NYCC 2015 Interview: Stars D.J. Cotrona and Jesse Garcia Talk ‘From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series’

In 1996, director Robert Rodriguez took audiences on a vampiric adventure unlike any other. The tongue in cheek horror/action spectacle ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ was a film that garnered a cult following and basically put Rodriguez on the genre map. Now in season 2 of the ‘Dawn’ series, we see a new side to the film’s characters and Rodriguez’s unique filmmaking style. Stars D.J. Cotrona and Jesse Garcia were kind enough to sit down with me at New York Comic Con to discuss the El Rey series and the direction in which it is headed. Here’s how that interview went:

So season 2, what were the feelings going into the season? Because you guys definitely have different storylines that converged at the end of the season. Talk to me about what you went through with your characters and how you’ve grown from season 1, because your wife and kid are gone, you’re going through hunting these things on your own. You’re on your own. You have this justice –

Lone wolf.

Man of the law. The normal one, yeah.

The normal one? Pseudo-normal? Nah. So what’s your question?

So I just wondered, talk to me about how, what you felt about playing your character this season.

I think we cut him in half. I mean, Seth in first season was very well-defined. He was the mouthpiece of this unit, the guy that has everything in control. He was the mouthpiece. He was the confident, cock-sure bravado, P.T. Barnum of this carnival, and in the second season, we rip his, the only thing he has – his brother is half of him. They’re co-dependent, and when that gets ripped away from him, he wanted to see, what does this guy look like when he’s broken, this confident guy who is always in charge? What does he look like when he’s given up? We went deep, you know, he completely gave up, and –

Real deep.

Real deep, and it was great because it was always by design and the goal to get to this point in the second season where we can do things like that, where, you know, Jesse has had the luxury of, from jump, being an original character, and you know –

Having a clean slate.

We had to get these guys past what everyone already knew to explore new ground, so it was really satisfying.

Uhh, what was the question? What my favorite food is? Sushi.

I would say sushi too.

Yay!

What I think about the character this season? Compared to last season, well, I think he’s kind of, he’s discovered this whole new world that he didn’t know existed and that he’s destined to be a part of, that he doesn’t, I don’t think he necessarily wants to be a part of because one, it’s ruining his family, and two, it’s, like, scary as shit.

I feel the same way! That’s literally how I feel.

Yeah.

We should just branch off and get rid of all these fools.

A spin-off.

Season 3? Nice.

No spoilers, that’s probably it right there. But as an actor, I’m having a lot of fun with it. I get to kick a lot of asses here and get some cool little mini dialogue things. I get one or two lines an episode. A couple lines in there, a couple lines in there.

A couple words.

A couple words, yeah. A couple words come out of my face. But it’s a lot of fun. I think he’s evolved a lot from last year, from season 1 to season 2 completely. He’s like, innocence is gone, and I think it’s affected him and his family, obviously, because his family’s taken off, and he has to deal with this world until his family comes back, and who knows when that is going to be, so it will be a huge storyline in itself for seasons to come.

My question is, what has been the most difficult scenes to film for you guys? Do you guys have to train?

We had a love scene.

Yeahhhhh, like halfway through episode 9.

He’s stretching, like, hurrrr.

Well, I had to, it’s pretty aggressive. (laughs) I do a lot of yoga.

It was romantic.

Uhh, yeah, it was like, we’re going to stop.

We’re going to get in a lot of trouble.

Snipe a soundbite.

Never!

No, I mean, look, one of the greatest things about getting to work with Troublemaker and with Robert is the fact that they champion old-school action and old-school practical effects. You know, the classics, we try to keep those alive, so what that means is it looks cool but what it also means is it fucking hurts. So when we get to work, you know, one day, we’re racing cars and blowing them up, and the next day, we’re having crazy –

Getting thrown across the room.

Thrown across the room and having crazy fistfights. I mean, there’s a lot to choose from. I don’t know. I’ve twisted ankles, I’ve jammed fingers, and yeah, you get banged up. You actually kind of hit each other sometimes and jumping off of things and getting thrown around. It’s a lot of fun. I mean, I don’t think that any of it is particularly grueling or difficult, it’s just, it can be, what’s a good word for it? Physical?

Yeah, and I think it’s also good that, like, everybody’s down.

Any special techniques?

Everybody in our cast is like – special techniques?

Special techniques that you guys use?

Icy Hot, (laughs) aspirin –

A hug afterwards.

A hug afterwards. You know, everybody in the cast is really proud of the job and thankful for it and wants to do the best we can.

