*I received an all expense paid trip thanks to Disney and ABC studios. All my opinions are my own and not swayed by outside sources.*
Did you all head out to the movies this weekend and see McFarland USA? If not, what are you waiting for? This movie has opened with critically acclaimed reviews! This is a wonderful family movie that is so much more than your typical sports movie. It is an amazing “feel good” movie that has the important lessons of working hard to achieve things in life and the true act of believing in yourself.
While in LA on my press trip a few weeks back, I had the chance to interview the real life actors of this film: Carlos Pratts, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Michael Aguero & Ramiro Ramirez. While I loved all my interviews for the #McFarlandUSAEvent, I think my favorite was this interview. While some of the actors have been in movie before, most are newcomers to this scene, who never stepped foot on a movie set before. The love the showed for each other onscreen as well as offscreen, brought a tear to my eye. By the end of the interview, I think all of us were very emotional, because they truly love one another. They all want the best for one another and are there to help each other out, not only in this role but all other roles that they may get in the future. It was a beautiful sight to see!
The first question we had, was how was working with Kevin Costner? Of course, they said it was such a humbling and amazing experience to work with Kevin Costner. They mentioned that he made all of them feel at home on set, as well as off-set. They also loved the fact that Kevin Cosnter was a book of knowledge and told stories after stories.
“We had tons of experience showing him a lot of our life experience. Like there’s one moment Hector tried to correct Kevin Costner. At the time it was a funny moment, but he didn’t say it in anger, when he said it, it was in a funny way, of course. Kevin Costner, he’s just amazing! I feel blessed! –Carlos Pratts
Hector Duran then went on to answer our next question which is how much time they spend with their real life inspirations they portray on set. He said the real life inspirations took them out to dinner and invited them to go around the city. They were all so gracious to the actors and very welcoming to bring them to McFarland to see how they live.
It was also amazing to see that Danny Diaz was actually Ramiro Rodriguez’s counselor in school. Ramiro Rodriguez mentioned that he goes to the building where McFarland was filmed and says, “it’s not a dream” about his experiences with filming. It is awe-inspiring to see that some of these actors are born and still live in McFarland. Even before they began filming, some of them actually had ties between themselves and their counterparts who they portrayed beautifully in McFarland USA. Sergio Avelar Sergio is also from McFarland and shares how Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts character) took them running. It was very neat to see some of the actors were actually born and live in McFarland so they had the experience they needed to showcase just how McFarland USA in on screen.
“My story is kind of like Romero’s, because I’m actually from McFarland as well. And, Thomas Valles, which Carlos Pratts plays, he was actually my running coach since I was a little kid since I was in elementary. And, I mean, this guy is just so humble. He took off of his job and he would go travel with his us runners. He would take them to Oregon, just anywhere around the nation just to go seem them run. The Diaz brothers, they still live there. I mean, to see all the support that they still have for the community is just amazing.” –Sergio Avelar
They all mentioned how the community of McFarland feels blessed to have this movie come to tuition. The community is small and has strong connections from family to family. They love how the town is changing for the better with decreasing crime rates. People are actually proud to say that they live in McFarland.
“I’m from McFarland. Where’s that at? Oh, you know, between Bakersfield and Visalia. Tha town that smells likes cows. That’s what we were known for. People are so proud of this movie. Now they say that, if someone asks you where are you from and they say McFarland, people would be like man, they’re not going to believe you now. It’s a movie. It’s so crazy, it’s truly a blessing. That’s all I can say.” -Sergio Avelar
They all trained hard for this movie to adequately portray all the running involved. Johnny Ortiz shared they did a lot of cardio training for this movie. They ran for a month straight and mixed in other forms of cardio to get in shape for this movie. While it was hard to train and demanding at times, they truly loved every second of it and said it was fun. It was a great bonding experience to do the training for this movie.
I am a runner so loved to hear the answer about the next question. We asked them how much running was truly involved in training for McFarland USA.
“We did a lot more running than you see in the film, because in reality, we have to train for the whole month, like Johnny said. And every single day, we would run, run 5 or 6 miles as a warm up, and then we would have to go into some hardcore elliptical, riding the bikes and everything. And then when we were filming on set, the amount of takes we did and the amount of running and different angles and everything, that amounted to more than the actual 5K race that, that would be in the film. So I guess we ran a lot more than you would think.” -Hector Duran
As a runner, they all talked about how running is a very hard sport. Just completing my first half marathon at Disney yesterday, I can totally agree with this statement! Running is hard and like Johnny Ortiz mentioned in the interview, you can get injured and develop shin splints, which can be quite uncomfortable. I give these actors a lot of credit for their demanding training schedule to make this movie authentic.
Then we talked about what is the most important lessons they learned from making this movie. Johnny Ortiz mentioned that for him, it is very important to pick the right role. He loves that Latino-Americans are now seen as more than the older style “gansta” roles in prior movies, that they were depicted as. Now, Latino Americans are seen as some of the top movie roles and McFarland is now part of this!
” I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned throughout this film, which I had already knew but it just reinforces it even more, is the idea of equality and not judging a book by its cover. In the film, Kevin Costner, he comes into this small town and he kind of judges the book by its cover. But once you get deeper into what’s really important and all the values that are there, you see that everybody’s equal. Everybody had their own opinions. The only thing that separates us is the color of our skin, so we should try to treat each other equally.” -Hector Duran
They all said and it showed in the interview, that they are a true brotherhood on and off screen, with Hector being the little brother. It was so endearing to see the love they had for each other. The love and support they have for each other is amazing. The brotherhood you will see on screen is actually the way they are in real life. Whenever they have good news or get roles, the first people they call is each other. They are truly best friends and family. It brought tears to my eyes hearing all of this. They are so proud of each other!
“Yeah, but definitely the, the chemistry you see on screen is, is exactly what we are in real life if not more, because we love each other as brothers and we never lost that connection. When they said cut, it was still there.” -Hector Duran
“We love each other as brothers and never lost that connection” – Carlos Pratts
The chemistry we saw that day was amazing and it is portrayed perfectly onscreen. It is a genuine relationship and I think that is important to take away when you watch McFarland USA. It is a real friendship and family, and will continue to be one forever. They mentioned that is a very inspirational film to make because it showcases motivation, dedication, and dealing with the life lesson that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
I actually heard these actors words in my ears when I crossing the finish line at my half marathon yesterday. As a runner, I was so inspired by these actors and I truly believe part of what got me through the finish line was remembering all the lessons that I learned watching McFarland USA. It was incredible to hear them at the interview and put their actions on screen to my own good.
They love that they had the privilege to make this movie. With some being from McFarland, it is not the common job. Coming from McFarland, they told us that you never even think about becoming an actor. It’s either you work the fields, the oil fields, or it’s, you went to prison, and that’s it. They told us they don’t have the resources like they do in LA to attend acting classes or become famous. So they feel very honored to be a part of this amazing movie.
They all ended the interview with telling about their future jobs and what they want out of their lives. They would all love to succeed in this industry and after seeing them talk and on screen, I can tell that they are all well on their way. They are simply amazing!
Go see McFarland USA today and see these actors on the big screen! They are truly an inspiration and the movie is endearing and an all around wonderful family film! I do hope you will all see it because it so moving!