LATIN HEAT. Edgar Ramirez is one of the hottest Latin-American actors in the entertainment world, having starred in a number of Hollywood thrillers and critically-acclaimed international productions. He talked to DA MAN about the challenges of playing historical legends, his charity work and working with Kathryn Bigelow on the highly anticipated Zero Dark Thirty.
When Edgar Ramirez was younger, he studied journalism and politics with aspirations of becoming a diplomat. Somewhat ironically, he has portrayed an assassin, a legendary terrorist and even the god of war during his impressive rise as an actor. But unlike those dark characters he portrayed in The Bourne Ultimatum, Carlos and Wrath of the Titans, the soft-spoken Ramirez is passionate about non-violence and supports a number of charities that work to protect the safety of children and human rights around the globe.
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DA MAN: Your bio says that you turned down a role in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film Amores Perros, which he offered you after he saw you in a short film, and it implies that you decided to pursue acting seriously when you saw how successful that movie was. Would you say that’s an accurate assessment of why you decided to pursue acting as a career?
Edgar Ramirez: It was Guillermo Arriaga (the writer of Amores Perros) who first saw me in the short film and at the time I had other plans in my life so I could not foresee the opportunity to pursue acting as a career. I tried to do it but I was working on my thesis and was supposed to attend Georgetown for my masters so it wasn’t possible. When I saw how successful the movie was I said to myself that it would be worth giving acting a try and that is what I am still doing today. I don’t regret my decision because it was not in my life plans at the time. In the schools I attended throughout my life, I always took part in the school plays etc. but I did not grow up wanting to be an actor. It was not a childhood dream, but after turning down “Amores Perros” I decided to listen more carefully to the messages I was getting from different people about acting.
DA MAN: Your first big acting job was on the soap opera “Cosita Rica,” which ran for 270 episodes over one year. How tough is that kind of production schedule?
Edgar Ramirez:It was a very hardcore schedule. You tape everyday so you have to be at the studio everyday. In Venezuela you almost tape and record as you go. In most Latin American countries you do the taping day by day. Sometimes we would do scenes during the day that would air the same night, so it was very challenging but also very helpful in training me. I was able to take the opportunity to improve my ability to make quick acting choices. I learned to be more reactive and more efficient so I think it was very good training.
DA MAN: You’ve done a wide variety of movies all over the world. Would you say there is a difference in the “set culture” of a big Hollywood production like “Clash of the Titans” versus Latin American and/or European productions?
Edgar Ramirez: There is an obvious difference in the infrastructure. You don’t have the same infrastructure when you are shooting a movie with a 2 million dollar budget and one with a smaller budget. Regardless of the budget or territory, what happens on set between your director and your fellow actors doesn’t change. Filmmaking is a spirit and that spirit is independent of any nationality, territory, or budget. That spirit of commitment and creativity I have found equally everywhere, regardless of nationality, territory or budget. I’ve been able to feel everybody equally committed on high budget and low budget films. The sacred field of the movie set is a spirit that I have been very lucky to equally find either here or in Argentina or in France. I have been very lucky to work with directors with a very high sense of commitment. Besides the infrastructure, I haven’t been able to find any other large difference.
DA MAN: For your next movie, “Libertador,” you will be playing Simón Bolívar, one of the founders of Venezuela. How did you prepare for that role?
Edgar Ramirez: I tried to read and research as much as possible on Bolívar. I tried to pour all of that research into the brilliant character that the writer has created for the movie. I rehearsed and trained a lot. I trained for sword fighting, horseback riding, fighting while riding horses. It was a very demanding rehearsal and shooting schedule. I also tried to put aside the burden of portraying such an influential character in Latin American history. I tried not to let that pressure affect the unfolding of the performance. He is the most important historic figure in Latin America so everyone has a different idea of who Bolívar was. I tried to listen to my director and follow my instincts and tried to put that pressure aside and not affect the enjoyment of portraying such an important and fascinating character.
DA MAN: You won a number of awards for your portrayal of Carlos the Jackal in the miniseries Carlos, who is one of the many dark characters you have played. Do you feel like you have to find some kind of sympathy for that kind of character before you can portray them effectively?
Edgar Ramirez: Definitely, I don’t know if I have to find sympathy but definitely empathy. You definitely need to empathize because you can’t judge your character… you need to understand them no matter how different they are from you (their circumstances, code of morality, etc.) That’s what is so fascinating and tricky about performing arts. You need to put yourself at the service of the character and try to walk in your character’s shoes no matter how difficult or different it is from your life. You have to empathize and that’s how it gets tricky. How do you empathize with a terrorist? That was hard… in my real life I would never endorse violence as a way of political change or transformation.
DA MAN: You’ve done quite a bit of charity work for organizations like Amnesty International and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Can you tell us a bit about the work are doing now and why you chose those particular causes?
Edgar Ramirez: I stand up against violence and that’s why I try to help in any way I can with Amnesty international and their fight to strengthen human rights all over the world. In the case of United Nations Children’s Fund I believe every child represents a new opportunity to rewrite a better history in the world. If we strengthen the children’s rights then we can protect them and potentially protect the men and women that can help to make the world a better place. What we are doing is healing humanity. If we are able to protect and deepen their defense of children’s rights we can help to heal humanity. It gives us an opportunity to write a better history for humanity.
DA MAN: What do you do when you’re not busy with acting or charity work?
Edgar Ramirez: I try to spend time with my family and friends and just relax and sleep. I try to catch up on reading books that I haven’t gotten a chance to and watching movies. I also have a furniture design shop that I try to dedicate time to.
DA MAN: Besides Libertador, you will also be starring in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty about the efforts to catch Osama Bin Laden. Can you tell us a bit about your role in that movie and what the production was like?
Edgar Ramirez: I can’t tell you much about the movie but I can tell you it was an amazing experience. To work with Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal was amazing. Kathryn has always been one of my favorite directors of all times. I was excited to play my character and it has been a great privilege and honor to work with her. She is so clever and has an amazing way going about telling stories. I think the movie is going to be very, very good. Nobody is going to be able to remain indifferent about the movie. It will definitely generate a lot of different reactions and I think we are all very happy about it.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Adam DeNino
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