The Source Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Ramon Rodriguez, the star of Disney’s “Need For Speed,” which hits theaters today.
How did you get involved with “Need For Speed”?
My manager sent me the script and I was a little hesitant in the beginning … I was aware that it was a video game franchise and it was huge, but I wasn’t sure what kind of movie they were trying to make and I gave it a read and when I did, I was surprised. There was an actual cool story in there about following this group of guys from upstate New York who come together to right a wrong and to have each other’s backs when something happens to one of the guys in the group, so that part was something I could relate to and my instincts responded. And the character of Joe Peck who’s this mechanic who’s really a brother and a pillar out of the group and he’s like brothers with Tobey who’s played by Aaron and they have this history, they grew up with each other. And I just liked the idea of this camaraderie -watching these guys work together and joke around together, but then really come together as friends when they need each other.
What was it like working with Aaron Paul and Rami Malek and the rest of the cast?
It was great. We were very fortunate. There was a very instant kind of chemistry that we had going on. We all met early on – we went to dinner and right off the dinner there were jokes, laughter. We immediately knew we had a fun group and casting did a great job of putting this group of guys with different energies and personalities, but knowing it was a good recipe. Somehow they knew with the director Scott, that they were putting together a good group and that we’d get along and we did and we hung out a lot. I think some of that translated – we hope – onto the screen. We goofed around a lot between takes, we improvised a lot, and we traveled all around the country like on a road trip together, so we had a lot of really cool experiences going out to dinners and parties. I got very close with Rami actually because we spent a lot of time in the beast together in the movie and so we got to know each other. We’d have some down time during the movie and I had actually taken him to Puerto Rico when we were in Atlanta filming.
Yeah we had ten days off of filming and most people go back home when you get a break in between filming and I said “Listen, you ever been to Puerto Rico?” and he was like, “No,” and I said, “Well I’m going to take you, let’s go,” and so we went and just had the most amazing time and came back with crazy stories and of course, Kid Cudi was jealous he didn’t get the invite because he was working and we brought everybody maracas and all these like fun gifts. We brought back all these cool fun gifts from Puerto Rico. It was really hilarious actually.
Speaking of Rami, there’s a particular scene you guys have together in the movie and I was wondering, how was it filming that?
That was awkward. It was hilarious. I remember that scene and when we were getting close to shooting that scene he started getting really nervous and was kind of like “oh man.” You know, you’re just not sure you’ve got a figure body and it’s going to be on a huge screen and now it’s in 3D, which I think is hilarious. Originally, it wasn’t going to be in 3D so I think that’s funny they converted it, but anyway he was kind of freaking out. I joke about the scene a lot because it was my least favorite scene to do because it was so random and awkward, having my boy walking down the hallway naked and then him and Scott thought it would be a funny idea that while I’m walking away, Rami tries to jump on my back and I was like, no, I’m not having that. It was funny and the crew and everybody had a really big laugh that day and Rami was loving being naked. I mean, he was just naked when we weren’t even rolling and I was like dude, you could put on a robe now. It was funny.
What were some of your favorite scenes to film in the movie?
That one wasn’t my favorite although everyone loved it in the theater. The scenes with the guys over at Marshall’s Motors and things like that, I loved those scenes that when we’re all together because that was a lot of fun where it’s just guys being guys and guys playing with toys, which is cars in this movie. I love that scene and I also love the action sequence that we all got to perform in the hot wheels scene where we got to fuel up the car with gas, while we’re driving seventy miles an hour on the freeway. We actually did that. That was a huge stunt where I’m driving the car and Aaron’s driving the mustang and he’s close to the beast and Rami is actually climbing out and fueling the car, while we’re moving. It was really incredible and when Rami celebrates in the movie we’re all sort of celebrating in that moment. It was a very cool experience.
Were you nervous filming that scene?
There was so much preparation and we all knew we were in such great hands with Scott Waugh, who comes from a stunt background. We all felt that we had a great stunt team and coordinators, but we knew we were in great hands and they wouldn’t put us in a dangerous situation. They were going to push us because Scott’s intention was always to kind of do a throwback movie to some of the classics that started the genre like Bullet and Vanishing Point and so he wanted to make sure we could do some of the stunts. I went to stunt driving school for a while and I learned how to really maneuver and manipulate and learn how to respond to a car and so that just gave me confidence. So when I got in the beast (and I got to spend a lot of time in the beast) I had no problem handling it. So we took all the preparation we could so that when it comes to the day you feel as comfortable as possible.
