Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub
As most of you are well aware, on April 3rd Universal is releasing “Fast & Furious”. While it’s the fourth movie in the series, it’s the first time all the actors from the original film have reunited for a sequel at the same time. That’s why the tagline on the poster says “New Model, Original Parts”. Anyway, while they were filming the movie last year, Universal was kind enough to invite a few people to the set and I was one of them.
While on the set, I managed to interview Paul Walker, Director Justin Lin, and Car Coordinator Dennis McCarthy. I also wrote an article about what we saw and did while on the set and posted about 30 new images from the movie.
But let’s get back to the interview with Laz Alonso.
In the movie, Laz plays the leader of a cartel that Vin and Paul have to infiltrate. While Universal has asked us not to reveal too much about the plot, since Laz reveals the info during our interview…I think I’m safe writing that.
But no matter who the villain is and what the story is about, you don’t go to see a “Fast and the Furious” movie for the story…you go to see tons of cool cars doing crazy shit that you wish you could do in real life. And based on what we saw while on set and talking to everyone involved, I’m pretty confident they’re staying pretty close to the “Fast & Furious” formula.
Anyway, posted below is the full interview with Laz. As usual, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here.
Question: Why did you keep screwing up your lines?
Laz Alonso: Hey man, you get in front of Vin Diesel and we’ll see how straight you come out with your lines.
We couldn’t hear it anyway.
Laz Alonso: You know, it’s a very tough scene, what we’re doing tonight because this is really, during the entire film, Vin’s character, Dom, is playing a character in order to infiltrate our cartel. Jon Ortiz and I kind of lead this cartel.
You’re the muscle?
Laz Alonso: No doubt. And Jon and I are playing characters to Vin and everybody else that’s a part of it, not to disclose who we really are. We’re pretending that we’re just workers just like them. We just happen to know the boss. So we’re all kind of playing this cat and mouse game and this is where the truth comes to light. Everybody kind of sheds their mask and shows who they really are. So right now, we’re trying to find the different colors and trying to find the best way to do it so that it’s as real and as confrontational as possible because this leads to our fight, our final battle, when Vin and I face off and fight to the end.
You have a fight scene with Vin?
Laz Alonso: Well, yeah, we go all the way, man. You know, this is… Well, I take away the most important person left in Dom’s life, and because of that, he’s pretty much dedicated his whole mission to finding out who the hell this person is. And five minutes before we confront each other, he finds out that I am actually the guy responsible for killing Letty. So that becomes now, the objective of the scene is for him to almost get me to admit what I’ve done.
Was the problem trying to find the right dialogue?
Laz Alonso: There wasn’t really a problem.
Just the right tone?
Laz Alonso: Yeah, the funnest thing I’ve had in working with Vin is that he’s a man’s man. Coming from the streets and having worked in New York City nightclubs where he’s had to face off with people on a day to day basis, you know when a face off is real and when a face off is artificial. How many times do we see it in a film where something just feels contrived and you expected that to happen. He’s very meticulous when it comes to finding those real moments and we’re just working together as a team to make that moment as real as possible so there’s a lot of trial and error. We’re just playing with it and coming up with different ideas and different approaches to getting it to be perfect.
How are you distinguishing your character from the default thug?
Laz Alonso: Be sincere. You know, I think a lot of times what happens when we as actors know we’re playing a bad guy is we get into bad guy mode. You know what, man? In real life, bad people do good things too and good people do bad things. So you don’t necessarily have to be the stereotypical bad guy to still do bad things. When you really are someone who believes in what you’re doing, the whole “bad” goes away because you don’t see it as bad. You’re just seeing it as this is what I do. I do A, B and C, period. There’s nothing bad or good about it. It’s just what I do. If you go to McDonald’s – -
It’s a different perspective.
Laz Alonso: It’s a completely different perspective. You change your paradigm and in your own way you justify it and you make it okay. So what I have found to be a fun part about playing this character is that I’m playing him bad. I’m playing him sincere. You know, this scene that we’re shooting tonight is actually the first time, like I said, that I shed my mask and I admit, okay, I am who you think I am or who you’re suspecting I am but prior to that, I’m trying to befriend him. I’m being cool with him. I’m being nice, I’m being personable.
How do you like the look with the Mohawk and what was it like when you first shaved your head that way?
Laz Alonso: You know what, man? It was crazy because we played around with different Mohawks too. We started off with the faux hawk and that thing was too stylish, man. It’s too Hollywood. Hollywood teetering on West Hollywood so we were like nah, man, that ain’t gonna look like I can take on Vin Diesel. You know, so we just said F-it, man. We’re just going to go Chuck Rydell with it and just went the UFC route and I was at, the day that I just said let’s take it all off the sides, I go to a party down in Orange County with some friends of mine and the whole night, all these people are coming up to me and taking pictures with me and asking me to come over here and come over there to take pictures, I’m like wow. They recognize me? Okay, I’ll take it. I come to find out the whole time they’re thinking I’m some UFC guy. So it worked, it worked. But the hair’s gotten, I think the hair just kind of jars people. It just changes things a little bit.
Does it help put you into character?
