“It’s a choice to champion other women. By championing each other, we make it easier for the industry to pay attention to our voices.” –Julie Carmen
By Belinda Quesada
“I guess we saw the future coming,” Julie Carmen says about the movie, Dawn Patrol, for which she is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category at this year’s 31st annual Imagen Awards (IA) in Beverly Hills, California. “The film deals with racism and prejudice against Latinos — the issue that Donald Trump has now set fire to across the country.”
Working opposite Scott Eastwood in last summer’s Dawn Patrol, Julie was nominated for her strong portrayal of a grieving mother who holds Scott Eastwood’s character hostage as they recall the twists and turns of how and why he murdered her son.
In this controversial Indie film, the ugly subject of racism in a small California surfing community, is played out with disastrous consequences. Julie summarizes, “My character grapples with the impulse for revenge; ultimately deciding that an eye-for-an-eye makes the whole world blind.”
But who knew that Dawn Patrol’s discussion of racism and prejudice against Latinos would be the ongoing theme of this year’s Presidential race to the White House?
In this divisive climate, the Imagen Awards are a beacon of hope and a source of great pride for Latinos in the entertainment industry. The IA’s are only one of a small handful of Latino awards ceremonies that recognize and honor contributions Latinos have made to film, television, and the web. Originally founded by legendary television producer Norman Lear and writer/producer and now president of the IA, Helen Hernandez. Julie contends, “we all aspire to make Helen proud.”
Something new for Julie will be her next role, opposite Peter Fonda, You Can’t Say No. It’s a romantic comedy and a re-branding for the talented actress, who’s known for her wide range of dark characters from ‘Regine’ in the original cult classic Fright Night Part Two, the metaphysical editor, opposite Sam Neill in John Carpenter’s, In the Mouth of Madness, the Puerto Rican mother with ten minutes to live in John Cassavetes,’ Gloria, the opinionated wife in Robert Redford’s, Milagro Beanfield War and the sexually insatiable environmental revolutionary ‘Nina’ in the HBO series, Dream On.
In an industry brimming with immensely talented Latino actors, Julie Carmen feels blessed to continue to work in an industry she loves. Stating the actors’ lives are unique because we go about our business, leading normal family lives but, when the phone rings, we are whisked away to a parallel universe and we get to play. How lucky is that? Here is a brief look at what Julie’s been up to since we last spoke in September 2015.
Belinda Quesada: Congratulations Julie on your Imagen Award nomination! As Art imitates life, in your film the subject of Immigration, Deportation, Racism, and the ongoing hate speech, have been a timely topic in the Presidential race.
Julie Carmen: Yes, and thank you for the opportunity to speak about this. The film drew criticism because it blatantly shows how some local blue collar families talk about Mexicans. Racial profiling is front and center in this blistering exposure of anti-Latino xenophobia among the surfers in Oxnard, California, circa 2008. Because of this, the film was attacked as being racist rather than for what the writers intended -to expose the attitudes of a particular population. The surf town is only a microcosm of small town USA.
BQ: What does the Imagen Award for Best Supporting Actress mean to you?
JC: The Imagen Awards are particularly relevant this year because our community has been slandered by the carnival barker who tries to portray Latinos as less than we are. So there is an urgent need for us to get our stories out there, for our points of view to be seen and for us to define how we are to be seen.
If major studios/networks don’t produce our scripts, we now have the knowledge and power to produce them ourselves. But that takes grassroots marketing and community support like the “First Weekend Club” started by Latin Heat. With the First Weekend Club, the goal is to show up at our local movie theaters for each others films on the first weekend to make sure, through audience support, that the Latino themed movie stays in the theater for more weekends.
BQ: Dawn Patrol was an Indie and your next film, You Can’t Say No starring Peter Fonda is also an Indie. But your very first film that won you a Best Supporting Actor award from the Venice Film Festival in 1981, was Gloria, starring the great Gena Rowlands. It is safe to say you prefer to work on Independent films?
