Over the years, Wilmer Valderrama has grown to become one of the most versatile actors in the business. While his most memorable role is that of Fez on the sitcom That 70’s Show, he has not allowed himself to be pigeon-holed in the comedy genre. Instead, he has ventured out, claiming roles in dramas, thrillers and romances. His resume is both impressive and expansive, including films as diverse as the comedy Unaccompanied Minors, the horror film The Dead One, the dramatic thriller The Adderall Diaries and the romance To Whom It May Concern. In addition, he has been a part of a plethora of television shows, including Awake, Handy Manny, From Dusk Till Dawn and FOX’s upcoming sci-fi series, Minority Report. In the following interview, I had the pleasure of chatting with Wilmer about his roles on From Dusk Till Dawn and Minority Report, what it was like to play a villain for the first time and what roles he would love to play in the future. Check it out below!
I really enjoyed the pilot [for Minority Report]. One thing I noticed is there’s a lot of really cool, futuristic tech in it. Do you have a favorite, or maybe something that you would love if you could have in real life that’s on the show?
Yes, well, I definitely want a jet pack. I’m going to tell you that right now. That’s the one thing that I requested when I got the job. I called them, and I said please, oh God, please, tell me that I am actually going to be flying in a jet pack. Kevin Falls and Max Borenstein who are the creator and the show runner, they both told me well, you’re going to get your wish because that’s one of the coolest parts of that movie, and we’re going to have to include it in there. It was awesome. I would love to have a jet pack. I think any boy and girl should ever always have one.
It wasn’t revealed yet, but is there anything you can kind of tease about what Will Blake’s past relationship is with Vega? Because obviously there’s something going on there that they’re not telling us yet!
Yes. I guess it’s really evident actually. I’ll give you a quick, little background. So he’s an ex-marine, you know, he’s a marine. He’s a guy who’s been around the world a couple of times. The guy eventually went to the academy and met Detective Vega, and they may or may not have had something in the past. Now moving forward, they also became partners at one point, and then when they stopped being partners, he was assigned to a case. He got a promotion over her, and he became the lieutenant. He’s kind of the boss of the precinct that they work at. She now not only has to somewhat answer to her ex-partner, but at the same time, someone that she used to kind of see before. It makes it really unique of a dynamic for her and is super fun, super funny, but also really familiar and exciting when it comes to partnering up to solve certain cases. Eventually, the future looks very complicated for them both as they’re both going to be brought into a pond that’s deeper than everyone expected. The Precogs are alive. One of them keeps getting premonitions, and when Dash, who is one of the Precogs, the younger one, reaches Detective Vega, she’s forced to create some kind of subliminal partnership between him and her to solve some of these crimes. Now at this point, she’s solving crimes; she’s very good at this. I think she has an informant, but she won’t tell me who this informant is and eventually it’s going to have to play into our dynamic because things are going to have to be more transparent. As they become transparent, they also become more complicated. So our relationship is complicated, but it is a supported one, and professionally, they are brilliant together. We’re excited that the road looks complicated, and the conspiracy behind it is something they’re all going to have to work together on. Not only the phrasing, but the solving.
I love From Dusk till Dawn, and you kick ass on that show. I was just wondering what are the differences between acting on that show and Minority Report?
Thank you very much for the words. I love From Dusk till Dawn. I really have, I think you can tell, I have too much fun with that character. The difference is one is ridiculously more angry than the other one. They’re both pretty far removed from who I am, but what I like about the dynamic, and it’s funny because at one point both shows kind of overlapped for me a little bit, so I was doing both of them kind of at the same time. So it was really interesting because I would fly from Toronto where we were shooting the pilot, and I would then go down to Austin, Texas to shoot as Carlos. I got to tell you, sometimes I’d have a tough time turning off the super mean stare because there was a lot of twisted stuff going on in Carlos’ head, which is my character on From Dusk Till Dawn, and then eventually went up to play Lieutenant Will Blake, eventually I had to kind of really had to work really hard of turning certain things off. But nonetheless, he made it even more exciting to play the good guy and the bad guy all in the same year, almost at the same time, is kind of thrilling. Not many actors get the ability, or the opportunity really I should say, to exercise your active muscles on that level. So to me it was a blessing, it was super fun, and furthermore, working with Robert Rodriguez and Steven Spielberg in the same year is definitely a little boy’s dream for sure.
