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.