David Zayas – The Lennon Report

October 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

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.

David Zayas – The Expendables

August 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Puerto Rican actor David Zayas joins a list of iconic action-stars including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the new action film “The Expendables.” In the film, Zayas plays General Garza, a South American dictator who is the target of a team of U.S. mercenaries.

Zayas, 40, who is best known for his role as Sgt. Ángel Batista on the TV show “Dexter” has also starred in films such as “The Interpreter,” “16 Blocks” and “Michael Clayton.”

During an interview with me, Zayas talked about how he shaped his character by studying real-life dictators and what it was like to shoot on location in Brazil.

Before playing General Garza, did you specifically look at someone like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez?

Yeah, I did but I took a look at everybody – Chávez, Fidel Castro, [former Ugandan president and dictator] Idi Amin. The common denominator about a lot of those guys is that they are charismatic, extremely intelligent and articulate. They have a way of making people believe what they are saying. I wanted to give my own take on that and capture some of the confidence and ego they have. Regardless of what judgments anyone has of those guys, they are all bigger-than-life characters and there is something interesting about them.

What was your experience like working with Stallone in his role as a director?

I loved working with him. He was open and collaborative. I think he knows exactly what he wants. He has a great way of expressing and articulating what he needed. He was specific and invested in all of the characters.

There were a lot of changes during the casting process of this film. How soon did you come onto the film and did you always know that so many major action stars were going to be part of the project?

I knew some of them were, but not all of them. I sent a tape to Stallone and got cast that way. At that time, I wasn’t sure who was going to be in it. I knew it was Jason Statham, Jet Li and Mickey Rourke, but I didn’t know who else.

So, as all these names start rolling in – Schwarzenegger, Willis – what’s going on in your head as you realize how big the film was actually becoming?

(Laughs) I was thinking it was going to be pretty cool having all these amazing artists and actors in the same movie. I was glad I was going to be a part of it.

You were a teenager in the 80s when the original “Rambo”, “Commando” and “Die Hard” action movies came out. Were you interested in these types of movies?

Yeah, I remember “Rocky,” “First Blood,” the “Die Hard” series, “Commando” and “The Terminator.” I remember all those great movies that shaped this kind of genre. It’s great getting a lot of these guys together.

Was there anything challenging about shooting on location in Brazil?

Sometimes the weather was pretty intense – the rain, the wind. Those elements don’t help when you’re filming even though it might be a great look on film. I remember the rain came extremely heavy a couple of times.

“The Expendables” is being marketed as a real “man’s man movie.” What’s a good pitch a boyfriend or husband can use to get their girlfriend or wife to go see this film?

I think the boyfriends will love it and the girlfriends will love watching the boyfriends loving it.

Do you ever worry that your character could be killed off one day since you’re on a show that takes these kinds of risks?

You never know what’s going to happen. I don’t worry about it too much. I think that whatever serves the story of “Dexter” is best. When I shot “Oz” on HBO, it was the same thing. Anything can happen to anybody at anytime. But I hope to say on it until Season 15, maybe.