Eva Mendes in "The Place Beyond the Pines"

Eva Mendes in “The Place Beyond the Pines”

*Schenectady, New York is a long way from South Central, Los Angeles in many ways, but for actress Eva Mendes, the cities represent one and the same when it comes to her film career.

Loosely translated, Schenectady is the Native American term for “The Place Beyond the Pines,” which also doubles as the title of writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s new drama and Mendes’ latest film, opening in wide release on Friday.

The Miami-born actress plays Romina, a single mother who informs her stuntman ex-boyfriend (Ryan Gosling) that they have a son. He quits his Hollywood job to stay in Schenectady and help provide for his child, but she would rather he stay out of the boy’s life, as he already has a healthy father-son style bond with her current boyfriend (Mahershala Ali).

gosling mendes

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in “The Place Beyond the Pines”

“This is the kind of work I’ve been wanting to do ever since I started in ‘Training Day,’” Mendes, 39, told EURweb during interviews for the film last month. Her cinematic stomp into Hollywood came in 2001 as the girlfriend of Denzel Washington’s character in the South Central-set film, a role that earned him an Academy Award.

She’s had steady work since “Training Day,” with parts in such big budget fare as “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “The Women” and opposite Will Smith in “Hitch.” But she’s been craving a character like the one she brought to life in “Training Day.”

Eva Mendes and Denzel Washington in "Training Day"

Eva Mendes and Denzel Washington in “Training Day”

“I was a very raw, stripped-down character [in that movie], and I’ve continued to play those characters. But for some reason, people have an image that I’m sure I’m partly responsible for, that I don’t want to do that,” she said. “Or they think because I have [ad] campaigns or because of – I’m not sure what, they feel like that’s not something I want to do, when the real truth of my situation is if you look from ‘Training Day’ up until this film, I try to add rawness wherever I can.”

Mendes, who has starred in steamy ads for Thierry Mugler, Calvin Klein and Pantene, said she also had difficulty convincing directors that she could pull off roles that are layered and complicated…that is until she crossed paths with “Pines” helmer Cianfrance. Listen below.

“The Place Beyond the Pines”also stars Bradley Cooper, Ray Liotta and Ben Coccio. Watch the trailer below.