As far as visually and green screen and effects wise, is there a huge difference between the two shows and the way you have to work that?
Yes. Robert tends to develop and produce things on a more physical and practical way. A lot of the action that we do, a lot of the explosions, and car chases, and fight sequences, and gun fights are done very practically because he loves shooting the actual action. When it comes to visual effects and From Dusk Till Dawn, it’s more like the fangs falling down, dropping down like snake fangs. But for the most part the master Greg Nicotero who is obviously the guru in The Walking Dead, he created all the very practical demons and all that stuff. So we have a lot of stuff that’s alive. So you’re walking around, sometimes you’ll be at lunch break, and you’re eating next to three vampires. It’s really, really fun. Then on Minority Report, the difference is it’s very visual. There’s a lot of visual effects, and Steven Spielberg creates a world that’s so not only complex, but is so in-depth. The depths of the visual effects are so exciting because you can really see how this can become a tool in the future. You can really see that most of the technology that we do and visual effects are really going to be the tools of tomorrow. So you see it really play out, so for us the only challenge is we have to create a dance. We have to create a vocabulary. We have to create the hand gestures that turns into a language and how you commute with a computer because a computer now to commute. It becomes almost your best friend in the future. You speak to it. You talk to it. You roll up your sleeves, and the computer and you are basically, really handling things. So visually, it’s a little bit of a song and dance, but when you see it on camera, it’s ridiculously rewarding.
In Minority Report, your character comes over as kind of overconfident but also very strong. Was that fun for you to play?
The character, I think, his confidence and his comfortability comes from the fact that he has so much history with Vega. That’s why he comes across a little overconfident with her, you know, because there’s just a familiarity that came with their history. So when they address one another, it’s more like they’re just kind of giving each other a little grief there, and they kind of bust each other there back and forth. So they both dish it equally to one another, but it makes it really fun. It makes it really spicy between her and I. I think it’s really fun to play a character that’s so confident and so secure about what he does. I think his security comes from the fact that he not only loves what he does, but he’s the type of guy that would do anything that it takes to actually capture the bad guy. He believes in the system. He believes in the law. As a marine, for him, it’s pride before dishonor, so he’ll do anything that it takes to actually capture that bad guy, but he also knows how to work the ladder. He knows how to climb the ladder. Therefore, he’s making his way up, and now he’s the lieutenant, and he’s the boss of the precinct. He’s commanding that to a place where eventually you’ll see like I said earlier you’ll see that the pond is going to get deeper and deeper than a love poem. It’s going to have to rely on Vega, Akeela, and Lieutenant Blake to really understand what this new relationship with the Precogs may possibly be. As we see him evolve as a character, he’s going to be brought into a very, very complex conspiracy. We’re going to tease to that a couple of episodes in, but yes, you’ll see Lieutenant Blake is going to have to make some difficult decisions, some morally driven, some professionally driven. But at some point, it’ll become very personal to him. It’s going to be an exciting season. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the show. They’ve done such a smart, fun, and unique way of presenting a procedure, and Steven Spielberg’s hands are all over it. It’s fantastic to see that from the scoring, to the action sequence, to the directing, everything has that touch. The world is going to get bigger and so much more exciting and fun to watch.
Was there anything you added to Will that may not have been originally scripted for you?
