Actor Randy Vasquez Unrecognizable in Volando Bajo
Emerges as the outrageous but lovable villain in the Beto Gomez indie, playing at the Hola Mexico Film Fest, May 18
Elia Esparza, Latin Heat Entertainment
On Sunday, May 18th 2014, at the Hola Mexican Film and Food Festival, Actor/Director Randy Vasquez appears in Beto Gomez's world premiere indie film Volando Bajo. He transforms himself into the outlandish but loveable villain, "Lorenzo Scarfioti," a role where Vasquez is barely recognizable. Of course I had to interview him.
Published on LatinoLA: May 14, 2014
But before that I must admit, Randy holds a very special place in my heart. Sure he's a terrific and talented actor, handsome for sure, but he is one who left our hometown of Escondido, CA shortly after his high school graduation in pursuit of fulfilling his acting career and headed to Hollywood. He's one of the few who succeeded.
Vasquez, who during the 1990's and early 2000's, was a permanent fixture on TV as a series regular for iconic shows like JAG, The Love Boat: The Next Wave, Acapulco H.E.A.T., First Monday, and in countless episodic guest role appearances on dozens of primetime shows for every major network. And then he took a break.
After his JAG role as Sgt. Victor 'Gunny' Galindez ended in 2003, Randy spent a lot time at his then desert home, and later went back to college, a promise he had made his parents. After three years at UCLA, he walked out with B.A. degree in American Indian Studies in 2011.
In recent years, he's appeared on numerous TV series like CSI: Miami, among others. He also started working on indie films, and in 2011, was in another of Beto Gomez's films, Saving Private Perez, who according to IMDB.com, is considered one of the highest grossing movies in Mexican cinema history. Soon, we'll be able to see him again on FX's drama series Gang Related, guest starring in one of the episodes.
In 2012, he finished his documentary, The Thick Dark Fog, about a Lakota man who attended a government boarding school where his native identity was suppressed as a child. Now he is reclaiming all that he lost. The Thick has been a labor of love and because of his massive research, he created a top quality film about a Native American topic that should be known by all Americans.
No matter how much I swear that Volando Bajo (Spanish language with English subtitles) is a true story about a famous Mexican band from the 70's and 80's, it is not. Volando Bajo tells the story of Chuyin Venegas and Cornelio Barraza, the lead singers of the band "Los Jilgueros de Rosarito" (The Gold Finches of Rosarito). These two fictional characters represent and accurately capture the music, wardrobe and fan attitudes of those times. Randy Vasquez portrays Lorenzo Scarfioti, a character that plays a pivotal role in the lives of the cheesy Mexican pop stars, Chuyin and Cornelio.
Latin Heat (LH): Your American audience has never seen you in a role like the one you portray in Volando Bajo. Tell us about Lorenzo Scarfioti?
Randy Vasquez (RV): Remember Eric Campbell? He was that very large man with the bushy French fork mustache that played the bad guy in many of Charlie Chaplain's movies. That's how Lorenzo made his career by playing the antagonist to Chuyin and Cornelio in their films. He made a good living at it. Got real famous, too. But like most acting careers it ended and he had a hard time adjusting. He's enigmatic but also a very touching guy. No one ever really knew where the poor guy was from. Mexico was his adopted country. I think one could make a pretty good film just about him, his life, and his journey. I mean, to go about life with that head of hair says a lot.
LH: You tend to be choosy about the films you work on, what is it about Beto Gomez's films that appeal to you the most?
RV: Like most everyday actors, I can't afford to be too choosy. I'll work any job within reason. I need the cash. I need the insurance. Carving out a career, it's like being a human bulldozer. Put your head down and go. I like being in a Beto Gomez production because it means working/living in Mexico. I love being in Mexico. Getting back to my roots.
LH: I've heard you say you're a solider and like roles that are challenging, and that you've never met a character you wouldn't be willing to tackle, is this true?
RV: Pretty much. My late great acting teacher, Tony Ponzini, used to say he was turning out Marines. He was a medic in the Navy. Like any good teacher he would encourage us to do all kinds of shit, weird shit, in his class. Playing Lorenzo reminded me of those days in acting class. Stretch the instrument. You can fail in here but not out there. And boy did I fail in class. But I was reaching and I loved it.
Sometimes I'd do two or three different scenes a night I was so driven. It was like boot camp every week just as he intended it to be. Make it hard for us in class so it would be easier out there on a professional set. Every role can be challenging if you want it to be. That's what you learn to do in class or in plays. You find your way of working, your technique. You learn in class, but, finally, you put it together out there in the professional world.
LH: Randy, was the fact that you don't speak fluent Spanish difficult for youÔÇª the film is in Spanish?
RV: Si, es en Espa??ol, si. Yes it was difficult. On a fluency level I'm about a 6 or 7 and working on it. But I couldn't improvise as much as I would have in English. But Beto wanted to incorporate my level of Spanish into the character's level of Spanish. In between takes he would give me line adjustments in Spanish, and I'd go off into my actor's corner, work on it and try to make it as spontaneous as I could. I hope it worked. He seemed happy with it. I'll probably be hard on myself though.
LH: You were born in Escondido but spent time in North Carolina, tell us about it.
RV: After my parents divorced my mother took my brother and I to North Carolina where her family is from. I split my time growing up between Southern California and North Carolina-- that, according to my brother, makes me an Appala-chicano! All I remember is wanting to get back to California and be an actor. My goal as a kid was to be on TV. Thank you Gilligan's Island and Sanford and Son. Finally my mom relented and allowed me to live with my father where I finished high school, got accepted into UCLA, dropped out after one quarter and hit the streets and got my first paying acting job in 1983.
LH: Before Volando, had you ever heard of music like the ones Los Jilgueros play in the movie? Was there ever a time in your teenage years that you listened to Mexican pop music?
RV: No. I never listened to Mexican pop music as a teenager. I didn't like being Mexican. As if it was an affliction. It's a long story but that's all changed. I'm healed! My friend Alex asked me, 'What's better than Richard Gere?' I don't know what is better than Richard Gere. 'A Mexican Richard Gere.'
LH: Richard Gere? I agree because like him you have that uncanny ability to transform yourself into whatever role challenge you are presented with. Thanks, Randy. I can't wait to see you in Volando Bajo!
Hope to see you at the Volando Bajo premiere on Sunday, May 18th, 7PM at the La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes located at 501 N. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. (Plaza Olvera). After the film, attendees can enjoy a concert by La Gusana Ciega.
For more info and to purchase tickets: http://www.holamexicofest.com/p18.html
Premieres at Hola Mexican Film & Food Festival, May 18th, 7PM
Runs: 90 Min.
Language: Spanish, English Subtitled
Director: Beto Gomez
Writers: Francisco Payo Gonzalez, Beto Gomez
Cast: Gerardo Taracena, Sandra Echeverria, Randy Vasquez, Rodrigo Oviedo, Rafael Inclan and Ludwika Paleta