- “I read that in some scenes you had cameras attached to you to capture the realism of certain scenes, how did that experience feel?
o It was different from any other film I’ve ever done. Number one, you have to operate the cameras. It was pretty interesting. Sometimes it was to our benefit, because they were so small you wouldn’t notice the camera. So you could act through any sort of nerves. There’s always pressure in any movie set if you think about it, there’s something that you memorize and it’s almost like public speaking all day, every day. So, there’s a crew, people, monitors and if you mess up you have to do it until you get it right. Sometimes you go blank! It was cool though, because at any point in time there were five cameras on you. So you had to make sure you were always “in the scene” and that you never gave up on it.
- “Were all of the cameras okay? I mean, any damaged lenses after you finished shooting the scenes?”
o “Yeah, I think they were all pretty good, from what I remember. It was kind of a crazy shoot. Crazy 22 day shoot. It was a hard, hard shoot. We filmed 12 hours a day. It was hard. For a whole movie to be filmed in just 22 days. But I remember when I was running with the camera here (points at his chest), and a monitor here in a giant backpack. I felt like the Mexican Robocop. I definitely looked futuristic.”
- “With filming down in LA, and actually where you were policing in the “hood”, was there a mix of actors and, shall we say members, of crime?”
o You mean members of the crime family? Um, I mean for the most part there were mostly ex-gangbangers, if not gangbangers at the time, that we were going up against. There were a lot of real Mexicans in the movie. The extras were Mexican. Not anybody with a tan ‘Yeah, you have a tan… What’s your name? George Stallman? But you have a tan, so you can be Mexican today. Say ‘Que pasa my friend?’ PERFECT! You’re in the movie!’ So yeah, it was pretty gnarly we were shooting in South Central, but it was so weird sometimes because there were paparazzi, for Jake. And he was like “DUDE! YOU’RE IN THE SHOT!” They follow that dude like flies on shit. It’s unbelievable. They don’t follow me like that. I don’t want that. It’s crazy. He lives a gnarly life having to do that. Then you become friends with all these guys and they don’t wish that upon anybody. You know?
After the first two questions, it was time for Artists on Demand to get in on the action… Our questions were up next.
- Cachie asked: The movie is documentary-style, it made it feel so raw and real and it didn’t feel like you were following a script too much. Did you get to improvise a lot of your lines or were you working directly with the script?
o I was directly working with the script. All the essence of the scenes had to be there. There was one time… I sat down and asked David (the writer & director) ‘Can I change this to this?’ and he was always like ‘NO.’ Then, ‘Alright how about this?’ ‘Nope.’ ‘This?’ ‘No.’ ‘Alright, you know what I’ll just keep it the same?’ ‘That sounds like a great idea!’ But you know, there’s moments where we’re supposed to be doing a scene and something happens, you need to react to that. If not, it won’t turn out very well and you can’t use that take. So there’s a lot things that happen in every movie that you need to respond to. But I’m going to say that 98% of it all was written. Which is a lot to be honest.
- Cachie: Well just so you know, it didn’t really look written at all.
o The whole movie?
- Cachie: Well, most of it, like the conversations that you had with Jake. It seemed so natural, I mean, which is why you’re an actor. Because you can do that. You’re a professional.
o We had the style of the movie in mind from the get- go. The first line says ‘Notice: This will all be found footage.’ And when you think of found footage, you think of YouTube, security cameras and nobody is acting in those. So we had 4 to 5 months of actual pre production and rehearsal. But, in order to make it look like you’re not acting, you have to rehearse like crazy! Not necessarily to know how to say something, but to know what you’re saying. Like, the best way to describe it, and we do this to young actors, we say ‘Well, tell me how you got here.’ So then they go into how they arrived at the location you’re at and then we say ‘Ok, say it again, but be more specific’ You know, the more you do it, the more specific you get, the easier and faster you can do it. Then you picture it, you want other people to picture it and then it’s much easier. That’s in essence what I did.
Another journalist at the table jumped in and added:
- Even the line where you say “could you live without her?” cause that was a really powerful line.
o Yeah, that was definitely ALL David. That was a tough one because it was written very, very specific. And sometimes it’s rhythm that gets you out of it. What I chose to do was is this thing where I ask a question at the end? Like that thing? Where it’s kind of cool? Like I’m doing right now? And I actually imitate my friend because he talks just like that. You know, cause I’m kind of monotone sometimes. So what I did was make it like I was kind of telling a story.
Artists on Demand were right back on the table with our next question, this time from our host, Michelle!