Yes. I tend to improvise a little bit with some of those funny moments. Specifically, there’s a clip that’s been going around that I posted as well where we fly into the jet packs, and we try to capture this guy, and then he commits suicide in front of us. Before that, Detective Vega had claimed, just face it Will, you’re not a closer. When she kind of lets this guy all of a sudden pull off his suicide, I kind of walk up to the poor guy, and I look at her, and I go, “Well, I would have closed him differently.” Little things like that makes it really fun for the camaraderie and a little bit of that competition between Vega and Lieutenant Will Blake. We’re adding a lot of that stuff in the scene where we’re taking a lot of liberties on set because the characters are becoming so familiar to one another that it’s easy to carry that kind of dynamic. We’re adding a little bit of that. I’m trying to add a little more humor into the character. I think drama is only as good as the capability of you not only taking itself not only too serious, but understanding that if this is what you do for a living, you’ve got to have some kind of sense of humor about it. I think that’s something that’s important to me. I’m adding a couple of things here and there, and I think comedy is something that is so rooted into my instincts that you’re going to see some of that coming out, but he walks a little differently. I’ve done a bunch of research because he’s an ex-marine as well, so you’re going to see a lot of different colors and a lot of layers to him but exciting because it’s something I’ve never played on television before.
Well, with that in mind, you do have such great comedic timing, but you’ve taken a lot of dramatic roles lately. Is there something you find that’s been drawing you to these particular types of characters lately?
I think that as I, not to sound silly about it, but as I became older now in my mid-30s, you know I was really excited to exercise a different muscle. I did comedy for 8 years and 200 episodes, and I did a bunch of comedic movies as well from Larry Crowne to Unaccompanied Minors and so on and so on that I also felt like drama was something in me. I love action, and I love Robert Rodriguez, and I love Steven Spielberg. To be alive in that universe, you have to be able to pull both because there’s a humorous take to all that is drama and action in their universe. So I just wanted to exercise that, so I think it was a conscious effort to just kind of do something different and show a different side of me because it’d be a little too simple and maybe a little tad too predictable for me to pick so many comedic roles when I know for a fact in my heart that I can pretty much play anything I want. My heart craves it, my spirit craves it, so I want to make difficult choices, and I want to play characters that are so far removed from who I am that people almost forget that’s Wilmer that we’re watching, and that’s the goal with every character. I’m having a blast right now playing drama. I always infuse a little comedy in it because I have to have a sense of humor about each character, but ultimately I’m having a lot of fun exercising my dramatic muscle.
You’ve played a wide range of characters over the years. Is there a character that you’d love to play that you haven’t gotten the chance to yet?
Yes. At some point, I want to go to that really, really weird, bizarre twisted world that Johnny Depp has dabbled on. I’m such a fan of the characters that he’s created. He’s such a mysterious actor to me, and he’s such a fascinating person that when you see him on-screen, he just creates characters that only someone like Tim Burton can dream up. He’s the only one that can bring them to life. He takes some really, really bold choices with his characters, and I want to eventually play some. I’ve had my share of weird characters before, but I think that’s definitely one area that I want to dabble on. How can I play a physical monster? How can I play more twisted, introverted characters rooted in a different fantasy world? I think that would be a lot of fun for me to dabble in.
You’re currently playing two very strong characters on television. How did you prepare for the role of Carlos Madrigal and then the role of Lt. Will Blake?