Now did the rest of the actors take stunt practice as well or was it just you that did it?
Rami doesn’t really drive in the movie. He’s kind of a right-seater the whole movie. He’s a passenger, so he’s really not. Aaron did as well – I know he did, I know Dominic did because he does driving and I believe Harrison did.
Can you reflect on working with this cast?
It was kind of like a road trip. We were in Atlanta and then we were in Detroit and so whenever we were all in the same city together we just hung out. We went to go see music shows and performances. There are a lot of great acts that stop in Atlanta and Detroit that we would pick out shows, we would go to dinners, we would have nights out and check out some local bars. We made sure to really enjoy the moment and enjoy the experience, but were always on point when it came to work as well. Work hard, play hard.
Did any of the actors play pranks on set?
I don’t remember any major pranks. We would just joke with each other a lot. Like, we all said that they could make another movie of the outtakes because the outtakes of the movie we did in between actual rolling were hilarious. We would just go at each other. Dominic Cooper, who plays the villain in the movie, when he would be on set with us, we would just murder him in jokes. He’s wearing heels in the movie, we’d kill him about his heels, we’d kill him about his turtleneck, anything he had that we could joke on, we would just like guys, attack him and have fun. He’d come back at us and start and there were a lot of fun moments like that, a lot of really fun late nights and debauchery in hotels and being silly. We had fun.
You’re in the new FOX drama Gang Related that’s set to debut in May. Can you tell us a little about that?
That comes out May 20 at 9 o’clock on FOX. I’m really, really excited about Gang Related. The project came to me through Kevin Reilly over at FOX and I sat down with Chris Morgan, who created the show – he comes from the Fast and Furious franchise, he wrote those films – and so we had a sit down meeting and I really responded to the script and I was surprised because I really didn’t have any intentions on doing network television. I really enjoy the process of filmmaking, but the script was so captivating and intriguing. I hadn’t seen anything like this on television on where it’s capturing both the gang world and the cop world of Los Angeles in one.
And really, the fact that it’s centering, hinging on this character Ryan Lopez who is kind of doing a hire wire act and a balancing act between both worlds. He was raised in East L.A. as an orphan. This gang, this father figure took him in and raised him and gave him love and fed him and gave the young kid purpose and that’s a very impactful, powerful thing as a young man, as a young 10-year-old boy with no family. So this father figure who’s played by Chris Curtis really had a vision and a dream of getting this family out of the world of gang and going legitimate. He saw Ryan, who’s my character, as a conduit to manifest some of his dreams to help make that happen. Some of the ways he does that is he tells Ryan to go join the military, learn tactics and strategy, come back, implement that to the gang, go to the LAPD, rise the ranks there, and then give us information to help protect us so we can make money to get out and that’s kind of what Ryan hooks into. He believes in that, but it isn’t until the pilot where we kind of meet Ryan as an adult now … Something happens in the pilot that really kind of flips his world a bit and makes him question who is this man that he’s been kind of in debt to and who is this man that he’s given up his whole life to and on the other side of the cop world he has a captain who kind of is treating him the same way Javier did when he was young. He sees all this potential in Ryan and gives him a special gun because he just believes in him and he puts him in a role of leadership. He empowers him … The show is a lot about the guy trying to figure out who he is and where he belongs. He thinks he knows who Javier is and I think he soon starts finding out or maybe starts having doubt that this man might not be the man that he thought he was. His actions are really impactful for Ryan. He’s got to make a lot of tough decisions in the show that lies in a very grey area.
Have you guys finished filming the show?
We just wrapped the first season literally three weeks ago … and I’m very, very proud of it and I can’t wait until we air. I can’t wait to see how people receive it. It’s a lot of information, especially in the pilot because it’s kind of laying down who these characters are in the world that we’re in and as it continues you really get to get into these characters’ heads and you get to enter Ryan’s point of view and understand what it is he’s going through and what he’s feeling and how conflicted he is and what that takes from him, which is a lot. He’s just constantly having to make very difficult decisions and what I love about it is you’ve got cops that are doing things that might be immoral or wrong, but may be for a greater good and you’ve got supposed guys, gang members, that have morals and a code and things that we might see as righteous and justified.
“Need For Speed” is now playing.