An Interview with LAKE LOS ANGELES Actor Roberto Sanchez
On the first evening of MIFFecito, I had the opportunity to talk with the male lead of Mike Ott’s LAKE LOS ANGELES, while the Cuban-born/Miami-raised actor was attending his film’s premiere at the mini film fest presented by the Miami International Film Festival.
The muted, yet heartrending drama, LAKE LOS ANGELES, completes the award-winning filmmaker’s desert trilogy, (Littlerock (2010), Pearblossom Hwy (2012),). This trio of films observes the fallacy of the American Dream as experienced by immigrants in American small towns.
Sanchez plays Francisco, is a middle-aged Cuban man who works odd construction jobs in the desert-landscaped Lake Los Angeles, -an abandoned community, with a long-ago dried up lake, in California’s L. A. county. He also makes money on the side by providing his home as a holding house for illegal Mexican immigrants.
This is how he crosses path with Cecilia (Johanna Trujillo), an orphaned, 10 year-old Mexican girl.
Q: How did this role come to you?
I worked with the director, Mike Ott, on two previous films. This film is part of a trilogy, and initially the story was about Cecilia, a little Mexican girl played by Johanna Trujillo.Mike knew about my personal backstory; how I came to this country, so he decided to put our stories together.
Q: What drew you to take this part made challenging with so little dialogue?
I had a few other lead roles before, but never anything like this. First of all, it was my first doing an entire film in Spanish; which I loved the challenge that.
Also, I just resonated with the story. When I read the script, and the whole time we were filming, I just kept thinking about my mom and how she came to this country from Cuba. How she didn’t speak the language; didn’t know anybody, and how she coped and managed.
So it was a pretty personal story for me.
There’s a song used in the film, Porque Te Vas…
Q. That song was on the record your character plays for Cecilia?
Yes, Mike knows it from a female singer, and I know it from a Latin singer, José Luis Perales, that my mom used to play that when I was a kid. And, I asked him “why did you pick that song?” He said that he didn’t know; he just loved it.
Q: How did you come to Hollywood from Miami?
I came to Miami when I was three from Cuba. I grew up here, then, I went into the military for 11 years. I started acting late in life; I was in my 30’s.
After the military, I went to Atlanta and got into modeling, of all things, and that led to commercials. I was happy, but I missed Miami, my family, friends, the food, the ambiente…
So I relocated back here, and started working for the Miami metro rail. And, I had my first audition ever for a film, called “2 Fast, 2 Furious”. I didn’t know anything about the film, so my agent told go rent the first one so you can see what it was about. So, I saw it was about fast cars.
I must of have done well at the audition, because they called me three weeks later. They told me they were going to give me a callback. So, I ask my agent “what do I do?”, and she said do actually what you did the first time.
So, I went back to work at the Metro, where I was already feeling burnt out from. I just started the five o’clock rush hour shift, and there was a big dude smoking. I know I got to tell him to stop, and I already know how this conservation is going to go. So, I call the situation in to officer at the next station. At the same time, my cell phone starts to ring.
I see it’s my agent, and wondering if I should take it. I answer the phone, and she was just screaming “Oh my god you got it”.
I asked her was does that mean, she said well you going have to take a leave of absence or quit your job, because your going to work in LA for three months, and here’s how much your going to be making.
I said “What?! Don’t lie to me!”, and she said “No, really!” I was the only one casted from Miami. The rest of the actors were from LA.
Then, I looked back to the big dude on the train, and said to him, “You can go ahead and smoke the whole pack for all I care.” The train stopped; the officer was coming on board, and I told him, “Dude, I’m out!” I had only been at work for 20 minutes, when went back to the station office, and give my two weeks notice.
Now, I am living in LA.
Besides going around promoting this film, I have a couple of films coming out, The Night Crew with “Machete” Danny Trejo, and a horror film, Visions, with Eva Longoria.