A Conversation with Jeremy Ray Valdez, Joseph Julian Soria, Will Rothhaar, Will Estes, Sean Patrick Flanery, David J. Phillips
Mission Park in theaters now at AMC Theaters in L.A., NYC, Chicago, and San Antonio
An American Film About An American Story Cast With Latinos!
By Elia Esparza
This weekend I joined hundreds of moviegoers to watch Bryan Anthony Ramirez’s Mission Park because I’m a sucker for an exciting and entertaining movie with a great storyline.
Mission Park is the debut film for writer/director Bryan Anthony Ramirez and producer Douglas Spain. The film stars, Jeremy Ray Valdez (La Mission), Walter Perez (The Avengers), Fernanda Romero (Drag Me to Hell), Will Rothhaar (Battle Los Angeles), and Joseph Julian Soria (Filly Brown, Army Wives) with Will Estes (CBS Blue Bloods) and Sean Patrick Flanery (Showtime’s Dexter). David J. Phillips (Life Happens) is co-producer and has a featured role in the film. Armando Montelongo of Flip This House fame is the executive producer.
Although this film was written and produced by Latinos, along with the main cast being Latinos, it all comes down to the quality of the story” — Will Rotthaar
Latin Heat has followed the careers of Douglas Spain, Jeremy Ray Valdez and many in the new crop of fine young Latino actors in Hollywood, some of which star in Mission Park. This film introduced us to the wonderful work of director Bryan Ramirez. These talented individuals have already impacted Hollywood’s idea of how to get a “Latino Film” made and distributed. They are part of what Bel Hernandez, Publisher of Latin Heat calls “The Latpak”©. Today, we officially add Douglas Spain, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Walter Perez, Joseph Julian Soria, Fernanda Romero and Bryan Ramirez to this elite group.
The film is about the ambitions of four childhood friends, which land them on opposite sides of the law. Rookie FBI agents Bobby (Valdez) and Julian (Rothhaar) must go undercover and face their hidden pasts in an attempt to bring down their best friends’ (Perez, Soria) criminal organization.
We tracked down The LatPak© and their “gringo” co-stars and asked them about their filming experience and to dish on each other. That’s always fun. We’ve inserted, what we call Gringo Filming Moments by some of the white cast members… and we use the term “gringo” lovingly because that’s how the guys communicated with each other.
LATIN HEAT: Growing up, were there any similarities to your on screen character?
JEREMY RAY VALDEZ: I grew up in a completely different setting than the character I play in Mission Park. I had a very stable home life. Both of my parents were still married and I had two brothers and a sister. Although, I had very close friends, we were more focused on sports and having fun. The one similarity I do share was my ambition to attend college. After I graduated from high school, I went on to attend and graduate from The University of Arizona.
JOSEPH JULIAN SORIA: If you are asking have I ever sold drugs, the answer is no. [He laughs]
My visa expired during shooting and I took a lot of teasing about the fact that on a set filled with Latinos, the only one ‘illegal’ was the tall pale Canadian boy.” – David J. Phillips
LH: Why do you think two of the characters choose the right path while the other two opt for the wrong paths in life?
JEREMY: The split between the friends in Mission Park, I think rests solely on the way that they were raised. Where my character and Will Rothhaar’s character were lucky to have a stable figure in their lives, there father (Jesse Borrego), Jason and Derek’s family lives were deeply frightening and toxic. I think the way Mission Park approaches this, by way of flash backs, is one of the most interesting parts of the story, and is a testament to the creative abilities of the director.
JOSEPH JULIAN: I believe it was their upbringing. Jason and Derek came from dysfunctional families, whereas Bobby and Julian came from a disciplinarian / supportive father.
LH: How or what did you do to prepare yourselves for your roles? Did you get to play the character of your choice?
JEREMY: I prepared for the role of Bobby by putting on about fifteen pounds of muscle. I trained hard in the weight room, boxing gym and in the pool. The director, Bryan Ramirez really wanted my character to have a certain physical presence. I also took six months out of my life to grow some facial hair! I’m part Native American and it is next to impossible for me to grow the stuff. I didn’t really have to audition for this role, which was great! The producer, Douglas Spain had given me the script to read over a year before we started shooting and I was really excited about the story and working with Bryan.
JOSEPH JULIAN: I played the character they offered but I would say it was the role I wanted to play too.
How was it to work with a Latino cast? “Well I’m actually brown from the waist down so it wasn’t that different for me… I was really attracted to playing a character without normal rules, boundaries and limitations.” — Will Estes
LH: Are you all friends? Have you ever worked together before?
JEREMY: Myself, Walter and Douglas had worked together on the HBO movie, Walkout. JJ Soria, Julio Cedillo and I had worked together on the film, All She Can. Will Rothhaar was the only one that none of had known before, but we all instantly clicked with him. It was a blast because we were showing up to work with all of our friends and then going out and trying to stay out of trouble in San Antonio after the shooting day! It was kind of like a crazy summer camp. It was without a doubt one of the most fun experiences I have ever had on a set before.
