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An Interview with Mario Valdez Juarez, Star of Carne the Taco Maker

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2014

Films starring Mario Valdez Juarez on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Carne the Taco Maker - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character?


Don Taco's mobile taco stand is famous for having the best prepared meat tacos in Los Angeles. He is responsible for making money to support his controlling mother Rosa and his dependent brother Memo. Don Taco is in love and obsessed with one of his customers, Maria, who lives with a jobless boyfriend. Don Taco is willing to help Maria financially if she comes over to his house for a special dinner, "with no strings attached". Maria agrees in exchange for the rent money to avoid eviction.

Don Taco is a romantic and always falls in love with his beautiful customers; he is willing to abandon his family's business and give all his money to his latest imagined true love, Maria. Don Taco is controlled by his mother and can never fulfill his ambition because of his mother's power over him.


What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and even if it might sound mean, how much of yourself can we find in Uncle Taco?


I created my family's back life as preparation for my character. I imagined going back to a time when my ancestors were living as cannibals in the jungles of Mexico and missionaries found them and civilized them and took them to Mexico City were they started selling tacos with their specially prepared meat and then migrated to California.


I have always been a romantic and known for my singing and dancing and you can say I have been always able to sweep beautiful women off their feet. Don Taco loves being the business man of the family and finding the best meat in town but has never killed anyone, he leaves that to his brother Memo. There were times I got scared of Don Taco's character and had nightmares about him and afraid his psyche was entering me and could be the basis for another movie.


How did you get hooked up with the project in the first place?


I have been dancing, singing and acting since age 3. I started working with the director and producer of Teatro Urbano for several years as an associate producer and musical comedy actor. My credits with Teatro Urbano include Joaquin Murrieta - The Musical as Three Finger Jack with a 3 month run at world famous Doug Weston's Troubadour in Beverly Hills, Beto's Dream - The Musical as Mr. Williams, and various parts over the years in the award winning Los Angeles Chicano play, The Silver Dollar about the death of LA Times reporter at the hands of Los Angeles County Sheriff during the Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970.

Rene Rodriguez came up with the idea of Carne the Taco Maker about 5 years ago and told me he wrote the part of "Don Taco" for me, and which I will forever be grateful for. Rene told me I had to be liked by the audience before my dark side was revealed.


To what extent can you identify with the film's rather gruesome content, but also its own brand of humour?


I identify with the struggles of the working class and the social injustices of trying to make a decent living on the streets of the city. I have worked with mentally disabled and incarcerated persons who lose all reality and live in a parallel world and commit crimes when in a different state of mind and guided by their demons. There is always humor in the worst circumstances and sometimes this is a safety net for those who are involved in the worst scenario.


What can you tell us about your director Rene Rodriguez, and what was your collaboration like?


Rene Rodriguez works closely with character development and then gives the actor the freedom to express yourself and excel. He is calm, supportive, encouraging and gets the best performance with his guidance. He makes you feel great and treats everyone like a star.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We shot on the streets of Boyle Heights and our base was at Corazon Del Pueblo community arts social collaborative center, where we have been performing in Teatro Urbano's The Silver Dollar for a limited run for about 6 years. We did casting and recruited crew from Corazon Del Pueblo and also original music by Timothy Skyy and additional music by La Chamba came from Corazon.

The on set atmosphere was great and of course the great food provided for all was a plus. It seemed we had the support of the community and as I walk around Boyle Heights I am greeted as "Don Taco"... on many scenes involving the taco cart people would wait and line up to buy tacos. 


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I am working on several projects in developement including Jesus's Tailor Show, The Miraculous Disappearance of Maria Guadalupe Valdez from my screenplay that was a part of an HBO Latino Screenwriter's Workshop, an actor in the play Lola, produced and directed by international award winning film maker Yazmin Ortiz. I also have international commercials for Vitamix Blenders, International House of Pancakes, and several recording sessions as a blues singer, and part of Dia Del Mariachi and Santa Celia annual event at Boyle Heights Mariachi Plaza and Gold Line Metro Station.


What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I have been acting since age 3, and my mentors include Bob Hope, Anthony Quinn, Ricardo Montalban, Apollonia Kotero, Lupe Ontiveros, Rita Rogers, and my acting coach was David Alexander who was director of The Real McCoys and also the coach for Jack Lemmon and Cliff Robertson, and he told me that sooner or later his coaching would pay off. I have an extensive list of voice coaches for musical comedy, but that is a different story.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Carne the Taco Maker?


I have many film credits with American Film Institute, USC Film School, UCLA Film School, Los Angeles Film School, and Independent Films including award winning films Pan Dulce/ Sweet Bread co-starring Jeff Conaway, The Divorce Ceremony starring Apollonia Kotero, The Teacher's Lounge, Los Girasoles/Beneath the Sunflower co-starring Jeff Conaway, The Eleventh Station and The Land of Darkness which closed the AFI and Mexican Film Institute Festival. This is a partial list of films and I have worked with Madonna as a dancer, actor, and production crew for the music video La Isla Bonita, directed the queen of video directors, Mary Lambert.


How would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?


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I can do comedy, dramatic, musical comedy in English and Spanish. I always spend one to one time with my characters and create an extensive back life. I always ask the director, writer(s) and producers if appropriate, many questions about the character and take it from there. I am very flexible and nothing is ever set in stone. Each director has a different style and each project is also a learning experience and my main goal is always to respect and provide the best performance under the director's guidance.


Actors (and indeed actresses) who inspire you?


My inspirations are Lupe Ontiveros (RIP), Anthony Quinn (RIP), Jack Lemmon (RIP), Peter Sellers (RIP), Peter O'Toole (RIP), Bette Davis (RIP), Rita Hayworth (RIP), Pedro Armendariz (RIP), Cantinflas (RIP), and Orson Welles (RIP) and Edward James Olmos to start.


Your favourite movies?


Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, La Dolce Vida, Real Women Have Curves, Gravity, La Strada, House of Wax, La Bamba, Harold and Maude, Vertigo, Psycho, and all of Guillermo Del Toro's films.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I love all films.


Your website, Facebook, whatever else?


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Never give up in your dreams and learn from all experiences.


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you!!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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directed by
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written by
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