JC: My heart has always been in independent films. My first role was Jeri Dawn, the Puerto Rican mother with ten minutes left to live, in John Cassavetes’ Gloria opposite Gena Rowlands. So during the six years I sat on the Board of Directors of Women in Film and Independent Film Project West, which is now Film Independent, the contribution I cherish most was creating the ‘Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award’ category. It’s for any feature film budgeted under $500,000. Originally it was only for first time directors but now it’s opened up a bit more.
Film festivals are packed with excellent Latino themed indie films with Latino directors, writers, producers and Latino stars portraying positive images but how many get the coveted blessing of distribution? We read how in 2015 women directed only 9% of domestic grossing films but how often do we read about Patricia Riggen director of the film The 33?
We’ve seen and analyzed the same problems for decades, Latinos being negatively portrayed in film and television by non-Latino writers. It’s gotten so bad that a presidential candidate has built his hateful platform on those negative characters and his followers are buying it because it’s what Hollywood has fed them for decades.
BQ: However, on the television side, we are seeing a lot more Latina’s produce and star in their own productions.
JC: Yes, this year we have Jennifer Lopez in Shades of Blue. It’s excellent. She’s excellent. Seeing Eva Longoria in Telenovela, and recognizing Kate del Castillo and Cote de Pablo both for their work on the film The 33. They shine in dignified roles that make the community shine. It’s a choice to champion other women. By championing each other, we make it easier for the industry to pay attention to our voices. It’s not easy to get a show produced on network TV but Jennifer Lopez did it. Eva Longoria did it. America Ferrara did it. Cristela Alonzo (Cristela) did it. And the fabulous women of Jane the Virgin, Gina Rodriguez, Ivonne Coll, Andrea Navedo are doing it. And, Sofia Vergara’s (Modern Family) has been doing it for years. If we don’t talk about each other with love and support, then someone else will be writing the narrative without us.
It’s a banner year for Latinas in Hollywood but it’s still up to us to draw attention to our sisters’ projects. For me, success has never been about competition, success is about gaining ground as a community. Alejandro Innaritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron won the highest honors in our industry but the work is not done. We, as a community, need to continue building on their examples of excellence, hard work and personal vision.
Hallelujah to the women who spoke up for equal pay. Hooray to the Independent filmmakers who’ve raised their money and made their projects rather than wait for permission from anyone. As John Leguizamo said, ‘It’s easy to do a one-man show on Broadway, all you need is a pencil and a f**ked up life.’ As I’ve said every decade, our time has come.
BQ: Yes, it appears so. Well, speaking of fortuitous films, to this day you still get a lot of love from your Sci-Fi, Horror, and Cult film fans around the world for your role as erotic, vengeful vampire ‘Regine,’ in the popular film, Fright Night Part Two (1988). This production was probably the precursor for Vampire movies to come. What has that experience been like?
JC: Wonderful. On Halloween, a ten-hour documentary film will be released based on the Fright Night film that includes additional film footage from Fright Night Two and personal interviews with the original cast. The documentary is produced by a team from the United Kingdom who came here to interview us. The documentary is very highly anticipated within the science fiction, horror and cult film world. My character ‘Regine’ has a wild following.
BQ: Your next film, You Can’t Say No, is a bit of a departure for your fans.
JC: You Can’t Say No is a romantic comedy. And I get to play the delightfully, giggly girlfriend to vintner Peter Fonda. Love-at-first-sight even happens to couples of a ‘certain age’ but their blissfully cute meet is set against the rocky marriage of Hank (Hus Miller) and Alexandra (Marguerite Moreau) who are days away from signing divorce papers. They give their relationship one final shot by playing a game with only one rule: no matter what they ask each other to do, they can’t say no.
BQ: What are you grateful for?
JC: I am grateful for the people who show up out of the blue, and hand you an unexpected blessing like actress Alma Martinez who called me (first time ever) and nominated me to be in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Also, I am grateful for the many authentic longtime relationships that I have in famously fickle Hollywood.
Julie Carmen is repped Michael Greene at Greene and Associates Talent Agency.