LH: There is plenty of violence… what do you hope your audience of young men like yourselves take from the film?
JEREMY Yes, there is violence in the film, but it is not violence just for the sake of violence. The rough scenes in the movie really give you an in depth analysis into the background of the characters. The violence is there to move the story forward and provide the characters with layers and depth. I hope that people will see that there is a central theme of redemption in the film, that ‘one day does not define a man’ and that you choose the path that you take in life… so, choose wisely!
JOSEPH JULIAN: I don’t believe it’s a film that is intended to have the audience walking away with any certain message. I believe it’s just an entertaining film.
“I ate a lot of tortas, drank a lot of Victoria, and said, ‘no mames, guey” 7,846 times!” — Will Rothhaar
LH: How important was it for you to be starring in a movie written and directed by a Latino with a Latino storyline, a predominately Latino cast, and ultimately executive produced by a Latino?
JEREMY: I am all for Latinos putting out content, but for me the great thing about this film is that it is not necessarily a “Latino” film. The great thing about Mission Park is that it is a story in which you could plug any ethnicity in for any of the characters and all of the central themes would still work. I think that Bryan did not a write and direct a Latino film, he simply wrote and directed a great film with Latino’s in it. That is a something that I am all for. The Latino story is simply the American story at this point. Brown faces should be plugged in to every story that is being told in Hollywood, because the brown face has permeated every facet of American culture. For me it is all about quality of content. If you put out great films that resonate with audiences, regardless of the ethnicity of the cast, your films will get noticed.
JOSEPH JULIAN: It honestly wasn’t something that I was aiming for but do think it’s cool.
How was it to work with a Latino cast and what appealed was it that appealed to me? Why would it be any different? It was an intriguing script.” — Sean Patrick Flanery
LH: How has your working on this film changed you as an actor?
JEREMY: I have had the pleasure of working on some other great films and TV shows since wrapping on Mission Park, and each one is special in a different way. This film will always be special to me because I got to work with some of my best friends and forge new friendships with some really special people. I was able to really stretch as an actor and play a character that goes through some very difficult situations. As actors we rarely get a chance to do those things.
JOSEPH JULIAN: Hmm, I can’t say it’s changed me in any way. But that it was a priceless experience to get to work with friends and make new ones. And also get the opportunity to give my most powerful performance to date. I’m thankful for the opportunity.
When Latin Heat asked David J. Phillips one additional question about his duo role as a co-producer and actor in the film… what his biggest achievement as producer was, he did enthusiastically answered, “I was happy to be able to get the movie in front of key industry people and get AMC on board, discover a great artist to design our Mission Park poster to market it with, and finally organize a fun premiere party.” Way to go, David!
Thank you, guys.
Mission Park won the best narrative feature, best director and best acting performance (for Perez) prizes at this year’s Boston International Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize for Best Feature Film at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival.
Mission Park opened in select Santikos Theaters on September 5, 2013 in San Antonio, TX as well as AMC Theatres in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City on September 6, 2013. Then it will expand to Bakersfield, Pittsburg and Salinas, CA through Maya Cinemas on September 13, 2013.
For more Latin Heat articles on Mission Park:
Mission Park – Opened September 6, 2013
An Armando Montelongo Productions
Written and Directed by Bryan Ramirez
Executive Producer: Armando Montelongo
Producers: Douglas Spain, David J. Phillips
Cinematographer: Thomas Nador
Cast: Jeremy Ray Valdez, Will Rothhaar, Walter Perez, Joseph Julian Soria, Will Estes, Vivica A. Fox, Fernanda Romero, Jesse Borrego and David J. Phillips.
Check out the list below for a theater near you and we just learned that the Santikos Theaters in San Antonio, Texas will also have the film in four of their prime locations.
Don’t forget to LIKE the film on FB: https://www.facebook.com/missionpark
Visit film website: http://missionparkthemovie.com
More info on Armando Montelongo, visit: http://www.armandomontelongo.com
Los Angeles (AMC Theaters):
Burbank 8, Burbank, CA
Universal CityWalk 19, Los Angeles, CA
Norwalk 20, Norwalk, CA
Ontario 30, Ontario, CA
Orange 30, Orange, CA
Tyler 16, Riverside, CA
Galleria At South Bay 16, Redondo Beach, CA
Chicago (AMC Theaters):
Cicero 14, Cicero, IL
Galewood 14, Chicago, IL
New York (AMC Theaters):
Empire 25, New York, NY
San Antonio (Santikos Theaters):
Palladium IMAX, San Antonio, TX
Silverado 16, San Antonio, TX
Mayan Palace, San Antonio, TX
Northwest, San Antonio, TX
As of September 3rd, more theaters added: