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.