Yul Vázquez – Magic City (TV)

April 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the new original series “Magic City,” actor Yul Vázquez (“The A-Team”) plays Victor Lázaro, a hard-working Cuban hotel manager in Miami Beach in 1959.

During an interview with me, Vázquez, talked about the authenticity of his new TV show and what was reconfirmed for him during his last trip to Cuba in December.

What was the reason you wanted to be part of this new series?

When I read the script, the first thing I thought was that whoever wrote this knew South Beach really well. Also, it was refreshing to see my character was a three-dimensional human.

Was there something specific about the authenticity of the story that solidified your choice to take the part?

What really brought it home was the script. It was from an authentic voice and written with intelligence. When I talked to [executive producer] Mitch [Glazer], he explained that my character was one of those guy who was raised in Miami Beach who spoke perfect Spanish and perfect English without an accent. It was all very interesting to me because it portrayed what my life was like when I lived there. I was born in Cuba and moved to the states and I don’t speak like Tony Montana (Al Pacino’s character in “Scarface”).

Was the authenticity important to you because it is more of a personal story, or is that something you look for in all your roles?

I think I try to do that all the time. But this is a historical piece that needs historical accuracy. If you can’t find an authentic voice in something like this, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. It’s different if you’re working on a fantasy or a sci-fi piece. But when you’re dealing with a specific place and time you have to line it all up for it to work.

Was there a specific time in your life when you realized what being Cuban meant?

I sort of knew it as a child. I remember growing up hearing about Cuba and Ché [Guevara] and Fidel. But when I was a kid I didn’t want to be an actor. I wanted to be a rock star. All my heroes were English rock stars. I didn’t come into my “Cubanness” until later in life.

What was it like being in the middle of a production that took you back to 1959 with all the clothes and music and set pieces?

You know, you go back to a period like 1959 and you have to forget you’re in 1959 and act from a human point of view. All the work has been done for you and all the dialogue is there. You just have to be there with the other actors.

Do you keep up with Cuba and the events that are going over there now?

It’s wild because Twitter has been a great way to find out what is going on in Cuba. People are tweeting from there. But, yeah, I follow all that stuff. It’s hard to tell me a story about Cuba and not get me talking about it to people who really don’t understand what happened there. I hear people say, “The triumph of the Revolution,” but I don’t know what triumph they saw. To me it was the destruction of a country. It’s very personal to me.

Where do you think the country is currently?

I was just in Cuba in December. I think it’s a complete scam. It’s a Communist country but it allows a Capitalist system to work under it because it’s the only way the place can survive. Nothing works there, but it seems to work somehow. It’s unbelievable to watch it unfold. I have a half brother in Cuba and we went to places that he can’t get into without me because I have dollars. It’s bad.

Yul Vazquez – The A-Team

June 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the film adaptation of the 80s TV show “The A-Team,” Cuban actor Yul Vazquez plays Gen. Javier Tuco, a character he describes as “off his rocker.”

Vazquez, who started his career playing a band member in the 1992 film “The Mambo Kings,” has starred in a number of movies and TV shows including “Runaway Bride,” “Traffic,” “American Gangster,” and TV’s “Seinfeld.”

During our interview, Vazquez talked about working with director Joe Carnahan, why he is not in favor of censorship in movies, and what he thinks about Mr. T stating that he thought the new “A-Team” flick was too violent.

What was it about the role of Gen. Javier Tuco in “The A-Team” that made you want to be a part of it?

I don’t think I’ve ever played a guy who is so unhinged. That’s always attractive to an actor because it automatically gives you a tremendous amount of freedom. I didn’t know what [director] Joe [Carnahan] wanted me to do. I was pleasantly surprised when he very generously allowed all the actors to freely explore what they wanted to explore without real restrictions. I think he got amazing performances because he encouraged and allowed that. His hand is all over this film. I can’t stress that enough.

What in Joe’s past work have you seen that put him on the list of directors you’d like to work with? I’m guessing “Narc,” which is my personal favorite of his.

I had seen “Narc.” It was a tremendous and revolutionary film. I had seen “Smokin’ Aces.” I was already a fan of Joe’s work. Working with Joe is like working with your best buddy. He is so excited to be making a movie. He’s blasting AC/DC on the set. The only thing that was missing was tequila.

