Exclusive Interview with Miguel Sandoval for ‘Sun Belt Express’

– by Gig Patta

The seemingly simple jobs always end up being the complicated ones.

Tate Donovan stars in this comedy-drama about a college professor who needs to earn extra cash by smuggling undocumented immigrants across the border. Things didn't go smoothly with a daughter sneaking on to the trip and having an ex-girlfriend as one of the undocumented immigrants.

The film also stars Ana de la Reguera, India Ennenga, Rachael Harris and Miguel Sandoval.

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with Sandoval over his role of playing the antagonist, the wicked businessman who owns the smuggling operation. We also discussed the grounded script story, New Mexico and his long, respectable career.

“Sun Belt Express” is out on Digital HD and VOD.

Read the interview below.

Latino-Review: So what attracted you to this film?

Miguel Sandoval: Well, it’s simple. It’s the notion that it’s a comedy about undocumented immigrants. That’s just ripe for possibilities for humor. [Laughter] I’m just being facetious. It intrigued me right away. I read the script and I thought it was unusual. It’s something that’s unexpected. Why not? I knew Tate [Donovan] from before since we worked together [on another film]. I met Tate and said, “Jeez. This sounds good.”

Latino-Review: Talk about you playing Ramon Velazquez, the adversary to the Allen King character. You played a really conniving entrepreneur who smuggled undocumented immigrants. That’s probably quite humorous by itself.

Miguel Sandoval: [Laughter] Ramon is a businessman, first and foremost. I was attracted to the character, because he was really not necessarily nefarious or evil on his mind all the time. [Laughter] I think he was just out there to make money. I like it that he doesn’t have any type of race loyalty, nationality loyalty or anything else. He doesn’t care. He’s an even-handed crook. He’ll cheat anybody out of anything. He doesn’t care on what race or nationality they are.

He takes advantageous of Allen’s character obviously as much as these poor people who are trying to come over here. These poor people are trying to make a living here so they could send money back to Mexico. He doesn’t care.

The way I’ve approached it was that he is celebratory about it. [Laughter] He almost wants credit for being a good crook. [Laughter] It’s something that he’s prideful of I think.

Latino-Review: Yeah, I did noticed that on how you played him that he was so proud of himself all the way to the end of the film.

Miguel Sandoval: Very pleased. He’s very pleased of his ill-gotten gains.

Latino-Review: Tell me more about your interaction with Tate Donovan’s character Allen. It’s like a pleasing tortuous way of teasing him with money.

Miguel Sandoval: [Laughter] He knows this guy needs money. He knows that Allen is in bad shape. Allen is equally in bad shape like those three other guys of Miguel, Rafi and Pablo. He’s a bit sadistic. He got Allen on a short leash. He doesn’t watching him squirm.

Latino-Review: What I liked about this film that it places certain human elements into the story. It grounded these undocumented immigrants and the illegal smuggling—especially with the nonpolitical tact. You noticed that?

Miguel Sandoval: Absolutely. To me, the people who make this movie, are the guys who played the immigrants. They are Arturo [Castro], Oscar [Avila] and Selim [Sandoval]. I think they’re great. They are really funny.

I thought they were, like you said, very human. There was that little glimpse of their family lives before they left, especially with Miguel’s family and Arturo’s family. I thought that was simply terrific and well done. It really grounded the film and made it seem more universal. It was more relatable. They were the strength of the film for sure.

Latino-Review: Your character was also a little bit grounded. We can certainly see entrepreneurs on this side of the border doing the same thing, right?

Miguel Sandoval: Absolutely, absolutely. No question about that.

Latino-Review: The film itself takes a controversial topic that’s in the news today. What’s your opinion on this?

Miguel Sandoval: Well, I tend to look at the story rather than the controversial subject. I don’t really have an opinion on the subject matter. Even if I did then I wouldn’t want to talk about it. It’s just too hot of a topic to touch. For me, I’ve made a decision to be in this movie and do this movie. The movie has a really strong story that [Evan] Buxbaum really pulled off by making it very human.

He did put a human face on these undocumented crossings. It’s very, very important to remember that these are people just like us. Nobody wants to be in that situation, but the reality is some of us are. Again, those three guys brought in so much humanity to the film that it made the film come alive.

