Alright, fans. We’re bringing you exclusive interviews with the cast of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and today, the spotlight is on actor Jesse Garcia. Garcia plays Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez, an original character created for this exciting new series. After losing his seasoned partner Earl McGraw to the hands of the Gecko brothers, Freddie vows to track down the dangerous duo to the gates of hell to avenge McGraw’s death. To do this he makes the very difficult decision to leave his own family and will go on an unimaginable journey throughout the first season but before we get too far into this amazing role and opportunity, let’s get to know this talented guy and how he got started as an actor. He informed us that his road to success was a little random – just the way we like it.
Favorite Miramax Film:
What was your first film?
My first film was actually a short student film a buddy did while I was at the University of Nebraska. I remember stopping the front tire of the truck we were using on top of my buddy and fellow actor’s foot, who was wearing sandals at the time. He started laughing and pounding on the hood, “You’re on my foot! You’re on my foot!” I was laughing hysterically and could barely get the truck in gear to drive off his foot. So funny! He was uninjured. Haha. No stunt guys and SAG reps on that shoot! I’ve never seen that short actually – would be awesome to find. But the first feature I did was Delivery Boy Chronicles. I was 21. I Moved to Atlanta to study acting – was a spontaneous thing. I was going to school in Nebraska – I was a cheerleader in college. I had a cheerleading scholarship – told you, my story is totally random.
OK, interesting…wait, where are you from?
Wyoming. Do you want to hear the story of how I got into cheerleading?
Senior year of football, our coach took us to the U of Wyoming Football game and we saw the cheerleaders warming up and they do a stunt called ‘chair’ which is this stunt where a dude holds a girl up in the air and I’m like, “I could do that.” And the high school cheerleading coach was standing there with us and she goes, “You know, they have scholarships for that.” I said, “No they don’t” and she’s like, “Yeah, they give pretty decent scholarships for that.” And I’m like, “OK, I’m gonna quit football and be a cheerleader!” Of course I was joking. So I kept joking with the cheerleading coach throughout the year and during a wrestling meet, she called the cheerleading coach from this junior college to come meet me. I’m like, “I’m in a middle of a meet but I do want to talk to you about it another time.” So I end up going and visiting the school and I tried out and after a couple hours of throwing this girl around, which happened to be her daughter, she was a cheerleader as well and ended up being my partner while I was there, she goes, “Yeah, we’ll give you a scholarship if you want to come do it.” And I was like, “What? Alright, cool!” And that’s the only school I checked out and I’m like, I’m gonna go be a cheerleader – just super, super random. So after I graduate from high school I went to Eastern Wyoming College, stayed there for 2 years, studied different variations of computer stuff, Computer Science, which I failed miserably, computer applications…thought I’d be a computer programmer…nah. So I’m there for two years and I ended up applying for a bunch of colleges, and I went to the University of Nebraska – they ended up accepting my cheerleading audition tape, so I went there and stayed there for a year.
This must tie into acting…were you discovered when you were cheerleading?
Well, I met this girl and we were talking about what we wanted to do with our lives – this and that – and she said she wanted to be a model or an actress and I was like, “That’d be fun but we’re in Nebraska – that doesn’t happen.” But she went to an actors/model search convention and she met this guy Judson Vaughn. Judson has been in a ton of things – Robocop and Kalifornia – he’s a really, really amazing actor and he had this school called ‘WHAT Films’ and she goes, “He invited me to come down and study acting in Atlanta – you should come with me.” In the back of my head I’m going “1. I don’t know you. 2. I don’t know you. 3. I have a full-ride cheerleading scholarship and 4. My life is super chill.” But I end up going to one of the actor/model search things too because it sparked something in my head and of course I didn’t get anything out of it because I’m not 6’3″ or a male supermodel. But I kinda caught a little acting bug so I asked my friend, tell me more about this guy and she’s like, “I’ve been talking to him about you and from his perspective as a producer/director, a Hispanic kid from Middle America – blah blah blah blah, “Let’s see what he’s got.” I don’t think he had any idea what I looked like. This was before Facebook, Google – in 2000 – there’s nothing of me online so he had no idea – but I talked to him on the phone for about 45 minutes and within that 45 minute phone call, I decided to drop everything and move from Nebraska to Atlanta, GA.
