The action-packed film El Gringo opens up Friday, May 11, 2012 and walking down the red carpet is leading lady,Yvette Yates in all her beauty, grace and glory. It is her first leading role where she kicks a little ass and does it with style — and falls in love with a tough and mysterious new guy in town!
Yvette Yates stars opposite Scott Adkins, a spectacular martial arts English actor and Christian Slater in El Gringo, a film directed by acclaimed Venezuelan director Eduardo Rodriguez.
El Gringo marks Yvette’s first leading role in a feature film written by Jonathan W. Stokes withJoel Silver as executive producer for After Dark Films.
In our interview, the El Paso, Texas-born, American Latina actress opens up on her experience working on her first leading role film and working with a few Hollywood “gringos”.
Latin Heat: What was your friends and family’s reaction on you being cast in your first lead in a feature film?
Yvette Yates: My family had just arrived into town for my premiere last year of Without Men at LALIFF at the Egyptian Theatre. I remember I was still getting ready when my manager called me with the news, and they were there in person to share it with which made it that much more special. They were elated! And of course to be the lead in an action-packed film was a fascinating change of pace, being my first.
LH: Tell us how you prepared for the role of Anna?
YY: I read the script and I fell in love with the character. I feel there are times, as an actor, you get certain roles that you just mold into their skin without resistance. It was such a natural process, and I believe it had a lot to do with understanding of the border town environment, and understanding what it meant to uphold something that had been diminished. I’m from a border town myself, El Paso, TX/ Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, and all one sees now is the violence. I say where I’m from, and people know right away and the usual question is ‘Is it safe?,’ ‘You still go down there?’, and I’ve seen the economical effects of that especially in Cd. Juarez. So in some way, I felt an internal responsibility to represent the heart and strength of the people, and that was exactly the role of Anna– a woman who is strong, fierce, and resilient, all or nothing in fighting for the hope of what her town could be. My influences for the role were an essence ofSalma Hayek in Robert Rodriguez’sDesperado and Sophia Loren in Arthur Hiller’sMan of La Mancha, who served as a force and an inspiration.
LH: Any sexy or nude scenes?
YY: There is a sexy scene in this film, but you’re going to have to watch to see what leads Anna to allow for this intimate exchange.
LH: How did you prepare to stay in physical shape for this action/adventure?
YY: I’ve always maintained a healthy diet and have always exercised five-six days/week. Once I knew of the role, I just kept a more intense workout, more disciplined diet like cutting out the sweets, and lots of water. I also incorporated hiking in addition to my gym regiment. I’m a morning person so the earlier the better.
LH: Did you have any scary stunts or did they use a stunt woman?
YY: I was the only one without a stunt person. There are definitely a few scenes where I get pushed around, hair pulled, and I’m dealing with knives. I loved every second.
LH: How much time did you get to spend getting to know your love interest, the gorgeous and hunky Scott Adkins?
YY: Scott was a lot of fun to work with, very shy actually, except when it comes to his hard-hitting action sequences, he just owns it. We had a few days of rehearsal before shooting, not much, but we clicked right away and had great chemistry on set.
LH: Any war stories in making this film? I mean, did you all get along most of the time?
YY: Nothing worse than having to kiss someone you can’t stand! Honestly I feel fortunate to have worked on a set where everyone got along from the cast and crew in Louisiana to Bulgaria where we were the majority of the time which included a 10 hour difference time adjustment. With all the action scenes especially, all the actors watched out for one another, and we all knew we were in safe hands. There has to be a level of trust and understanding for it to work. The one that had a hard time I’d say was the dog who was supposed to be “the best trained dog in Bulgaria.” He just needed to lay there for one scene, and in another I just needed to pet him but instead would just take off at any moment, it was pretty funny, and of course, I’m allergic, but it all worked out.
LH: What’s your favorite scene?
YY: Most favorite was a hand-to hand combat scene between the leader (played by Israel Islas) of the local gang of “El Fronteras” and Scott Adkins. I had never had to be so intensely physical and emotional with all my dialogue, and to keep the severity of the scene take after take in the middle of the night. It was the most rewarding.
