What the image above says is the truth: Champions Can Come From Anywhere. These 7 actors who bring the boys of McFarland alive are ones you need to keep an eye out for. They are going to have big careers. Interviews can always be tricky. Some are great and others are just enough to get an article. After interviewing these guys I literally wanted to give each one a hug. My mama bear instincts came out. These boys are full of heart and truly a family to each other. Now let’s get to fun facts about each actor!
Carlos Pratts plays Thomas Valles
In the script, the character Thomas Valles, played by Carlos Pratts, is a natural runner with prodigious talent. But the reverse was true for Pratts, who zealously prepared for the cross-country scenes and in the process, became a runner. In addition to drills with the film’s running coach, Mark Ellis, Pratts worked out with personal trainer Brian Nguyen. Nguyen famously got Mark Wahlberg into boxing shape for “The Fighter” and did likewise for Pratts.
When asked how filming TV was different from a Movie Carlos replied, “Doing a movie’s so different than TV shows in the sense to where it’s so fast. TV’s very fast and you have 60 pages when you shoot a pilot, so you don’t know where your character’s gonna go, but when you do a movie, you have a beginning, middle and end. So it’s like within these 120 pages, I create my arc. So you have a lot of trust in the script, and then you get to explore. I think you have a little more confidence in whatever you’re doing in the film, as opposed to TV, you just have no idea. You shoot the pilot. They tell you a little bit, and then the scripts start going. Basically chemistry and what’s happening with the actors. Your character develops or dies.”
All the guys had nothing but great things to say about Kevin Costner. Carlos also brought his 9 year old brother to set and he had a unique experience with Kevin that shows you just what kind of guy he is, “I have a 9-year-old little brother and, ah, and these guys have all got the chance to meet my family because we are family, you know. So my little brother comes on set and Kevin takes a real liking to him, you know. A 9-year old, as we all know, there’s no flood gate. It is what it is. It’s just kind of [SNAPS FINGERS], just get it out there. It’s November, like right after Thanksgiving. We’re about to go to Christmas, you know, so everyone’s really excited about the holidays. He’s got this DVD of Christmas at Kevin’s, and it’s like George Lucas and Spielberg said let’s make our own holiday. There’s camels, there’s presents. They have blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks of huge things about the size of this room, where they make snow for the kids. It’s a beautiful thing. Well, my little brother looks at it, and he said Kevin, how much money do you have? [LAUGHING.] Kevin responds. I think he just looks to him and he says it’s not how much money I have, it’s about the fact that I just share with everyone else. The only reason I’m telling that story is because that person is the person that we spent 4 months with, and to answer who is Kevin Costner? How is he? He’s that person.”
Johnny Ortiz plays Jose Cardenas
Johnny Ortiz who you can also see in the upcoming ABC show American Crime really tugged out our heartstrings. He shared with us a bit of personal info:
“I wanted to share something. I remember being 5 years old and I called 4-1-1, and I asked how do I become an actor? My dad looked at me and was like ah, my adorable son. I can’t help him out because he didn’t know how the industry worked. But I wanted to say, not to make this long, um, dreams are possible. Goals are possible. Because I got in McFarland, you know. It’s a blessing to land on my own TV show called American Crime with Oscar-winner John Ridley. So that’s coming on March 5th. I’m blessed, you know. I’ve got other roles coming up, and it’s, just you want to tell people that dreams are possible because I came from gangbanging world. Most of my whole family are gangbangers, and I broke the chain. I decided, you know what, I don’t want to go through that path. I don’t want to live that life. So if I want to do that, I got to put my mind and my heart. I’ve been in and out of jail back in my past history. There’s struggle out there, and we got to help these kids out, you know. There’s a lot of kids out there that have talent, that have a lot of hear. They just don’t have the opportunities. That’s why this place is like Casa 0101, which is a non-profit organization. Josefina Lopez was, wrote Real Women Have Curves, is the founder of this place, and she brought me into this theatre and showed me that I can do it in life. This is what we need. We need places like this. We need resources.”
Rafael Martinez plays David Diaz
Actor Rafael Martinez, who is by nature soft-spoken and polite, admits that he cut school in order to audition for the movie. Needless to say, having won a role, he has no regrets.
Like the real McFarland team, all seven young actors had to train to become champion runners. Although some had more track and field experience than others, all of them took their drills very seriously. Mark Ellis, the coach hired to train them for the film, would have it no other way and the team evolved over time. But training them wasn’t as simple as merely putting shoes on their feet. Every morning at 8 a.m. the runners showed up for practice, which was literally running and more running to build up endurance.
Ramiro Rodriguez plays Danny Diaz
Ramiro Rodriguez, as Danny Diaz, was a champion soccer player in real life. He’s one of the 3 actors actually from Mcfarland. In fact, he had no intention of auditioning when he agreed to drive his cousin to the casting tryouts for “McFarland, USA.” He landed the role of Danny Diaz after being pestered repeatedly by executive producer Mario Iscovich to audition.
Talking about weight issues, Ramiro had this to say: “Throughout high school and pretty much my whole life, I’ve been the chubby one, and in this movie, I see it a lot. They picked on me. I mean, in the movie I know it was a joke. AYeah, they could tell me that I’m fat, but to be honest, in real life, it really did hurt me. But for him [Danny Diaz] to triumph the way he did in the movie, it’s really a triumph for me also. He proved everybody wrong that a big man could do it. It showed me also that I could do it too.”
Hector Duran plays Johnny Sameniego
All of the cast mentioned how Hector is like the little brother of the family. Even though he has acted before this is his breakout role as well.
Hector mentioned, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned through this film, which I already knew but it just reinforces it even more, is the idea of equality and not judging a book by its cover. As you see in the film, Kevin Costner comes into this small town and he kind of judges the book by its cover. Once you get deeper into all the values that are there, you see that everybody’s equal. The only thing that separates us is the color of our skin, so we should try to treat each other equally.”
Sergio Avelar plays Victor Puentes
Sergio is also from McFarland and is a bona fide runner and a member of the McFarland Track Club. He has been running since 2001 and considers himself a “decent runner.” One of his coaches in middle school was actually Thomas Valles, the real-life person represented by the role that Carlos Pratts plays.
He talked about being proud to be from McFarland, “Now people are actually kind of proud saying that they’re from McFarland. Back then it was, ‘Where are you from?’ I’m from McFarland. ‘Where’s that at?’ Oh, you know, between Bakersfield and Visalia. ‘Oh, that town that smells likes cows as you pass?’ Now, it’s like people are so proud. They say that if someone asks you where are you from and they say McFarland, they’re not going to believe you now. It’s a movie. It’s so crazy. It’s truly a blessing.”
Michael Aguero plays Damacio Diaz
Michael who is from McFarland was able to see the ocean for the first time while filming! He’s just enjoying the experience and when asked about acting with Kevin Costner he said, “Kevin Costner has more stories than a library!”
As you can see these boys are humble and have a great future ahead of them!
Grab Your Tickets NOW!
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McFARLAND, USA is rated PG and is now playing in theatres everywhere!