So school had just gotten out and I was getting ready to find a summer job and I think I had just applied to do cheerleading camps so, I could have just went a completely different direction. I packed up everything, the second I got off the phone – literally the second I got off the phone, I started packing. Drove it all back to WY, got there at about 3am, knock on my parents door and they’re like, “Whoa, hi, come on in – what are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m gonna move to Atlanta, GA. In a week.” They’re like, “Why?” “I’m gonna study acting! Give acting a try.” And my mom goes, “OK, if you need any help, let me know.” Now I’m trippin’ because I figure she’s gonna be like, “No, no, I don’t want you to go!” Cuz she kind of flipped out when I wanted to move 3 hours away to go to school and now this is across the country. She later thought, I’d only be gone for like 3 months and move back. This is 14 years ago. So I stayed for a week, my nephew was just born, so I spent some time with him, then went back to Nebraska and picked up the girl, Jennifer Jarosik, drove straight through to Atlanta, and started acting classes that week. Found a job, found an apartment – all within like a week. And I had like $300 in my pocket. So I start taking these acting classes, like once or twice a week. And really, without Judson’s teaching and the influence of everyone at WHAT Films, I definitely wouldn’t have the career I have today. They helped me establish my foundations of not only acting, but what to expect on set and what is expected of me, how I should behave, not to move the furniture, the hierarchy of the positions of everyone on set, treat everyone with respect and dignity, everyone is important, creating my own content, team work….so, so much.
Did you get acting gigs right away?
Well, a lot of the actors who were in my class, they started working on this movie Delivery Boy Chronicles, and one of the guys who was playing ‘Mexican leaf blower’ (my first stereotypical role, I didn’t know any better back then), he dropped out. So the producers call me up – I didn’t have an agent or a manager, none of that stuff, and they go, “Come to set and audition for us.” And I had no idea what I was doing. And I came to set and they’re like, “Act like you’re a Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy with a leaf blower.” I did it, they liked it and that was my first audition, they said, “Cool, come to set tomorrow.” So I booked this little supporting role. You can watch it online.
So, you got your first role, got bit by the bug – what was next?
We won’t really talk about my next film [laughs]. Let me put it this way. My friends and I have ‘Hall of Shame Nights’. We bring our worst work or some very, very early stuff and we just make fun of each other instead of keeping it to ourselves, feeling ashamed. So, a movie that shall not be named, was one of those films we watched and I was the lead and I was trying out different names at the time, so my credit on the film isn’t even my name but the good thing is, that film, that role, gave me the confidence to get my next feature, Quinceañera.
What a great film – what a great performance by you!
Yeah, thank you.
How did you get that part?
Everything I’ve gotten since I was a little kid – be it clothes, a Nintendo, something, anything that I wanted – I found a way to get the money for it. Growing up my family didn’t have a lot of money – so I’d work for it, I mowed lawns, I did whatever I had to do. I found ways to buy things that I wanted. I’m the same way with acting and filmmaking. If I want to do something, I’ll find a way to make it happen.
Tenacity, hard work. Good for people starting out to be reminded of this concept instead of just hoping they’ll be discovered.
Yeah, don’t just wait by the phone. There’s all this web content – go out and create something. Ben Stiller watched this guy’s web show and was like, “Yeah, he’s great, let’s use him in our film.” There’s no excuse not to do something. So, I went to a casting workshop in Atlanta for this guy named Jason Wood, a Casting Director. I kept his email, emailed him once or twice a year and then when I moved to LA, I would get on the internet, subscribed to all these casting websites, I looked every day to see if there was anything I could submit to – and basically submitted to everything – even if I wasn’t right for it I’d submit to it because I just knew, something was going to hit.
I found the casting for Quinceañera – and was like, “Oh yeah, it’s an all Hispanic cast, these roles are really great, I wonder if any of these roles are still available?” Then I saw the Casting Director – it’s Jason Wood. So I emailed him, said I’d love to come audition for this if this part is still available and I picked the lead – why not – and he’s like, “Yeah, you’d be great!” So I came in and read and and he goes, “Awesome, come back in tomorrow and meet with the directors.” So I came back in and read with the directors a couple of times and I left and I got a call that afternoon – “We would love to have you in the film. Are you comfortable with all this stuff?” I’m like, “Yeah, man – let’s do it!” I like to think I’m fearless and willing to do whatever so I dove in and I’d like to credit Shay Griffin who is a Casting Director in Atlanta, for introducing me to Jason Wood – they’re the ones that gave me my first chance and the Quinceañera directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, they’re the ones that gave me my first boost and it went on to win Sundance that year and all good things from there.
Let’s talk a little bit about From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. How did you get cast in that? And congrats – it’s really good – love your character.
Thanks, yeah, Mary Vernieu, our Casting Director, who cast us, she rooted for me – she really really championed for me and I’m so grateful to her. They all gave me a chance. I’m this new guy on the block. I mean, I’ve been around but I’m not namey or super recognizable and they gave me a chance. Especially working with Robert Rodriguez – he’s one of my filmmaker heroes. And a super cool guy, at that. Film school, everyday. And to work on something that Tarantino had a hand in as well – amazing. Everyone is so good – wait until you see the rest of this cast and their work and where the show goes. Luckily, my character’s original. I don’t have anybody in the original cast to live up to.
