This Friday, Saban Films will release Night of the Sicario, a thriller about cartel hitmen hunting DEA witnesses hiding out at a nursing home, in theaters and on demand.
Manny Perez, who has a long list of credits to his name, including TV roles on Third Watch and Homeland, stars as Leon, one of the men set on finding his targets in the middle of an increasingly dangerous storm.
I had the chance to speak with Perez about this film, his passion project, and why it is that he keeps getting cast as the villain.
Q: Let’s talk about your role in Night of the Sicario. What appealed to you about the film and the role?
Manny Perez: Two things – three things. The first thing is that I worked with the producer on another film, and he’s an amazing guy. The director I’m a big fan of, and I’m a huge fan of the lead actress, Natasha Henstridge. I had the biggest crush on her during the 90s, so I was like, I gotta be part of this project. I enjoyed the script and thought it was interesting, a theme that deals with sicario and then you have all these elements which make you go, wait, should this be part of this film? I thought that was interesting.
Q: What was your relationship with Natasha like, because your roles are very adversarial in the film? Did you form a good bond during filming?
MP: Actually, yeah, we did. And we had a lot of respect for each other. Even though we were enemies, we just enjoyed each other’s work. Again, I’m a big fan of her work from back in the 90s. It was fun to be on set with her. She’s actually an amazing actress. I was like, wow! And she looks exactly the same! I’m like, lord!
Q: This film is coming out as things are starting to open up a bit in the world. Do you think there is something about the nature of being shut-in, with people being infirm, or avoiding the weather or the danger, that makes this film go over differently at the moment than might have been intended?
MP: It might. The good thing about the film is that it’s coming out right after Easter. This film does have this element of doubting your faith, and questioning your faith, which I thought was interesting for a film that deals with sicarios, a shoot-em-up film, thriller, action, and it has elderly people who are characters in this film, which you don’t find in action flicks at all.
Q: You’ve done action before, and you’ve played villains. Do you like that, or would you prefer to sometimes play the good guy?
MP: Well, look at my face. I have the face of a guy who’s just a bad guy. Listen, the good thing about playing a villain is that you can do whatever you want with a villain. I could take my shoe off and hit you and break this Mac right now, and people would accept it because I’m a villain. Now, a good guy, they’d be like, that’s out of character, a good guy would never do it. I just love to act. What I try to do with these characters I’m being offered is to find the heart in them so people can relate to them. Okay, I understand where this guy is coming from, even though he’s a bad guy, I understand. That’s what I try to do as an actor.
Q: I’d love to talk about one of roles I know you best from, La Soga. Can you tell me about the genesis of that project and working with Dominican films? I believe there is a sequel coming up sometime soon?
MP: Wow, you do your research, thank you so much, I appreciate it. La Soga is an amazing Dominican film shot in the Dominican Republic ten years ago. It went to Toronto and came out in theaters, to Netflix, and Amazon, and all that good stuff. Part two, I actually shot myself and directed and produced it two weeks before the shutdown. I’ve been editing throughout the whole pandemic and hopefully it will come out at the end of the year. It’s a baby of mine that I’ve been working on for the last ten years.
Q: What can we expect that will be different and what will be the same in the second film?
MP: Well, what will be the same is that the character, he’s trying to be good, but his past drives him to be a demon again, which is interesting. In part two, there’s more action. Part one was a bit artsy. Part two is more of an action film, and gives you that Carlito’s Way of making him bad even though he’s trying to be good.
Q: What it is like working in the Dominican Republic ad with Dominican crew members, especially compared with American crews in the United States?
MP: It’s funny, I did not see the difference at all. Even though in the United States we have union crews, over there, they work the same quality. They’re amazing. Slowly, that industry in the Dominican Republic is getting bigger and bigger each year. As a matter of fact, three major Hollywood films were shot there this past month. The industry is getting bigger over time.
Q: How do you feel about Latinx representation in Hollywood? Is that headed in the right direction, or is there a lot more work to do on that?
MP: I think we’re slowly getting there. We’re 40% there. Then again, it’s part of the process. I always say, in the 70s and 60s, we had the Italians going through the stereotypical characters they were playing, and now it’s our turn. Hopefully, we’ll flip that curve and we’ll be on primetime soon enough as the lead, not just the background or the bad guy.
Q: Over the course of a very long career, what have been some of your favorite roles to play?
MP: I hate to say, I love playing the bad guy. It’s interesting to me. I just love good stories. If it has a beginning, a middle, maybe not even an end. As long as the character is going through a change, that I love. I just love good stories. I even did a few films where I had just a few scenes, but I just loved the story, or the director, or the actors in the film. It’s all about continuing to work.
Q: Are there any filmmakers or actors you’re itching to work with?
MP: Well, I was itching to work with Denzel Washington, and I did, with this film a long time ago called Courage Under Fire. So that was like the ideal actor for me. then, I worked with other actors I respect a lot. So, no, I just want to continue working, that’s the bottom line. Whatever comes my way, I’ll manage to make it work.
Q: During the pandemic, what are some of the best and most memorable films you’ve had the chance to see?
MP: Well, I just saw Sound of Metal. Loved that film. Actually one of the best films I watched this year. I’ve also been watching a lot of series, which I’ve enjoyed. But that film, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while.
Q: Aside from the La Soga sequel, what else is coming up for you?
MP: Well, I have another film coming out in May called Locked In, being released also by Saban Films. And then, I did another film prior to the pandemic that comes out also at the end of the year called Sound of Freedom that was shot in Colombia. There, I play another bad guy. Hey, it is what it is. But that’s it. I’m going to focus on making sure that La Soga gets the best treatment ever. I feel like it’s my baby and I’ve been working on the script for like ten years, so I can’t wait for people to see it.
Q: What didn’t I ask you? What did you want to talk about that we didn’t discuss?
MP: No, you were amazing. Thank you. It’s a thorough interview. No, we’ve been locked up for a year and a half, and I feel like now it’s time to enjoy what we have, especially in the movies. I feel like it’s time to go to the theaters and support these type of movies. Or just support movies in general. And, of course, wear your mask, whatever. But I feel like it’s type to go back to normality, slowly. Time to enjoy life.
Here’s the Trailer for ‘Night of the Sicario.’