In “The Lennon Report,” actor David Zayas (TV’s “Dexter”) stars as Officer Joseph Medina, a police security officer working at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City in 1980 on the night singer/songwriter and former Beatles band member John Lennon is brought in after being gunned down in front of his apartment building. “The Lennon Report” tells the chaotic story inside the hospital as doctors attempt to save Lennon’s life.
During an interview with Zayas, 54, we talked about his inspiration to play Officer Medina and what he remember about the night Lennon passed away 36 years ago.
What resonated with you about the script that made you want to get involved with this project?
What I liked about it was that it was a simple story about average people getting catapulted into an enormous event. That’s what attracted me to it. I always like to see stories about how average people get put in extraordinary circumstances and how they react. That’s what I think is interesting about the movie.
Was there actually an Officer Medina on staff that night at the hospital or is the character made up?
Officer Medina is a combination of many security people. They wound it into one and [Officer Medina] is the character the came up with. It’s factual, but they wound it into one character to condense the movie.
So, since he was a combination of many people, what did you want to bring to the character specifically?
I was a New York City police officer for 15 years. So, I’ve been in many emergency rooms in many hospitals. I see how security has to deal with things. They are very confident and very blue collar. They really want to do the right thing. Sometimes circumstances could get under their skin. It’s a combination of many security people I’ve met while I was a cop going into hospitals. I tried to incorporate many different aspects of it. I think there are a lot of flaws and strength in the character I play.
You’ve played a police officer many times in your career. Do you try to make each of these characters different from one another?
I don’t take a part and say, “Oh, I’m playing a police officer.” I take a part and say, “I’m playing this person.” I try to find the life in that person regardless if they are a police officer or a hitman or a priest. I just try to find truth in each of the characters. Based on my background and the essence I bring in, I get cast as a police officer a lot, but I never look at it like that. I ask, “What kind of person is he and how can I explore this person?” That’s how I approach a character. I try to find truth in each character that can make each story interesting.
You were 18 years old when John Lennon was murdered in 1980. Do you remember that night?
Of course I remember. I remember listening to [news anchor] Bill Beutel on Eyewitness News as he reported it. I remember all the newspapers had it. It was a big event. [Lennon] was a very important figure. He was very popular and iconic. Everybody knew who John Lennon was. Even though I grew up in the South Bronx and didn’t grow up with the music, I loved his music. I was well aware of the importance of what he was doing as an activist. It was a big deal. It was an event I still remember to this day. I found it fascinating and disturbing at the same time.
Today, if someone as famous as John Lennon were to pass away, we would know in minutes…
We’d know immediately. Here’s the problem in my opinion: not all the information will be factual. You have to do a little investigation to find out the truth. There’s a fine line between reporting the news to sensationalism to false and exaggerated reports to gossip. In 1980, you could trust the news you were hearing was a lot more truthful than what pops up on your phone today. The information is a lot faster today, but you have to decipher a lot of false information. I think that’s the difference in my opinion.
As a former police officer, how you feel about the unrest taking place between law enforcement and certain communities who feel police officers are targeting them, especially with the numerous stories we hear about unarmed black men being shot by cops these days?
I think a vast majority of police officers are doing a great job and doing the best they can. Then you have a small portion that don’t do the right thing. The coverage of that is much more intense in 2016. Yes, there needs to be something done about everything happening about the shooting of unarmed men of color. But I don’t think the entire police community should be vilified. I think the majority of police do a great job. Cops are human beings. You’re going to find some bad apples in every career. Unfortunately, in the police business, you have the authority to take someone’s freedom and someone’s life. You have to take that very seriously. For that, I think the screening process and training have to be much more intense. I know so many great police officers out there. It’s a very difficult and dangerous job. It not a lucrative job. You do it because you want to serve the citizens and try to do the right thing.