What do you say to fans who are hesitant to watch because they view the movie as untouchable?
It’s not a remake it’s like it’s diving deeper into the relationships of all these characters and the Mesoamerican mythology and the supernatural elements that surround it. You can only go so far in a movie without making it a super big franchise series so what better way, and who better than Robert Rodriguez, to do something he’s already done 18 years ago. He now has the technology he needed back then to do all these things at an amazing pace and with the talented actors that we have.
Season One has 10 episodes and I imagine you shoot Rodriguez style, fast and furious and I bet that can be mentally and physically exhausting.
There’s a lot of really, really great dialogue so when there’s heavy dialogue the next day, we’re all really supportive of each other and we all stay in the same condos so we can just go to each other’s apartments and say, “Hey man, I need help with the lines, I just want to run it a few times and really explore it.” But there are long hours, especially toward the end of the season. The hours get to be pretty long and they are night shoots, so they can be pretty exhausting but at the same time, we’re all really healthy, we all work out every day, we eat right. I’m like the health nerd on set the guy that’s hard to take to dinner because I’m so strict. I don’t do dairy, I don’t do soy, I don’t do gluten. No caffeine, no alcohol, no fruit, no sugar. Occasionally I do honey. No pharmaceuticals, no over-the-counters of any kind. I try to keep it as natural, local and organic as possible.
Rodriguez and Tarantino aside, who are other directors you look up to?
Woody Allen, Nicholas Refn, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Coen Bros, Alfonso Cuarón. Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Favreau. Billy Bob Thornton, Soderberg, Eastwood, Affleck, Nolan, Kubrick, Burton, Lynch….. There are so many! I couldn’t possibly list or remember them all. I’m like a sponge, ready to absorb the extra drops of genius that drip off the brains of those who inspire me. Haha.
Actors that inspired you?
Javier Bardem. Antonio Banderas, Meryl Streep. Everyone in my cast. Tom Hardy is a beast. Have you seen Bronson?
Oh my Gosh. Watch it, now.
I do think Tom Hardy should be the next Bond.
He’d be awesome! Wait until you see Bronson. Bananas! As soon as I saw Bronson, because I auditioned for Drive, I was like OK, let’s see what else this director has done and watched Bronson and I was like, “I have to work with this guy.”
So what are you working on after you wrap FDTD Season One?
Back to LA, I’m Executive Producer on a project – the connector of dots that I’m also an actor in it, it’s called Pocha that we’re in post-production now. There’s a lot of web content I want to do. I recently directed something, a short film, The Price We Pay, and I want to keep directing. There’s a couple of feature scripts that I read that I thought were really cool. I’d like to find some money to direct some of these movies. I want to direct something during the hiatus.
So nice getting to know you, Jesse! Best of luck on the show and your next gigs. We’ll be watching Freddie Gonzalez hot on the trail of the Gecko brothers every Tuesday night!
Born in Rawlins, Wyoming, Jesse Garcia is an American actor best known for his award-winning film Quinceañera written and directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, executive produced by Todd Haynes. The film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival in the Dramatic Independent Feature Competition and was also selected to play at the Berlin Film Festival. Garcia won Best Actor at the 2007 ALMA Awards for his role as Carlos, a troubled gay teenager.
Garcia was then back at the Sundance Festival the following two years starring in 07′s La Misma Luna (“The Same Moon”) with Kate del Castillo and America Ferrera, as well as ’08′s Good Dick with Jason Ritter. He also plays in The Comebacks opposite David Koechner, Duane Allen Humeyestewa’s Periphery, and Days of Wrath with Laurence Fishburne, Wilmer Valderrama, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Anna Claudia Talancon.
In his first producing credit, he co-produces and stars in Stephen Rollins’ American Identity, selected to open the Short Film Competition at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
On the comedy side, Garcia has honed his skills performing in “Sketchworks,” Bob Harter, Della Cole and Jen Kelly’s sketch comedy group as well as the Latino Log, the Latin Comedy Troupe. He has also done Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on Broadway.
Garcia has been featured in tons of national campaigns including those for McDonalds, Toyota, Avis, and Miller beer.
His television work also includes Edward James Olmos’ movie Walkout for HBO, recurring roles on Sons of Anarchy, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and The Shield, and guest spots on such shows as Longmire, ER, The Closer, Law and Order: CI, Legit and CSI.
In 2012, Garcia makes a cameo appearance in The Avengers. He also appears in Locker 13 to be released in 2014. He recently stars in The Price We Pay, a short film selected for this year’s 16th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.