- Michelle: There were a lot of action scenes, did you have any specific type of training beforehand and did you do any of your own stunts?
o Yeah, I actually did Ninja training! Nah, just kidding. They’re like ‘Alright bro, there isn’t a lot of ninja shit in the movie, but if you want to sneak around and kick someone’s ass, you can!’ Um, no, I did a lot of training actually. Believe it or not, I was a little chubby for the movie; I almost didn’t get the part. My son was 2 years old at the time. So, all we did was eat ice cream and basically anything he wanted, I’d give it to him. ‘You want this? Have it. I don’t even know what it is, but take it.’ So yeah, it was really interesting, in no time at all, you blow up. A week consisted of working out like 10 times and three of them were sparring because we were going to fight. And I’ve really got to thank this guy because he put us in a boot camp, sort of, where you need to do anything that a cop did. You know, these guys have to fight and handle weapons; we rehearsed what they say and learned how to clear a room. There’s a specific way that you clear a room I had never learned before where you basically come into a room through a corner and you see the other guy before he sees you. They actually had us do all this with live ammunition. There would be posters everywhere, where each poster was a different character and when you have a live gun, it’s nerve-wracking. But it was pretty cool, we were able to start liking it a lot after a while, but the training was unbelievable. We went into a burning house, they filled this room full of smoke and there was like a cake of smoke underneath. What’s weird about that is that the whole thing turns into flames. It was like WHOA! But, it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done and we had to put water everywhere. Within 3 seconds, you were covered in sweat. It was pretty gnarly. So hot and weird.
- Michelle: Thought about being a cop maybe?
o No, no… Not at all.
- About the scenes with you and Jake, those were the best parts of the movie. You both have amazing chemistry as cops, partners, best friends, overgrown kids. You guys were hilarious. Did you have that chemistry with Jake instantly? Or did you build it?
o Not at all. He’ll be the first to tell you. It’s not that we hated each other; he’s just a different dude than I am. You know, I grew up poor; he grew up with a little bit of cash. My parents were farmers; his were a director and writer. I have a brother, he has a sister. Almost everything you can think of opposite. The director kept saying ‘Trust me, you guys will become friends.’ And I was like ‘Okay... sure.’ It’s not that he’s a bad guy, there was just nothing in common. My best friend was here yesterday and he likes baseball; I like baseball. So the way we met was a time I was hitting on his girlfriend. I didn’t know it was his girlfriend, so all I said was ‘Hey! We have the same taste!’ His mom was actually the one that convinced me to become an actor. It’s just easy with him, I’ve known the guy for 22 years. So it’s easy, we have a lot in common. We love the Chicago Bears. So when you don’t get along, you don’t find that chemistry you’re just like ‘Yeah, he’s a cool dude.’ But oddly enough, it’s because the boot camp style of working that we became friends. But we also both really love this movie. There isn’t many times where you get a Latin American/Latino to have one of the starring roles in a movie. Like World Trade Center, The Lucky Ones – It’s been like 7 years. World Trade Center was after Crash and 2 years later. I wish it would be like every year, but that’s not the fact. I’m chomping at the bits when I get an opportunity like that. Also, he’s an actor, an artist; you know he’s trying to make it go right. Something that really helped us out was talking about our family. Talking about how I am with my brother. I would tell him ‘You know how people fight, but you can tell they’re still friends?’ and he would say ‘Nah, man you’re full of shit.’ Instead of being all mad and saying ‘NAH, MAN YOU’RE FULL OF SHIT!!!’ That’s something a stranger would say. When you know somebody you’re just like ‘Shut up dude…’ So yeah, that’s really real.
Michelle and I look at each other at almost the same exact moment and he says
o Do you guys do that?
- Cachie and Michelle: yeah, all the time.
o So you see, that’s so real! We had little discoveries here and there through rehearsing. Also with my wife, well, not my real wife, my wife in the movie played by Natalie Martinez. We spent 2 to 3 days together every day for 5 months. So you really get to know someone. It’s one thing to play a young married couple and another to play a REAL young, married couple. Where we’re so comfortable in front of each other. There’s this one scene where she’s talking about all this sexual stuff and I’m like ‘WHOA! DUDE!’ you know you can only do those things with your wife! ‘BABE, NO!’ You know with how close you are and stuff. It’s kind of cool to get that in a sort of time capsule so to speak.
- Michael, you just finished wrapping up Chavez and also finished re-shooting Gangster Squad. So how are those projects coming along?
o Well, gangster squad is now coming out in like January or something. It’s a cool movie great script. Super fun and kind of homage to old gangster movies.
- You get to work with Anthony again!
o Anthony [Mackie]! That guy, he’s got Million Dollar Baby, The Hurt Locker…
- Well, you’ve got those too! You’re close.
o Yeah I did Million Dollar Baby and Crash. But yeah that was really cool. The cast is amazing. You’ve got Sean Penn… I can’t even remember. Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie… Me at the very end. Chavez is really awesome. That one is going to come out next year around this time, hopefully.
- And you get to work with America too.
o Yeah! That’s crazy. She’s such a good actress, dude. He just kept us together. We weren’t like buddy, buddy. We got to do Chavez, she played my wife and I was like ‘she’s really cool, man!’ But she’s that good, the type of actress where you play her adversary, you can tell she doesn’t quite like you. But if she plays your wife, you know there’s a little bit of love there for me. I think that’s what makes her a good actress. She’s able to use reality well.
And that’s a wrap! Hopefully our interview encourages you to check out the flick which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez. After watching the movie, I can honestly say it’s worth watching. So make sure to catch Michael Pena and his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch coming to theaters on September 21st! Don’t miss it!