March 10, 2009 by  

Michael Peña – Observe & Report

Michael Peña – Observe & Report

Michael Pe?a stars in the first comedy of his career, "Observe & Report." He based his character Dennis on the those he saw in the film "American Pimp."

For an actor who is known mostly for his roles in dramatic movies like “Crash,” “World Trade Center” and “Lions for Lambs,” Chicago-born Michael Peña has taken a giant step in a different direction for his first comedy feature, “Observe and Report.” In the film, Peña plays Dennis, a flamboyant mall security officer who is second in command to Seth Rogen’s bipolar character Ronnie Barnhardt. Both are on the trail of a man who has been exposing himself to female patrons in the mall parking lot.

During an interview with me, Peña, 33, talked about how he created his curly-haired character and what actors he looks up to in the comedy genre.

Who did you base your character on?

I saw this movie called “American Pimp” by the Hughes brothers. What was interesting [was that] I thought they were actors who were acting like pimps. All of a sudden, I realized that [the actors] really believed that they were full-fledged pimps. I thought it would be hilarious if there was a Mexican dude that thought he was a pimp. I went in for the audition and gave it to [director] Jody Hill and the producers and they liked it enough to actually put me in the movie.

I know you permed your hair for this role. Is that the most you’ve ever done physically to prepare for a role and would you ever do anything drastic for a role you really wanted?

I actually had to lose 30 pounds. for this movie I’m doing in July, which is going to be fantastic. I’m going to be eating grass and rocks for a couple of months. It’s going to be awesome. For “The Lucky Ones” I was down to 160 pounds. I was in really good shape. I’ve shaved my head, grown [my hair out]. This is what I do and I love doing it and I’ll do [anything] especially if it fits the character. It’s not like dress up; it’s more like [becoming] these people. There is a certain kind of enjoyment you get when you become another person on screen.

How did you stop from laughing constantly when making a film like “Observe and Report?”

You pinch yourself. I swear to God, I literally pinched myself in the back, especially when Seth Rogen was making me laugh. Aside from the pinching technique that I’ve acquired, I don’t know how I’m going to get through my next comedy.

How would you describe your sense of humor since this is your first comedy? I sense a lot of sarcasm, so who do you look up to in the comedy genre?
[Sarcastically] I think Steven Segal is good. I think Chuck Norris is excellent. Those guys are my idols. I’m also going to have to say Charles Bronson.

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