NO FEAR. You don’t often meet a Hollywood actor who’d tell you things point-blank with no frills. D.J. Cotrona is one such “Extraordinarily Ordinary” star
Five years ago, Donald Joseph “D.J.” Cotrona appeared in the romantic drama “Dear John” as Noodles, an army buddy of the titular John. But you probably know him better as another, more action-heavy soldier: Flint from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” Ten years ago, he appeared in a horror flick titled “Venom.” But some of you might recall his performance as Seth Gecko, the main protagonist in the American horror series “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.” Today, we’re rooting for him as a promising actor on the rise. Yet, we’ll probably be cheering for D.J. Cotrona as a multi-award-winning artist in the not-so-distant future.
T-shirt by Nike
DA MAN: Hi D.J., glad to have you with us. So, first things first: the second season of “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series” is about to air, and we’re pretty excited to see it. What can audiences expect this time around?
D.J. Cotrona: They can expect blood, heightened dialogue, action, stunts and horror a slick mashup of noir, western and horror, all in classic Robert Rodriguez style. We take the characters into completely new and unexpected directions.
DA: “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series” has been a huge hit. What do you think is it that made this show so successful?
DJ: We’re unique in the sense that we’re a singular vision. Robert’s our creator, writer, director, editor, composer, DP [director of photography] … and even our cook half the time. We have an amazing team helping create and flesh out all aspects of the story, but Robert oversees and controls it all. His vision isn’t watered down. We don’t answer to anyone but him, so our look and tone stays unique. Nobody creates more iconic pulpy characters than Robert and Tarantino. “Dusk” lets you follow some of their best ones in new stories.
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DA: Any rumors or plans for a third season that you can share with us? Or maybe your own prediction?
DJ: Nothing to share, but I love working on the show and with everyone involved. So, I hope there will be a third season.
DA: Of course, your performance as Seth Gecko is nothing short of phenomenal—some would even say it’s on par with George Clooney’s depiction of the character in the original movie. Do you have a certain approach or method to get into character?
DJ: Nope. As an actor, I want to work with a director I respect and a character that’s interesting and fun to play. When the source material is iconic, there’s going to be comparisons. People are precious with the films they love, myself included. What gave me confidence was that this wasn’t some other guy reinterpreting what Robert did the first time. It’s Robert himself. He asked me to revisit it and create a new interpretation with him. When you get that opportunity, you just dive in. My “process” was probably the same as the other guys on the film: Read the dialogue, make some choices, and trust Robert. Buckle down and do your job. I’m proud of the work we’re doing together.
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DA: By the way, how were you selected for the role in the first place?
DJ: It all happened fast. Got a call to meet with Robert with an hour’s notice, sat down, and talked about work, what we’ve been up to, and then he explained his vision and the way he would shoot it and direct it. A few days after that, I read with some other actors and then finally Zane, and about a week after I was at Troublemaker Studios putting on the suit.
DA: Speaking of selections and auditions, how did you end up playing as Flint in 2013’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”? It was, for many, one of your most recognizable roles so far on the big screen.
DJ: “Joe” was a lot of fun. I was obsessed with it as a kid. After an audition and a few meetings with director Jon Chu and producer Lorenzo Dibonaventura, I got to go play. “Joe” was a lesson in big movie making for me. There’s a lot of moving parts. A lot of changes happened for Flint, story-wise, from when I signed on to, when the cast filled out and we started shooting. But I couldn’t have had more of a blast making that movie. I love Jon, he’s incredibly talented, and I got to work with a lot of people I look up to. I learned a lot.
I figured if I’m going to lie for a living, I might as well enjoy it”
DA: Can you tell us if there are any more “G.I. Joe” movies planned for the future and if you’re going to reprise your role?
DJ: No clue. They’re trying to get a third off the ground. As far as I know they’re still hashing out the story.
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DA: Moving even further back, you were once slated to play as Superman in George Miller’s cancelled “Justice League: Mortal” movie. And now, it would seem that we will actually see a feasible build-up toward an actual “Justice League” feature film. How do you feel about this?
DJ: I love George; I had a great time in Australia with him and his crew and I learned a lot from him during that experience. He’s one of the greatest storytellers of our time. He recently came down to Austin, and we had a chance to hang out and reconnect. I was disappointed when it fell through, but it all happened as it was meant to. George asking me to work with him gave me a confidence boost at a time when I needed it. That was a gift in and of itself. “Mad Max: Fury Road” was the film he was meant to make. The world needed that movie. It’s a masterpiece. It took him 15 years to get it to the finish line, and it was worth it. I’m a huge fan of Zack Snyder since “Dawn of the Dead,” so I can’t wait to see his take on it. The “Batman v Superman” trailer looks incredible.
DA: Beyond movie adaptations of toys and comic books, are there any particular roles or characters that you would really like to take on someday?
DJ: Tons. From books, graphic novels, scripts, there are a lot of roles I’d love to play. Not going to call them out and jinx it.
DA: As the story goes, you originally studied to become a lawyer, but then you switched to acting after realizing that law wasn’t really for you. Why did you pick acting, though?
DJ: I figured if I’m going to lie for a living, I might as well enjoy it. [Beat] That’s a joke. I’ve been hooked on films and storytelling since I was a kid. It was always in the back of my head. It’s crazy to me now when I look back on how I weaseled my way into it. I had no clue what the heck I was doing.
DA: More than a decade afterwards, have you found acting to be everything you’ve hoped for? Or have you discovered something entirely different?
DJ: I learned that acting is like any other profession. You put your time in, you do your homework, you show up and do your job. That’s it. It’s not as esoteric or ethereal or whatever as it looks from the outside when you don’t understand it as much. It’s very much a job. You’re on a set with a crew of people all working hard to make a ton of crazy stuff happen and look seamless to tell a story. An actor is just another cog in a much bigger machine. It’s a team sport.
DA: With that in mind, could you picture yourself doing anything else for a living?
DJ: Of course. I’d love to write full time; I plan on directing at some point. I love tearing stuff down and rebuilding around the house my dad built houses for a living, so I guess it’s in my blood. But I’m very happy to do this as long as I’m afforded the opportunity.
DA: If there’s one thing that you’ve learned from your journey as an actor that you could share with all the people looking to make a name for themselves in showbiz, what would it be?
DJ: You need tenacity and patience. Equal parts “heck, I’m going to do this” and “heck, I’ll go with the flow.”
DA: Now, when you’re not busy with anything job-related, how do you usually spend your time? Hobbies, perhaps? Or maybe charity work, traveling, or something else?
DJ: All of the above. Love to travel, love to write, draw, paint, read … I come from a family of gearheads so there’s always a project in the garage. I’m basically your run-of-the-mill human male.
DA: Whether you’re working on set or simply relaxing at home, what’s the one thing you can’t start the day without?
DJ: Coffee. Then coffee.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Styling Alexa Rangroummith Green
Styling Assistant David Kim
Grooming Grace Phillips at Celestine Agency using Baxter of California and Laura Mercier
Photo Agency Artmix Creative
Video Editing Dimas Anggakara