not try to place labels or limits. Not to say what something should or should not be in society’s eyes, but what things could be. This could be a show that is just about people who happen to be Black and has Black themes. But there are people who go through the same things and themes in the show.”  

Grand Crew cast: (left to right): Echo Kellum, Carl Tart, Justin Cunningham, Nicole Byer, and Aaron Jennings

The Actors on Their Characters

With part of the show exploring the dating lives and relationships of the characters, I had to ask what advice would the actors give their characters? When asked what advice Nicole would give to her character, Nicky, she said, “I would tell Nicky to keep doing what she’s been doing. She’s pulling them in and getting dates. She’s getting what she wants. She’s having the relationship she wants. I would tell her to not dim her light for anybody.” 

For Noah, Echo stated, “I would definitely tell him to be true to himself. Don’t try to force anything. Let it come naturally and really take your time with love. Because the truth is that if love doesn’t come from within, it can’t come from anywhere else. To do yourself justice for the rest of your life, I think you have to deal with yourself, love, and aspects of yourself before you can brag now.” 

Grasie Fields encourages her character, Fay, to continue to be “open to love”, especially after being divorced. “It hasn’t discouraged her from finding love again. And I think she believes she has a good relationship with her ex-husband. Maybe we’ll see him, if we continue to be able to do the show, in a future episode. But I think she’s very open to love”, Fields says about Fay. 

Noah, Fay, and Nicky all have unique ways of approaching dating, and the audience has seen some development towards a season finale that has everyone wondering with whom they will end up. Part of the reason why we need a season 2! 

Black Masculinity

One of the things I love about the show is its coverage of Black masculinity. Wyatt, the level-headed voice of reason in the group, is a stay-at-home husband. He isn’t ridiculed or insulted because of the arrangement he has with his wife, his situation is normalized by not focusing on his status. 

When asked how Wyatt embraces his masculinity, Justin exclaimed, “How does he embrace his masculinity [while] being a stay-at-home husband? By vacuum cleaning the floor as perfectly as possible, by cooking meals as an expert like Gordon Ramsey would. That’s it. It’s fabulous. It’s great. I think that because that’s part of myself (as I’m [also] a perfectionist in that sense), I’m gonna do my best to be good at whatever I’m doing. I’m going to find joy in whatever I’m doing.”

Episode two of the first season, titled “Wine and Serendipity”, I found to be very funny because it addressed the topic of men crying and one of the characters, Sherm, talked about how he doesn’t cry. The episode even poked fun at how some men perceive that being caught crying is worse than being caught naked, a notion that is tested when Wyatt is caught naked in the bathroom by Sherm and, indeed, was more concerned about being caught crying.

Aaron Jennings, Carl Tart (center), and Justin Cunningham

When asked what would make Sherm cry, Carl Tart said, “The only thing that would make Sherm cry is the LA Clippers winning a championship. That would make me cry.” Tart added, “I have a $10,000 Clippers crystal ball sitting in the cart online now for when they win a championship.” “Yeah, by the time the Clippers win a championship, you’ll have enough money to buy the Clippers”, Aaron Jennings jokingly replied. 

Aaron Jennings and Carl Tart as Sherm and Anthony have great chemistry as roommates. Various episodes have resonated with me and brought back memories of my experiences with a roommate. When I asked them what sports duo they could be compared to, Carl responded “I’m going to say their relationship is like two teams at odds. This is the Lakers versus the Clippers. Sherm and Anthony are like those two teams. We share a home like they share a home court.” Aaron jokingly replied, “It’s like greatness versus mediocrity. Lol!” 

The Take-Away 

I love the fact that the show explores some of the very same topics my friends and I have discussed and they utilize a group chat, which my friends and I have also used. If you are a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Living Single, or other single-camera comedies like those, you will love this show. I do, however, find a few moments where the dialogue is not authentic, or at least not relatable to me and my friends. Then again, dialogue is difficult to write. 

With the lack of representation and exploration of the dynamics of the Black community on television, Grand Crew is considerably one of the better shows to watch. With a helluva cliffhanger, an awesome cast, and more room for relatable content, we all hope to see this series renewed beyond season 1…and hopefully beyond a season 2! Tune in to NBC Peacock to catch the first season of Grand Crew.


Karen Bryson, British Actress & Black Narcissus Star, Won’t Tell You About Justice League

Karen Bryson

I tried to get the inside scoop from British actress Karen Bryson about Zack Snyder’s Justice League film and her role as Elinore Stone. She just grinned and talked about how fun it was on set with her co-star Ray Fisher (Victor Stone/Cyborg). Needless to say, I was not able to get any information from her. Her lips were sealed shut on the anticipated project. Instead, she spoke excitedly about one of her newest projects, Black Narcissus on Hulu, and what she has been up to during the pandemic. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How have you been during COVID and what have you been up to? 

