Wilmer Valderrama – Awake (TV)

March 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Best known for the eight seasons he played the flirtatious foreign exchange student Fez “That 70s Show,” Venezuelan American actor Wilmer Valderrama returns to the small screen in what might be the most accessible series he’s starred in since the blast-from-the-past comedy that ended six years ago.

In the TV drama “Awake,” Valderrama, 32, plays Detective Efrem Vega, partner to Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) who is involved in a car accident that leaves him caught between parallel realities. In one of those worlds, Vega is assigned to keep an eye on Britten who is finds himself in an extremely bizarre mental predicament.

During an interview with me, Valderrama, who also has a few films on his resume including “From Prada to Nada” and “Larry Crowne,” talked about what makes a show like “Awake” different and fresh, and why he doesn’t think he could handle working as a police detective in real life.

“Awake” airs on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on NBC.

What do you think it is about “Awake” that makes it one of the most original shows on TV right now?

I think the writers have done an incredible job to find a unique way of narrating [Britten’s] journey. It’s what makes it fun and different and fresh. It’s very refreshing to see the way we are telling this story. It has so much more heart than any regular [police] procedural. Audiences are so much more invested in the cases and [Britten’s] personal journey. As awesome and cool and thrilling as “Awake” is, there is also this great fundamental heart, soul and spirit to the show that is very easy to relate to.

During my interview a couple of weeks ago with actor Jason Isaacs, he told me he felt “Awake” was not a high-concept show and that audiences shouldn’t have a problem following the narrative. Do you agree?

Well, the writers and producers have done an incredible job in staying with a formula that is easy to follow. I don’t think “high-concept” is a bad phrase. I describe it as something outside of the box – something original. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this show. I wasn’t going to be doing something that I’ve been doing on TV for the last decade and a half.

What kind of police detective do you think you’d be in real life?

A really good-looking one, I can tell you that. (Laughs)

(Laughs) But could you solve a crime?

To be honest, as a detective I wouldn’t know what to do. (Laughs) Detectives are their own breed of human being. I give them the same of love and respect I give the men and women of the Armed Forces who go on these journeys to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. These are very powerful individuals. I mean, we are all powerful in our own unique way and play to our strengths, but my hat goes off to them for how they look at life and the thankless job they take on.

Wilmer Valderrama – Handy Manny (TV)

October 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

While actor Wilmer Valderrama might be best known for his role as Fez in “That ’70s Show,” children might recognize him more as the voice of the animated title character on Disney Channel’s “Handy Manny.” Since 2006, Valderrama, 30, has played the bilingual Hispanic handyman who goes on adventures with his talking tools.

During an interview with me, Valderrama talked about how “Handy Manny” inspires kids and what he thinks every Latino man should know how to do.

What’s been the most enjoyable part about working on an animated series like “Handy Manny?

To be honest, it’s been one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve ever been on in my career. You never really understand how powerful this age demographic is and more importantly how influential a show like “Handy Manny” can be to their upbringing. I really believe this show is investing in a younger generation and can inspire them. I’m very proud of what the show has become

After three seasons, are you used to hearing your voice come out of this little cartoon character?

It’s been really weird. I mean, I grew up with cartoons, but I never really understood that there were people behind microphones. But, yeah, you eventually get used to it and it becomes fun. It’s quite magical. When you put a voice to a character and that allows kids to smile and learn it’s really neat. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to see what you can do with your own voice.

What kind of handyman are you in real life?

It all depends on the job. I wouldn’t get crazy and try to fix my own refrigerator, but I definitely know how to change a tire and a battery. I definitely know how to handle my cars. I think if you’re a Latin man you have to be able to fix something and salsa dance.

Which tool on the show reminds you of yourself the most?

I would have to say Flicker (an animated flashlight) because he is new to the English language. I can relate to his language struggles. When I first came to America I didn’t know how to count to three in English. As we embark on his own journey on the show we get to appreciate a second language and other cultures. I do have to say that “Handy Manny” has really made my English better.

You’re coming up on your 10-year anniversary in the film industry. What have you learned about yourself as an actor over the last decade?

One of the things I have learned is not to compromise with what you know you can do and not sell yourself short. I always want to stay consistent with who I am as an actor and never just settle for the flavor-of-the-month kind of projects. One of the things I have been blessed with is that I don’t have to take jobs for the sake of taking jobs. I’ve been able to do the roles that I want to do. Every movie and every TV show I can truly say that I am a fan. I think that’s probably the moral of the story in the last 10 years. You have to appreciate your opportunities. Once you have them in front of you, take them and execute them to the fullest.

It’s been 15 years since Tom Hanks has written and directed a feature film (“That Thing You Do”). What was the experience like working with him on the upcoming film “Larry Crowe?”

Talk about a privilege! It was an honor. He is someone that has redefined our generation with his work. With him, you really learn how to appreciate a human being who truly enjoys what he does and has used his platform for good. If there is anyone to look up to I think he is the one. When you look at America and what we have today he really is one of the pioneers. He’s an all-American hero. From all the TV shows he’s produced like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” and all the movies he’s starred in, I’m just really blessed I was directed by him. He trusted me with his film. It’s an exciting time. The movie is going to be amazing. He’s incredible in this. He’s created another memorable character. You’ve never seen Julia [Roberts] act like this either. Tom has never forgotten where he’s come from and he treats people with the same kindness that everyone shows him. That’s the classiest act we have in the U.S.