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– by Gig Patta

Every cartel villain needs a strong right hand man, who is fearful and intimidating.

Enter Poyo.

In Miss Bala, Poyo (played by Ricardo Abarca) fit that description to be the believable thug who does everything in the Mexican cartel.

The film stars Gina Rodriguez as a young woman who was drawn into the dangerous world of border crimes. Her survival will require all of her cunning, inventiveness and strength.

The film also stars Anthony Mackie, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Aislinn Derbez and Cristina Rodlo.

LRM had an exclusive phone interview with Ricardo Abarca on his role as this intimidating villain. Abarca has been on several Spanish-language television shows like Cumbia Ninja, Un gancho al Corazon, and Silvana Sina Lana

Miss Bala is currently playing in theaters nationwide today.

Read our exclusive interview below.

LRM: I loves the film of Miss Bala. I actually especially loved your part as a Poyo here.

Ricardo Abarca: Oh, thanks.

LRM: What initially attracted you to this project?

Ricardo Abarca: A little bit of everything. Catherine Hardwicke. An action movie. Gina Rodriguez. Everything mixed together with being a Mexican remake. This is a movie I saw many years ago in Mexico. Knowing that they wanted to remake this movie, it sounded great. We have a lot of action in this movie with a lot of fun. It sounded great. It sounded like fun. And obviously, getting to play a bad boy–this mean guy named Poyo.

LRM: Let’s talk more about Poyo here. Could you talk about his personality and the look that you developed for the film? I would not mess with him in real life. That’s all I can say.

Ricardo Abarca: [Laughs] It was fun. I had to speak out and explained on what I felt my character. They accepted everything. My hairstyle. The stache. The look. He’s always dressed with black clothes and always dark. This is a broken guy. Deep in his heart there’s no love. He’s grown up with a mean parent who has probably been in the cartel industry and probably got killed. He’s just been there all his life. He’s damaged. His mind and his heart–there’s no love in them. I wanted to express with Poyo just being there–not even really talking, but his presence. You could feel that emptiness. That you’ll feel uncomfortable. Catherine Hardwicke accepted it. We just had fun doing it. She gave me the chance and the opportunity in playing this guy and it was amazing.

LRM: Was it challenging for you to play this role? It’s a little bit different from stuff you’ve done in the past. So I mean, where does your mind go? Where does your mind go?

Ricardo Abarca: Let me share this. At first, I really didn’t think I would get the role, because of what you said. People had always seen me playing different characters before. You’ve cute guys or good guys. Not this mean guy. My mind had to go deep inside in very dark places. I’m trying to understand or not understand on what with these kind of people feel and think to get it right. It’s more internal than on the exterior. Things go a lot better and easier when you have to make up, the looks and everything. But, you really deep inside for it to go through the lens. It was kind of a dark place, but when they director says action and cut–it would go away. I would be dressed with Poyo, but Poyo would not be there.

LRM: It certainly showed on on screen. How was filming in Tijuana and especially the fact that you had to rely upon your Spanish or in some certain cases with some people–Spanglish?

Ricardo Abarca: It was good. It was a good experience. We really loved and enjoyed Tijuana. We got to see beautiful places and in Ensenada in Baja California. There’s a lot of people who grow up in Mexico, but also in the States. They have the opportunity to study in San Diego just across the border and go back to Mexico. They grow with the mixed in with this language. It was fun to hear people talk. It’s going to sound weird. It was funny. It was a good time. It was very, very nice to have seen Tijuana.

LRM: I loved your interaction with Ismael Cruz Cordova in the film. How was acting alongside them with him?

Ricardo Abarca: That was easy. We met and we were just like brothers. We went to go eat everywhere together. We’ve spent time together by go to the gym and do workouts during the movie. Our minds were focused on working for this movie and the project. It was a lot of fun with Ismael.

LRM: Was the experience very similar with Gina Rodriguez. She is such a big, well known star now, nationally.

Ricardo Abarca: Yeah. She is. She has a big heart. She’s a beautiful person. I can understand her success, because it’s not only her talent–her personality. She’s very kind. She’s a pro. She’s super intent with her scenes, especially the action scenes where there physical contacts and pushes herlimit. I just loved that. She’s a beautiful person.

LRM: How about your action scenes? You had to do a lot of physical and shooting scenes yourself. Was that a lot of fun?

Ricardo Abarca: Yeah. My favorite part of the movie was training for all of that with these ex-marines. They would show us everything to do with guns and security. They’re very strict. It’s all about learning how to use them, manipulate them and just like making it real. That was the challenge. It was fun.

LRM: You mentioned Catherine Hardwicke multiple times. What about her that you love about her direction?

Ricardo Abarca: She’s incredible. She’s just one of those directors that keeps me at peace when I’m on set. I feel secure of being around with her. I feel a lot and I’m very thankful that she gave me this huge opportunity. At the beginning, Poyo’s [role] is a lot smaller on script and Poyo grew when we were working and reading. That was the main thing to see that Poyo turned it into the right hand Lino. It was fun. A lot of fun. I have nothing but love for everyone in this movie.

LRM: Thank you for this conversation, Ricardo. I really appreciate it.

Ricardo Abarca: Thank you. I appreciate your time.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.