I think a lot of special techniques are the crew that we have. Our stunts team is amazing and then the special effects team and the make-up and the hair, they all make us look good. I mean, we would definitely not look as cool if it weren’t for the rest of the team.

DJ, what is it like mirroring George Clooney but at the same time making the character your own?

Well, there’s no thought of mirroring anyone, to be honest with you, at all. I mean, the character is the same character that he played, so obviously by definition, there’s going to be a lot of similarities. It was written as such, so it’s impossible to avoid certain moments and cadences that are in the job description, and I think whatever Robert saw in his original casting and whatever he, I was lucky enough to get cast for that he saw in me. In this one, you know, that’s up to him. He saw some sort of quality that works for him for this character that he brought to life, so I’m just very happy to get to do it, and to be honest with you, man, it just kind of happens organically, Like, Zane and I and all of us that are doing characters that already existed, we had no preconceived notion about trying to do it similarly or trying to run really far away from it, and at the end of the day, it’s the words on the page, the descriptions of the characters, and we get to work, we go to work with Robert, and we spitball our ideas and we just shoot it. And then he takes the material and he makes it look how he wants it to look and yeah, there’s tons of similarities, but you know, a lot of them are by design. And also, I think that any time you shoot anything where it’s an iconic property and people are passionate about the characters, you’re gonna get, it’s going to be hard to not do that comparison thing. Trust me, I do that, too. I do that with other projects I love. I do it with this one as a fan, but…

You know, if you think about it too, like if he were to go, if DJ were to go in the other direction of trying to stay as far away from Clooney as possible purposefully, the fans, you know, you’re not going to please anybody at any point. The fans would kind of go, “Uhh, fuck it, Clooney would never do that.” You know what I mean? That’s so far away from the original character. He’s doing the work honestly as he can, and you know, I mean, as an audience member, you’re saying these terms, these preconceived notions. But when you’re watching it for the first time, you’re thinking that because you’ve already seen the first one, but I gotta, I promise you, when we go to work and shoot it, it’s the furthest thing from my mind. The only time it comes up is moments like this when we were back because then you could make that comparison, but on the day, it’s, we get 10 pages in front of us, and we get the costume, and we get the relationships, and we get that heightened tone of the world that we’re creating, and we just do the best we can. You know, I can’t, I talk the way I talk, you know? I act the way I act. My instincts are the way they are, and if it’s coming across in a similar way, I champion that because that’s the project that we’re doing.

Maybe Clooney’s been imitating you the whole time.

With a time machine?

Yeah.

Not in the bank accounts. Everywhere else, maybe.

Speaking of iconic properties, if Robert ever decided to bring back another movie into a TV series, which one would you like him to do, and which character would you like to play?

Oh, me?

Both of you.

I’d like to see him, I think Sin City, man. Like, could you imagine, come on. Frank, who was just in here, if you could have such a cool, stylized noir, like the way Robert and Frank Miller did. I would watch endless, endless episodes of that, the same way he drew the original comic. Who I would want to play, anybody they would let me.

I’d play the Jessica Alba character. (laughs)

There’s sort of a common thread between Freddie and Seth in season 2, and that is that they both spent time with Kate, who is sort of like this very much like a metaphor for femininity and innocence, and they sort of treat her in a similar, like, you have to stay here and I’m going to protect you manner. Could you just sort of talk to me quickly about your character and sort of, the show does a very interesting – sorry, I’m going off-track. Could you just talk to me about your character sort of in relation to that idea?

Yeah, certainly.

I know for, look, you were good, but not anymore. There’s no good guys on the show. There are bad guys, there are worse guys, there are evil guys. I think Kate, in her case, is the one shred of innocence, and I know for Seth, there’s still a human being there. He operates very much like a lone wolf criminal, but Maddie’s character represented his last shred of innocence, you know, and you see it in moments where he tries to protect her and tries to make sure she’s okay, to make sure she doesn’t do anything weird. She was the last shred of humanity that Seth had left, and you can tell that he wasn’t a total degenerate because anytime that she’s around, there was a spark of innocence.

I don’t know, I think Freddie, I think he kind of has a role, a natural role to protect her anyways. He’s a dad, he’s the husband, and he’s the boss, you know what I mean? It’s kind of, he has a natural instinct to want to protect, and she called him for help, so he’s already developed his own weapons, and he’s kind of discovering more things about this world from a different perspective than Kate. But it’s interesting, the turn that they have, because you know, she’s, her evolution of her character throughout the season is pretty incredible as well. She’s going to surprise people.

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