Latino-Review: That indeed is great. The nice thing is that you didn’t have to act from the inside of a trunk of a car.

Miguel Sandoval: [Laughter] You got that right. I might not have been so quick to join the cast so none of that at my age.

Latino-Review: So what do you supposed was the best part of doing something on this production? What scene?

Miguel Sandoval: I have plenty scenes with Allen. So interacting with him was great fun. And then I loved the big party scene at the end, because it’s always fun to be in a scene with a lot of people and improvisation going on. It’s always fun to entertain these people, especially if you’re out of the district and in a regional area like New Mexico here. All these people think, “Ah, man. It’s so great to be in a movie.” Nobody tells you that you’ll be up all night and be doing the scene over and over again until you get it right.

I always liked to entertain the crowds whenever I can, especially at four in the morning and they look like they want to be at any place else except for here. So I really like that big party scene and there were tons of stuff that we shot that didn’t make it into the movie. We’ll have to check out the outtakes. Both Rachael Harris and myself tried to get that crowd entertained. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: You’ve probably done more than 100 or 150 projects in your lifetime. Why is indie projects like this so important to your career?

Miguel Sandoval: [I’m] looking for something new now for me. If someone comes up to me and says, “I want you to play a district attorney,” then I’ll tell them to stop it right there. If someone comes up to me and says, “I want you to play a judge,” then I’ll say, “I’ll read the script, but it better be good, man.” [Laughter] Been there. Done that.

It’s also the same with drug lords. It’ll better be different, because been there and done that. So these things have a ring of something new and something different. It’ll perk up my ears right away.

For this one, it’s a comedy about undocumented immigrants. So I was like, “Wait. What? It makes no sense. I’ll read it.”

Latino-Review: [Laughter] Is there anything else that you would like to play that you haven’t played yet?

Miguel Sandoval: Hmmm…..hmmm….nothing right off the top of my brain. I just take one project at a time when it comes in. I used to do westerns all the time and it’s been quite a while for me with a western. I would love to go back to that at some point.

Latino-Review: So what is your secret for having such a low successful career then?

Miguel Sandoval: [Laughter] Having a lot of bills to pay. [Laughter] I’m just being silly. I don’t really know. For me, frankly, I came to a certain age that I didn’t know on how to do anything else. So I really have to make this work. I got tons of work. I got lucky.

Latino-Review: [Laughter] A lot of people out there would love to have your luck. Now project is also in New Mexico. Isn’t that where you are from?

Miguel Sandoval: It is. In fact, I’m currently in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I spend half of my time here and the other half of my time in Los Angeles.

Latino-Review: So this project is right in your backyard. It’s even better for you.

Miguel Sandoval: That also helped with the attractiveness as well. I realized that I’m going to be here, so “Hey! Why not?” I liked this project. I liked the personnel. I’ll be there anyway.

What I didn’t know was that we were shooting in Belen—it was 112 [degrees] out there one day. It was unbelievably hot. You don’t bargain for that. It’s all good. They still took care of us.

Latino-Review: Miguel, tell me any of your upcoming future projects.

Miguel Sandoval: I have a part in a film that’s coming out soon. It was bought by Lionsgate last year called, “Blood Father.” The screenplay is taken from the novel of the same name by the writer Peter Craig. He is a terrific young guy and in fact he is Sally Field’s son. This may be Mel Gibson’s comeback movie I suppose. It’s an interesting film with a bunch of bad guys, mayhem, revenge, drugs and money. That’ll be interesting.

Latino-Review: Let me wrap it up with one last hypothetical question—your character in “Sun Belt Express” was going to run for mayor. What political platform you think he should run on?

Miguel Sandoval: I think he would be the perfect candidate for the party of the future. It’ll be called the Trump party. [Laughter] It’s because that no existing party is going to allow that clown to participate. My theory is that he’ll start his own political party. Ramon Velazquez will be a great booster for that party.

Latino-Review: Terrific. Good answer. [Laughter] Thank you for this conversation. Hopefully, I’ll get to talk to you again in the future.

Miguel Sandoval: Sounds great, man. Thank you.

“Sun Belt Express” is out on Digital HD and VOD.

Interviews, Film, LRM Exclusives Miguel Sandoval, Sun Belt Express