Mexico tends to get a bad rap in Hollywood. That’s no real surprise. Very rarely it seems to get much use outside of either vacations at resorts or drug lord-riddled desert-scape. In the upcoming film, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, it gets used in the latter way…but that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
LRM had a chance to sit down with actor Manuel Garcia Rulfo, who portrays the role of the smuggler Gallo, who Rulfo himself describes as a “piece of s**t.” Check out our full interview down below, and be sure to check out the film in theater as well!
LRM: Let’s start. How did you land the role of Gallo in Sicario: Day of the Soldado?
Rulfo: I did it because I, gee how did I get? Oh, I auditioned for it. I auditioned Mary Vernieu, which is an amazing casting director here in LA. She knew my work and she called me to do the audition and then she gave me the call back to read with [director Stefano Sollima] and then I got offered the part.
LRM: Wow, that’s great. Isabela was telling me she went through five auditions.
Rulfo: Yeah, I did like three, I don’t remember how many but I did like, it wasn’t that much. Maybe twice or three times, maybe.
LRM: Great, well tell us about your character Gallo. Who is Gallo?
Rulfo: Gallo is a piece of s**t. He is. I know in acting you’re not supposed to judge your character, but this guy I cannot defend. I’ve been trying to defend him but I can’t. But no, I mean, honestly it’s just, Gallo is a smuggler. He smuggles anything he can grab, put in his hands, whatever, drugs or humans or whatever he can smuggle, to the States. And he works for one of the cartel. And he has a lot of people who work for him, most of them kids, so he’s kind of like a father to these kids who they’re lost. They’re looking for a better opportunity, looking for money or whatever so he’s a very bad example and yeah, that’s what Gallo is.
LRM: Well, thank you for the honesty, the first sentence (Laughs). I cannot disagree with you. Also, how was it playing with Benicio del Toro?
Rulfo: Ah, honestly it’s such a pleasure. I know it sounds like everybody says that but Benicio is amazing. He’s such a nice, he’s a teddy bear, and I know it seems like, you know. He’s such a nice guy and he’s full of talent and energy and passion for his work. And for the purpose of this story he holds so much passion. He wants the whole movie to be great, not just his work. And yeah, he was amazing to work with.
LRM: And then what about with Isabela Moner?
Rulfo: Dang, she was hysterical, she’s so funny, full of life. I saw her movie yesterday and after that she go to the premier and man, she’s good! She’s beautiful and good and attractive and I don’t know, she’s one of those actresses that you can see through her, you can see her soul, you know? Huge eyes, beautiful eyes, but one of those actors that you cannot take your eyes off, you know what I mean?
LRM: Yeah, she’s definitely a gorgeous girl.
Rulfo: But gorgeous in a sense of, of course, of beauty. The, you know, attractive like, energy, you know what I mean?
LRM: Okay, so let me ask you this, Manuel. Being Mexican, how do you feel about Sicario? And I mean in the story and with the reality of similar events happening in Mexico.
Rulfo: That was my only issue on portraying Gallo. Because, like I said, I feel so close to this reality because we live in our this day, you hear these things in Mexico happening. “Oh, so many beheadings or getting so many kills and this happen” and “this,” you know?” I felt a very, very, I don’t know, very personal.
But then I think it, the way they, Stefano and the script, and the way they tell this story, I think it’s a reality of how things work out there. Because in the movie, they don’t put you, like, oh this is the bad side or the good side. They put you at their reality of things and it’s a system that is corrupt on both sides of the border. So I think that’s good, you know what I mean?
I think for us Mexicans, we have to watch it. It sucks because it’s a reality but sometimes you just have to, you know in Mexico what’s happened is that we’ve become numb against violence and with coming up it’s like normal, all this happened is normal. So maybe this thing will get you more aware of things, you know what I mean? Maybe you were awake before a little, to see that little kids are getting involved because they don’t have opportunities and people killing kids, again, because they have no opportunity.
So I think it would be, you know, it’s a tough but a good thing.
LRM: Yeah, I think your character definitely seems to bring eye opening of the reality that’s out there and I think that’s where people can appreciate your role.
Rulfo: Yeah, exactly, that’s what I said because some people are like, ah the violence. It’s when you see this movie this is what happens in reality so people, it’s an eye opener for both sides of the border. For Mexico and from the States. To see that sometimes there’s no opportunities, kids, they don’t know where to go and they fall into the hands of bad people of a corrupt system. So yeah, an eye-opener.
LRM: Which scene would you say, did you consider a little more challenging, especially like I said playing Gallo, you have to portray this kind of very disliked person. Can you tell us of any scene where you were okay, this is, that was more challenging to get into that role from the movie.
Rulfo: In reality speaking, I think it was the first thing I did was Benicio because, and its this scene I had in the bus with him, that just because he was Benicio and you’re nervous because he’s a guy that you can admire. We hold such respect for him and I think, so that was for me the more challenging for that.
Because of the character, I think to go to these dark places like for example, there’s a scene where I, I don’t know if I can talk about it, yeah, I think I can. You know, it’s hard to be in this, in the character, to be that mean. To be that cold-blooded.
LRM: Okay so, let me just ask, so for Benicio del Toro, that’s that bus scene, you hadn’t met him before? It was just like, went right before the scene?
LRM: Oh wow!
Rulfo: Yeah, so I was like “ah,” but he was such a nice guy and such a good actor that it only lasted like 10 minutes and then like, oh man, you know? He’s human.
LRM: Yes, yes, okay that’s the gap. Nerve-racking. So I do have to ask, since the World Cup is taking place right now, have you had the chance to watch any of the Mexican games?
Rulfo: You think I’m gonna miss it? I was just shooting a movie in Mexico last week and one of the games happened and we were shooting. Everybody had to stop. And you know, it’s expensive to be shooting a movie, so the professionals were like “no, its costing me money!” And everyone was like, “shut up, we gotta watch Mexico!” So they would just put TVs in the set and watch the game. So yeah, I’ve been following them.
LRM: Great, was it by any chance during the filming of “Perfecto Desconocidos”?
Rulfo: Yes, exactly.
LRM: Oh, great.
Rulfo: Yes, that was it. Yeah.
LRM: Is there anything you can share about any upcoming projects you have? That you can share with, or?
Rulfo: I have a TV that I’ve been going to, I guess participation, it’s called The Wire, and it’s out already. It premiered last week. And then I have another movie called Widows, Steve McQueen film. I think it opens in November. But other than that, Sicario, which is the important one right now, tomorrow.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is out in theaters now!