The violence in “The A-Team” plays a big role in the film. Can you talk to me about how you view violence in the entertainment industry? I ask this because I know you’ve done voice work for video games like “Grand Theft Auto” and other films like “Bad Boys 2,” where the violence was pretty heavy.

(Laughs) You think? We’re going to get into a tricky area with this because I personally am not an advocate of any type of censorship. I’m not a role model. I say parents should parent and monitor their kids. When I was a child it was very clear what I was allowed to see and what I was not allowed to see and there was no discussion or option or negotiation. Whatever my mom said, that’s what went down. I think anything that is gratuitous is not good, but it’s fine if it’s warranted and justified and moves the story forward whether it’s violence or sexual situations.

I completely agree with you on that, but let’s talk about some of the people who don’t. One of them is original TV star of the “A-Team” Mr. T, who came out recently chastising the violence of the new film. What do you think about that criticism from someone who I’m sure everyone involved in the new film wanted the support of?

I don’t know man. (Laughs) That’s a tough one to say. I don’t know what’s going on inside Mr. T’s head. All I got to say is, “I pity the fool.” Nah. I but I really don’t know what to say about that.

Your fellow cast member and UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson came out and said the entire profession of acting “makes you soft.” Do you agree with that?

I spent some time with that guy and – he probably wouldn’t want me to say this – he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. There’s nothing scary about that dude when you’re sitting next to him. He’s a sweetheart. (Laughs) I mean, he’s a very powerful and strong fighter, but he’s a really lovely guy.

Ah, so he was already soft when he got on set?

Yeah, he was already a nice guy when he got here. He just happened to be a great fighter. Here’s what I have to say about acting: it’s for the brave, period.

Well, you know Quinton lost his most recent fight, right? He said the reason he lost was because he was focused on “The A-Team” and didn’t have time to train.

You know, this might shock you, but I don’t follow any sports. I didn’t even know he had a fight.

Were you a fan of the original TV show?

I watched the show, but I was actually more of a fan of Mr. T. I had a bunch of Mr. T stuff at my house. I had the doll and some stickers. So, I wouldn’t say I was actually a fan of the show, but I liked him. I’m sorry to hear that he thinks the film is so violent.

Are there any other TV shows you grew up with that you might like to see get their own film adaptations?

I think I’d like to see a film about [Steve] Urkel [from “Family Matters”]. I like that dude. There are so many incredible shows it’s hard to say. You know, I’d like to see a “Seinfeld” movie.

Would you like to go back and reprise your role again? (Vazquez was in three episodes of “Seinfeld” between 1995-1998. He played a character named Bob. Many fans will remember Bob as the Puerto Rican who becomes angry when he finds out Kramer refuses to wear an AIDS ribbon during an AIDS march).

Oh, absolutely. I love those guys. That’s some of the best TV writing that was every created. That show was gold.

Do you still get recognized for that role?

I do. Television casts a very wide net. That show is everywhere. It’s dubbed in German and whatnot. You could go to Estonia and there’s probably an episode of “Seinfeld” playing there. Television is a very powerful thing.

Some people might argue that there are so many film adaptations of TV shows these days because Hollywood is running out of ideas. Do you think that is the case?

The day that we run out of ideas is the day we should just pack it up. You can’t run out of ideas. Things get rehashed, but that’s always been the case. There are always fresh ideas. You just have to look for them. There are always new directors with a new eye and a new perspective. There’s always new writers doing new things and taking narrative filmmaking and turning it on its head. We have someone like [director] Harmony Korine who does some wild films. Or [director] Steve Soderbergh who will do a hundred million dollar movie and then go make a movie for $2,000. That’s interesting.

There’s some pretty major themes in your next film “Salvation Boulevard.” What was your experience like on the set of that film and working with a major cast that consists of actors like Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, and Marissa Tomei?

That’s exactly what I’m talking about. There is a new director there: George Ratliff. He did a movie called “Joshua” with Sam Rockwell. This is his second feature. There’s a guy with new ideas. I also just finished a John Sayles movie. Now, there’s a guy with ideas. That guy is a master.