So, the role of Carlos was a collaboration between Robert and I. I felt like Robert and I started talking, and it’s funny because when I first got the character of Carlos, I had no idea what I was playing. Like I said yes, because I just wanted to work with Robert, and then I flew into Austin to realize I had no idea what I was playing and eventually they tell me you’re going to be our villain. I go, wow, what does that even mean? So I sit down with Robert, and I say Robert, what are we going to do here? He says, well, he’s a 500-year-old conquistador, he discovered Satanico Pandemonium, which happens to be the Salma Hayek iconic character in From Dusk Till Dawn. He discovered her, he’s the owner and creator of the Titty Twister, so I immediately started thinking about his character traits. So what I did was I figured for Carlos Madigral, he’s been alive for 500 years, so I felt like okay, well everyone is in a hurry, except him, so that gave me everything I really wanted for the character. The character traits, while Seth Gecko was going crazy, we’re at the border, we’re going to get caught, we’re running from the cops. It made somehow Carlos was always in a stage of serenity. He was just so calm and so relaxed about things, and he made it only humorous, but I wanted to create a character that was so terrifying, but at the same time so humorous and at the same time, so elegant. That was a collaboration that we did together. Robert really kind of empowered to me just kind of try things on camera. Then with Lieutenant Will Blake, it’s exciting, right. Because I love the armed forces, I’ve traveled the world entertaining the troops through USO. I’ve done over 19 shows in 9 countries. I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I played a soldier in The Dry Land. I’m such a fan of that, so when I heard I was going to be an ex-marine that was exciting for me because I was very familiar to the men and women who so proudly defend our country. So I did a little more research on that, and eventually, they made me the lieutenant of the precinct. So I did a little research on what responsibilities a lieutenant has and all that stuff, physical stuff, and how he carries himself, what kinds of words he uses when he talks to his personnel, when he gives speeches, and things like that. So whenever I’m light on my feet, and I’m improvising, then it comes from a natural place. But with this character, I wanted him to be different. I wanted him to be like if there was one movie poster in his room, it’d be Sean Connery as James Bond. The reason why is he wears the turtlenecks, he wears the suits, he has that little retro kind of drawback to himself, so I think that’s one character I wanted him to just kind of really feel like he was really in control. He was very confident, but you know like James Bond is kind of like a reference that really resonated with me because I wanted him to be more of a poker player. You know when he was in scenes, more a poker player when he played a subliminal truth, and he questioned people. I want him to also have a sense of elegance and class because to be honest, I’ve never seen a character like this on television, but I’ve also never seen a Latino character on this level, too, so for me that was exciting because it was new. It was refreshing, and I was proud of that. That’s kind of little bit of the notion of how I came up with both. I try to infuse a little bit of myself into them, but at some point the characters just go to all different places, and then I don’t recognize myself.
Are you proud that you have been able to make the transition from playing normally Latino roles to roles that could be played by any race?
Yes. That’s ultimately the goal, right? The goal is just to play amazing characters and amazing human beings that have a story, that have a history. I think that to me that’s the goal for any actor. I’m so proud of my Latino heritage, but I think as an actor, you want to be known as an actor, as an artist. You don’t want to be known necessarily as a Latino actor because I really feel like we, the Latino community, are performers that are for the world. We walked a very fine line between so many cultures, and we can really, truly unite to our heritage. So many continents, and so many heritages, and so many cultures, and ethnicities, with one Latino. So to me, that’s fascinating. But I have to tell you it’s exciting that in my career that I’m able to be in the room sitting next to two or three other actors of different ethnicity and be still considered an artist to be considered for that character. That’s a dream when you do that crossover, that’s fantastic, that’s beautiful. I think it was really important to me, you know, that I was able to play strong, Latin characters, and that’s why I kind of took my time with all the choices I made in the last 20 years of my career. I played things that I’m very proud of. I’ve played characters that really had a real point of view, and that we’re an example so I was excited about that. I think that’s really great. It’s great to be considered a real threat, an actor that can really bring any character to life. I think that’s a gift. When it comes to Will Blake, Steven Spielberg created in the universe for Minority Report was that in the future we would be so diverse as a country, and as a world that all of our names would be somehow integrated into multiple cultures. So eventually, a Latino will probably will have a very American sounding name, or an African American will have almost a very Latino name. So I think that was actually a unique way of stating how diverse the future is going to be, that was kind of the statement there. But also like you said, my name is Will Blake, so they weren’t necessarily looking for a Latino for that character, I’ll tell you that. So I was really proud that Steven Spielberg gave me the opportunity to bring this character to life myself.
Minority Report premieres September 21 at 9:00 pm on FOX, and you can catch Wilmer on From Dusk Till Dawn on Tuesdays at 9:00 pm on the El Rey Network. You can also follow Wilmer on Twitter at @WValderrama!