Eva Mendes wants people to focus on her acting – not whether she’ll become a mom

Eva Mendes – she of the sexy Calvin Klein ads and racy Maxim magazine spreads – now wants fans to concentrate on how she’s developed as an actress. That’s right: The Cuban-American actress finally feels that she’s come into her own.

“This is the type of role that I’ve worked my whole career for,” says the 39-year-old of her newest film “The Place Beyond The Pines.”

In the edgy indie drama, Mendes plays Romina, a waitress who is forced to choose between the man who provides for her, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), and her lover, Luke (Ryan Gosling), the bad boy and father of her child. It’s a role that features Mendes in ill-fitting denim cutoffs with unwashed, straggly hair; a far cry from the vintage-inspired outfits and glamorous look that the actress usually spots on the red carpet.

“I was so up for the challenge,” explains Mendes, of working with talent director Derek Cianfrance and fellow co-star Bradley Cooper. “I wanted to be raw. I wanted to be real; I wanted to feel like I was shooting a documentary.”

With no intention of slowing down (“I wish I could work at this level all the time,” notes Mendes), the Los Angeles, California native immediately shuts down any suggestion that motherhood is on the horizon.

“I played a mom when I was 25 in ‘Training Day’ and I was certainly not ready then!” laughs Mendes. She then shifts to a decidedly more serious tone. “But I do like kids. I’ve been an auntie since I was 12. I have nine nephews and nieces, so it’s very second nature to me. I know how to carry a kid, I know how to deal with them.”

Eva Mendes plays a mother faced with difficult decisions in "The Place Beyond the Pines."

Eva Mendes plays a mother faced with difficult decisions in “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

Creating a work-life balance – kids or no kids – seems to be something that Mendes has spent a considerable amount of energy on. She’s been cast in Gosling’s upcoming directorial debut “How to Catch a Monster” and is pursuing her passion for fashion with a new collaboration with mall retailer New York & Company.

And while she’s absolutely glowing in her brown printed dress (“I got it for 10 dollars at a vintage shop in New York City!” Mendes gloats), she won’t reveal the reason why, refusing to offer comment regarding her much-speculated relationship with Gosling, whom she reportedly began dating on the set of “The Place Beyond The Pines.”

“I am so painfully private, that the thought of it shuts me off,” says Mendes. But she is a girl’s girl, adding that she might be willing to reveal her relationship status over a cup of coffee (“I might tell you then,” she offers as an apology).

Girl talk with her best friends and family is something that Mendes relishes and she says it even helped her performance as a woman choosing between her child’s biological father and the man willing to step in his place.

“I invited a bunch of women, my family and friends over and I put this on the table: what happens when you have a child and you don’t have a relationship with the biological father and he pops back into the picture?” reminisces Mendes. The response she received wasn’t the one she anticipated, as the group agreed that they would choose to be with the biological father.

“I was very shocked,” says Mendes. “All of them were like ‘even if you don’t want to, intellectually …you try to make it work. That really helped, once I got on set, to play that push and pull.”

And it’s a performance that Mendes hopes her fans will appreciate. After all, she says, this type of movie sets a new standard for the types of roles she wants to be known for.

“It was challenging in the sense that I really put myself out there,” Mendes explains.

“But I wanted to.”

“The Place Beyond the Pines” hits theaters nationwide this Friday.

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