By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez
Excerpt from original Article in Herald de Paris
Yvette Yates is making her mark in Hollywood. In just a few short years she has gone from featured to starring roles. However, had she not changed course after graduating from UCLA with a B.S. in physiological science, having been published in the Molecular Immunology for her research in the Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB), her only connection to cinema would be her father Dr. Carlos A. Yates who was the president of Azteca Films (1986-1989); Instituto Mexicano De Cinematografia.
Yates’ first acting role was the lead in the short film Niña Quebrada for which she was nominated for Best Actress in Film at the 23rd Annual Imagen Awards 2008. In the years following, she would go on to do over ten short films, all the while honing her craft.
In 2011 Yates landed her first feature film role in Gabriela Tagliavini’s Without Men playing Virgenlina one of the women of a remote Latin American town who are forced to pick up the pieces and remake their world when all the town’s men are forcibly recruited by communist guerrillas. This was the role that would catapult her to work in six subsequent films.
In 2012 she starred opposite Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2), and Christian Slater in Warner Brother’s action film El Gringo produced by Joel Silver. She also worked in writer/director Richard Montoya’s feature film directorial debut, Water & Power.
By 2013 she was starring opposite Academy Award® winner Anna Paquin as an undercover narcotics agent in Free Ride; and worked on The Red Horse a suspense thriller. She continued in the horror genre in her next film, this time playing the sexy dominatrix sorority girl Sloan in Sorority Party Massacre.
Yates’ career shows no signs of slowing down. Currently she has five films in different stages of production with her biggest film to date set to release in 2014. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice she works alongside heavyweights like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s Jena Malone; Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Own Wilson, and Maya Rudolph.
Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor, Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, visited with Yvette at the ALMA awards and scheduled a chat.
AC: Tell us about your father, Dr. Carlos A. Yates, the president of Azteca Films.
YY: I will say that when my dad commenced running Azteca Films, he reduced operating expenses by 50%; was the first to setup copyrights of Mexican Films in the US Market, was President of the Mexican Film Commission at Cannes, Milan, Paris, Rome, and London Film Festivals and was involved in creating co-productions in association with the U.S., Europe and Mexico, and dealt with the distribution and preserving the archives of Mexican Cinema. He was even acknowledged in Carl J. Mora’s book “Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society” for his contributions.
AC: Did your childhood inform your work as an artist? Is growing up bi-cultural an asset in young Hollywood today?
YY: Growing up, I think because my parents always gave us their unconditional support, I never felt like I had a limit. Before turning 15, my parents asked if I wanted a quinceañera or a trip to Europe, and I chose wisely…London, Paris, Spain, and Morocco! In London, I saw where Shakespeare was born, in Stratford-upon-Avon, the theatres.
Although my Spanish may not always be perfect, when it comes for a role, I make sure it’s authentic and true. In El Gringo, my character, Anna, was from a bordertown and the part was written with an accent. I had discussion with the director and producer. I wanted to depict her as a strong and compassionate individual who also happened to dominate English and Spanish with no accent, as small a detail as that was, I wanted to show another face of a Latina.
AC: What was it that derailed you from a promising and stable career as a scientist or doctor to pursue acting? What do your parents say about this?
YY: I felt there was still this something else I had to do. I had made my decision but it probably took me about four months before I called my parents and let them know I wasn’t going to pursue Medical School. It was hard to say out loud and they were shocked but supportive.
When I took my family to my first Red Carpet Premiere at the Egyptian Theatre for Without Men in 2011, it was a special night because they could see all the sacrifices I made, all my drive, my love for this craft, on the big screen for the first time. That same evening before heading to the premiere was when I also received the news that I was the lead in Joel Silver’s/After Dark Action film El Gringo and leaving to Louisiana and Bulgaria that weekend. It was the perfect day, so grateful. I cried, jumped around and screamed….yeah, it was great!
AC: What was your first real part? How did you get it and had you had any acting training?
YY: My first real part was my first lead role in an AFI thesis film directed by Jen Kleiner called Niña Quebrada (Broken Girl). It was dark and dealt with human trafficking in the role of Lucena — short film with a strong message.
I had no training but I relished in bringing these characters to life. Niña Quebrada was one of the first shorts I auditioned for and I booked it. I will always have a special place for student films – we all start somewhere.
AC: Tell us a little bit about some of your projects. What types of roles have you done and what have you learned from the experience?
YY: My career began with Nina Quebrada and the first two years my work consisted of mostly shorts from independent to AFI, Chapman, USC, UCLA thesis films. I feel fortunate and grateful that my career has delved into extreme characters not defined by one genre. In 2010 I filmed Without Men a comedy ensemble based on a novel, opposite Eva Longoria, Kate del Castillo, Christian Slater, Oscar Nunez, Maria Conchita Alonso, Judy Reyes and Monica Huarte. It was my first substantial role in an ensemble and my first dip into comedy. I remember working with Oscar Nunez (The Office) and improvising every take which I had never done before. The words on paper in this specific scene were more like a road map of where to go. It was so much fun, so much laughing, and learning what it was like to have the words and actions form and change as we reacted organically in the scenes as our characters.
Then came the action film El Gringo and the role of Anna. We filmed in Louisiana but mostly Bulgaria (filling in as Mexico). She was fiery, vulnerable, and physically capable of handling the situations she was dealt. I was humbled with the New York Times review: “were it not for a bartender played with verve by Yvette Yates. Her appealing insolence and tasteful love scene provide relief…”
AC: About El Gringo, some think it was a very stereotypical Latina-falls-for-a-Gringo-hero type project.
YY: I envelope every character fully, I wear their skin and don’t judge them. My role of Anna in El Gringo was special because this was my first lead in an action feature film. Anna is a strong, independent, bilingual woman who stands her own ground. She never becomes the stereotypical “Damsel in Distress” and is the support system to “El Gringo”.
It was an empowering role and one that balanced the grittiness with the feminine.
AC: At the ALMA awards you told me that you are working on a project with Patricia Rae. Can you fill us in on that project?
YY: There are two projects I have in the development/pre-production phases. One is called Tesoro, a crime thriller which advanced through the second level of the Sundance Creative Producer’s Lab. I’m attached as the lead, Ana Ramirez, opposite recently cast George Lopez, Gina Gershon and Carlos Ponce, with production to start Spring 2014. Then there’s Mikki & Lola, a starring vehicle for Patricia Rae, and myself, which we’re developing. Two strong female roles in a Thelma & Louise meets Breaking Bad action thriller ensemble.
AC: 100 years from now, what would be an ideal legacy for you to leave?
YY: That I loved and cared for my family beyond anything. That I gave back to my community, that I created awareness on social issues, and that I inspired with my work.