Karen Bryson (KB): I’ve actually been really lucky. The UK (United Kingdom) has been able to tone down strict guidelines when it comes to filming. I have been working on a UK drama, then I acted in a movie. 

DDF: What interested you about Black Narcissus?

KB: The audition process was incredible. I would like to say the series is more faithful to the book than it is to the film. This is not a remake. I know when people think of Black Narcissus they think, “Why would you remake such an iconic film?” and I say “No, we haven’t.” Even though the producer is the grandson of producer Emeric Pressburger (co-director of the 1947 film Black Narcissus), in the current version of Black Narcissus, we stayed faithful to the book and it is a miniseries. The characters come alive in a way that is not in film translated, the series is three hours of storytelling. I hope our version leaves people with a lasting impression like the film left people with a lasting memorable impression.

BLACK NARCISSUS SYNOPSIS: Black Narcissus is an FX limited series based on the best-selling novel by Rumer Godden. Mopu, Himalayas, 1934. A remote clifftop palace once known as the ‘House of Women’ holds many dark secrets. When the young nuns of St. Faith attempt to establish a mission there, its haunting mysteries awaken forbidden desires that seem destined to repeat a terrible tragedy.

DDF: How did you prepare for the role? Did you take anything from the movie? 

KB: It was very interesting preparing for the role. Sister Phillipa is the most spiritual and obedient to the rules of the group of nuns. She is in a time around the 1960s or 1970s where the rules were a bit more relaxed for the nuns than previously. The rules were incredibly strict. Some of the priest and nuns hired gave the cast and I information about their lives. The cast and I watched them pray, sing, and perform their rituals. 

Karen Bryson

Sister Phillipa believes she was called to be a nun and really has a closeness with God. There is a moment in the series where she says, “This place (Himalayas) is too much for all of us.” After that, she is like, “Bye,” and leaves. She also mentions the beautiful mischief of the location, which caused her to be distracted from her path. Sister Phillipa even stated it’s as if the mountain watches us, not God.

DDF: How much of Sister Phillipa is part of your personality? 

KB: Phillipa followed the rules, so there is no touching, I’m a hugger. No emotion being shown, I like to cackle and I cry. I’m a crier.

Karen Bryson

DDF: Did you learn anything from the role? Did you change the way you look at religion? 

KB: I learned so much. I actually learned I am more spiritual than I thought. I also decided I want to learn more about God. I’d also like to get into gardening more, you know, sowing the land and seeing what happens. Normally my husband is the one into gardening. 

DDF: There is a scene where Sister Phillipa comes across a mirror and stares at it. What do you think Sister Phillipa saw in the mirror? 

KB: Interesting. I would say the character hasn’t seen herself in about a good twenty years. I think she is shocked at the fact that she has aged. When I look at pictures of my younger self, I can see my face so plump as a baby and from there I know what I look like at each age of my life. Phillipa hasn’t seen her face in years, so when she happens to stumble upon her reflection and sees an aged version of herself, she becomes intrigued in my opinion. Her intrigue is broken, when she remembers that she and her fellow nun shouldn’t be looking into the mirror.  

DDF: What are some of your favorite films or series you are watching now? 

KB: The series of films, Small Axe, by Steve McQueen. It’s showing here (in the UK) on BBC and I think in the U.S. on Amazon Prime. I haven’t caught up with the most recent film because I have been in Guadalupe working. The five films in this project, couldn’t have come at a better time than now. Incredible films, sometimes they are difficult to watch but it’s exactly what we need. Looking at how far we’ve come as Black people in the UK. I think about how my parents experienced some of those rough times of racism, speechlessness. I urge you and everyone to watch them. Steve McQueen is a genius.

DDF:  What can you tell us about Zack Snyder’s Justice League film? How was it working with Ray Fisher and playing his mother in the film? 

KB: I can’t say too much. You’d get me in trouble (laughing). You’ve seen the trailer, it looks amazing. I can say that Ray Fisher and I have become close. He is a wonderful young actor and a wonderful young man. We got along great during the shoot, I think certain castmates you just connect with which is fortunate because sometimes it can go terribly wrong. I think the director, Zack Snyder, is great and really amazing at what he does. I’m excited to see this version of Justice League and excited to see the audience’s reaction to this version of the film. 

DDF: What would be your dream project? 

KB: I would really love to work with Viola Davis and Barry Jenkins.

You can watch Karen Bryson portray Sister Philippa in the mini-series, Black Narcissus, on F/X and Hulu. She will also be in the highly anticipated Justice League Director’s Cut on HBO Max. The actress has been so busy during the pandemic we can only hope she’ll soon be working with award-winning actress, Viola Davis. 

Karen Bryson