It was so fun being in the room when the 7 actors that made up part of the McFarland, USA cross country team walked in the room. You could tell they were excited to talk to us. Some of them were seasoned actors, some of them this was their first “rodeo” and some of them even are from McFarland, go to high school at McFarland high and grew up knowing the real life people that inspired the film!
With us in the interview room was Johnny Ortiz (who played Jose Cardenas), Michael Aguero (who played Damacio Diaz), Sergio Avelar (who played Victor Puentes), Ramiro Rodriguez (who played Danny Diaz), Rafael Martinez (who played David Diaz), Hector Duran (who played Johnny Sameniego) and Carlos Pratts (who played Thomas Valles). It was so fun to talk to these boys because they each has such a unique story but the brotherhood they share was very real. You could tell that they are still really close even though filming has ended and they have gone their separate ways.
Two of the boys Ramiro Rodriguez and Sergio Avelar are from McFarland and grew up and end associated with the real characters from the story. Danny Diaz, who Rodriguez plays, was his high school counselor and so he was familiar with him.
Rodriguez and Avelar both said that the community has really changed since the 80’s (when the film is based). Things have improved and the community is so excited to be in the spotlight for this film. One funny thing Avelar said was:
Yeah, and now people are actually kind of proud saying that they’re from McFarland.It’s just like people are so proud and now if someone asks you “oh, where are you from” and they say McFarland, we’re just a joke, they’re not going to believe you now. It’s a movie. It’s so crazy, it’s truly a blessing.
Rodriguez learned a lot from his role. He played Danny Diaz who is the chubby, slow one on the team. He said that he really could relate with Danny because he grew being the chubby kid. He loved playing the character that triumphed at the end because he felt like it was a personal triumph for him in real life.
For him to triumph the way he did, I mean, it’s really a triumph for me also, because it proved everybody wrong that a big man could do it but it showed me also that I could do it too.
Continuing on with the meaningful lessons learned in the film Hector Duran added:
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned throughout 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 because as you see in the film, Kevin Costner comes into this small town and he kind of judges the book by its cover. But once you get deeper into all the values that are there, you see that everybody’s equal. Everybody had their own opinions. The only thing that separates us is the color of our skin, so we should try to treat each other equally.
All of these boys were so grateful for the experience, learned so much from the movie and from being with Kevin Costner – a very seasoned actor who was able to give them advice for life. The brotherhood on and off screen is touching.
While some of the boys have future plans and hope that they include more acting, some don’t know what the future holds. My biggest piece of advice for them would be to keep running. Life is what you make it, so with some effort they can make it a success!
McFarland, USA is in theaters NOW! Catch up on the rest of my #McFarlandUSAEvent interviews and activities so you don’t miss a thing!