LH: How was it taking direction for the fabulous Eduardo Rodriguez?
YY: I was ecstatic to find out we had a Latino director because I knew he’d naturally be more invested in making sure the two cultures were given an equal footing, and it felt that way. For example, I had a conversation with Eduardo about Anna and the accent. Now, I’ve done roles with accents which are necessary for certain stories, but it was really important to me to show a different perspective of Latinas and not be defined by the accent. I’m from a border town and don’t speak with an accent, and Eduardo respected my viewpoint and gave me the go-ahead. I wanted to portray a strong, independent Latina who masters both languages just the same because that’s the way we exist as well.
LH: Does it bother you that a gringo wrote El Gringo, a story that takes place in afictional “El Fronteras”… a town name that only a gringo could come up with!
YY: I think it’s funny that the town’s name is literally the geographical term, and that’s all it is. It seemed like such a small detail that it didn’t bother me for even one second. The more important aspect was that Jonathan [Stoakes] had written such a force to be reckoned with in Anna… a witty and resolute Mexican woman, and not as a victim or a damsel in distress. He created her as the most important ally to “El Gringo”, and that is what deserves recognition.
LH: What are you working on now or next
Greg Holt & Yates on the set of Free Ride
YY: I have four additional films to El Gringobeing released this year. You will be seeing me as Amy, an Assistant D.A. in the film noir based on the acclaimed play, Water & Power directed by Culture Clash’s Richard Montoya; in the true story, Free Ride, working opposite Academy Award winner,Anna Paquin along with Drea de Matteo,and Cam Gigandet as an undercover narcotics agent, Gia, and directed byShana Sosin; Sorority Party Massacre a fun slasher film in which I play a sexy and sultry sorority sister, Sloan, who also happens to be a dominatrix and fixes up cars. That is directed by Chris W. Freeman and Justin Jones; and lastly,The Red House, a suspense thriller where I star as a high maintenance girl, Carissa, who’s about to embark on a deadly trip with her friends directed by Gregory Avellone.
In television, I shot an episode in Comedy Central’s improv show, TheNick Show Kroll which is slated for summer.
LH: What actor (male or female) do you most admire? What director do you really, really dream of working with one day?
YY: I’m a fan of less is more, mannerisms, details. I want the audience to invest and to discover along with the character on whatever the journey is. There are many actors that come to mind, but one of the greatest is Meryl Streep. Not only because she has persevered and challenged herself in a range of roles, but she had me when I saw her performance in Nora Ephron’sHeartburn opposite Jack Nicholson. There’s a scene where Meryl Streep’s character comes to a realization that she is being cheated on and you see her exquisite performance serving a range of emotions which tells everything without any words ever said. That is a powerful ability.
Directors… I truly respect Pedro Almodovar, with my first experience being Talk To Her and love his latest film The Skin I Live In. I love how he ignites a passion in his characters and they are solidified in the paths they lead.
Another director whose work I adore is Guillermo del Toro. Every time I see his films, I am in awe of his storytelling and creations of his fantastical worlds. I became a fan when I first sawThe Devil’s Backbone. To be a part of that imagination would be unbelievable, he always manages to walk a fine line between fear and vulnerability.
LH: Any last words?
YY: Now that I’ve had a taste of action in El Gringo, I’d love to do more. What’s great about working on these types of physical roles are the opportunities of picking up new skills and to push yourself to try things you might have never done otherwise. You just never know what new hobby you may start.”
Thank you, Yvette for your insight and your passion for your art is to be admired and we know El Gringo is the first of many films you will be headlining.
El Gringo opens in Los Angeles on May 11, 2012 at the Mann Chinese 6 Theatres located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028. Audiences are encouraged to catch first show on Friday, May 11th at 5:10 PM (there will be surprise cast members in attendance), or catch it over the weekend. For show times, call (323) 464-8111.
After Los Angeles, El Gringo will be in wide release in all major U.S. markets.