In director Oliver Stone’s new film “Savages,” actor Antonio Jaramillo plays Jaime, a member of a dangerous Mexican drug cartel led by Elena (Salma Hayek). In the past, Jaramillo, who is of Mexican descent, was seen in TV shows including “Fashion House” and “Meet the Browns.” He spoke to me last week about “Savages” and breaking away from stereotypes.
Was becoming an actor something you always wanted to do?
I never really thought about being an actor. I never really watched TV when I was young. I didn’t know what the art form really was. I did music for a while. It was a spiritual thing that helped me relax and focus. I ended up doing a play and people accepted it very well. I started finding my own place and going out for jobs. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.
And now you find yourself in an Oliver Stone movie. Did making the film feel surreal?
At the time I was doing the job, there was no time to step out of myself and really think about it. You just have to dive in and do your part. It wasn’t until I finished the movie that it hit me. I worked with Oliver Stone! It was quite a nice accomplishment and nice to feel like you’re part of it. [Oliver] picked me from so many people who wanted this part, so it kind of validates what you do.
Are you inspired by other Latino actors you worked with in this film like Benecio del Toro, Demián Bichir and Salma Hayek?
I respect them. It’s great when any actor comes from another country to theU.S.and reaches a certain level of success and plants their seed here. I respect anyone who succeeds in this business especially if they do it as a good actor and not just because they have the looks. A great actor has to just rely on his craft.
Do you allow your Latino background to affect the roles you get?
There are a lot of stereotypes out there. There are few roles for Latin actors. The industry sees you in a certain way. But it’s your job as an actor to break away from that and say no to stereotypical roles. I know it’s hard when you want to work, but you have to say no. You have to go after roles you’re not expected to go after. I deal with it. Everybody does, but it’s just part of the business.
How do you make that decision whether or not to take on a stereotypical role? Like you said, some actors just want to work and really don’t let that play a part in their own decision.
First, I look at the people I’m working with. That’s very important to me. Are they going to give me the room to stretch my arms so I can do my thing, or are they going to say, “This is how I want it and that’s it.” You don’t want to be in that situation. It’s like being in a relationship and your partner tells you exactly what to do. Uh, no thank you.
At the same time, you have taken what could be considered stereotypical roles. In Tyler Perry’s TV show “Meet the Browns,” you play a handyman.
“Meet the Browns” was an interesting situation. I thought it would be different and when I got there it was so one-line, stereotypical. I had the hardest time to try and give it a different color. Eventually, I left the show. I was like, “Can I go? This isn’t changing. It’s the same thing.” We just have to move on.
I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed someone who has worked with Tyler Perry that openly admitted what you just said.
I have a different mindset. I didn’t know I would be in this business. I didn’t know I’d be in this country. I didn’t know I would be living this life. For me, everything is a gift. I’m not going to take it for granted and do the manufactured work everyone expects. If they don’t want me, they can go get someone else.
Do you feel Tyler Perry is doing a service to his audience with the work he is creating?
Well, I respect him a lot because he is a very successful man who has worked hard to where he is. As an artist, do I accept all his work all the time? No. But he has his audience. If his audience continues to support him, who am I to say not to do it? I think his work tends to be very stereotypical and hardly ever, ever pushes the envelope or tries to paint his community in a different way. It’s not my style of stuff. I want Alejandro González Iñárritu kind of stuff. That’s the guy I want. I want it to be real and human and true.
You just named a pretty talented director there. So, is that the phone call you’re waiting for?
Yes, please! I’m hoping he’s going to come to my house and knock on my door and pick me up in a limo and take me out for coffee so we can talk. I would love to work with him. He’s just awesome. He has never sacrificed his integrity as an artist. He could be doing so much more stuff like “Pirates of theCaribbean” but I don’t think he would do it. He’s going to do stuff that matters.