Laz Alonso: It does. It does. Like I said, I didn’t want it to be the kind of Mohawk that was manicured. You know, and it just feels like it’s the kind of thing where I probably get up in the morning with my razor and just go over it, just keep it low myself. There’s just something like carefree about it that helps me just be completely different. And, you know, I give a lotta credit to the makeup department too because we’ve done a lot more than just the Mohawk. I mean, they’ve darkened up my eyes so that on camera it just looks sunken in, like I need some serious amounts of sleep. That just, you really respect the other elements of this business that help you sell what your objectives are. I’m not doing it alone. I got the help of some really talented people. Jerry’s one of the best in the business, along with these scars and he accentuated a few of my own natural scars that I earned throughout life. It helps just kind of give you a sense that this guy’s been in some shit. Even with my workout routine, I didn’t go with the conventional just weight train workout. I went with a real prison style jailhouse workout, a lot of calisthenics, a lot of chin ups and pull ups. So my goal was to beat the number of pull ups Will Smith did in I Am Legend, even in the gym. All due respect to Will, but I beat him.
Laz Alonso: He did 15 in a row and I did 17 in a row, behind the back as wide as you can go. But if you notice, a lot of these prison guys, they have these real V-type upper bodies, wide shoulders and no legs. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to somebody who notices those type of details or maybe even done time to look at my physique and say, “Okay, he was probably locked up.” Just because they don’t have access to the same type of equipment that somebody who has leg presses and all the fancy stuff, Hammer Strength has when you can go to 24 Hour Fitness or something.
You might be inventing a new workout regime.
Laz Alonso: The prison? Prison workout? I need to do something with that, put out a DVD series, be the next Billy Blanks.
What do the tattoos mean?
Laz Alonso: Oh yeah, well Justin had some really cool ideas when he thought of who Phoenix really is. He based a lot of Phoenix‘s intellectual kind of interpretations on life, from Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson isn’t somebody who was Harvard educated, but if you look at some of his tattoos, they’re politically motivated. He’s got Mao [Tse Tung], Chinese political figure, communist. So he wanted the tattoos to somewhat implicate that while my character might not be a Harvard educated dude, he’s done his own personal self-taught education. I’ve been reading this book that really helped me get into this character called The 48 Laws of Power. It’s a serious, serious, seriously, deathly strategic book on controlling people in situations. And I’ve tried to subtly implement those in some of the decisions that the character makes. If I were to apply one of the rules from the 48 Laws of Power to tonight’s scene, it would be find a hole in your enemy’s armor and when you find that hole, attack that hole and exploit it until you destroy your enemy. The hole in Dom’s armor tonight is that out of all these other scenes that we’ve done leading up to this, I have tried to find what his angle is, what his weakness is and he’s never shown me his card. Tonight he showed me his card that his weakness is Letty. So I’m like ah, I got you. Now, I break one of the laws in that book which one of the laws in The 48 Laws of Power – I got these things memorized, man. A lot of the things the character does are from that book. One of the laws is never go to your enemy. Draw your enemy to you. So that’s what Vin and I are fighting with is he has to provoke me enough to draw me to him and that’s a chief law that I have to throw out the window because something has to pull me to him.
What’s going on when you yell at your crew in the beginning?
Laz Alonso: The way that they park their cars is completely different than the umpteen times that we’ve done this drill before. The cars have to be parked to the right. Everybody has to bring the cases to the left. I shoot everybody in a row and we bury the bodies. There’s a pattern that things are done. I tuck my pants in my boots because I feel like my character coming from overseas had to do military time.
We get this history of your character?
Laz Alonso: You don’t, it’s just what I built in it. It’s just little subtleties that I threw in there.
But lining the guys up.
Laz Alonso: Right, you will see this in a previous scene. You will see it in a previous scene where the cars are lined a certain way and they’re brought a certain way and then I take them out a certain way.
Who do you pull the gun on?
Laz Alonso: Initially, in this scene? It’s one of the drivers. Really, it’s based on whoever speaks first goes first. That’s all it is. He speaks first and when he’s about to go, now Dom speaks.
I thought maybe he knew you.
Laz Alonso: No, it’s always you want to take the loud one out first. Everybody else is in shock and then boom, boom, boom, they go.
How was your experience on Avatar?
Laz Alonso: Oh man, it was amazing to work with Jim. He’s one of those guys that knows every single job better than the person that does it, so you have to bring your A game whenever you set foot on his set. It’s a great feeling because he challenges you to be better. And for me, it was really cool to work with somebody who I felt like at any point in time could jump in with us and do anything that he’s asking us to do which he showed us many times he would do, he’s willing to do. And it’s just a really testosterone driven set. I like that environment a lot.
Were you able to bring this level of preparation and backstory to that?
Laz Alonso: Yeah, you know, one thing he does do is he likes you to be entrepreneurial and he supports that. Granted, in the project that we did together, he created this world. He created every single plant, every single rock, every single granule of sand. I’ve witnessed people bring him samples of stuff and he’ll sit there and say why this works and why this doesn’t work because the molecular structure of the air wouldn’t create this color. He knows it that well. And that showed me how much more I can prepare for characters, how much more backstory I can create. It’s just like going from the amateurs to the pros, like that.
What’s the last year been like, getting a call from Cameron, Fast and Furious and Spike Lee?
Laz Alonso: No doubt, no doubt. The Spike Lee movie also was an incredible experience, more importantly because that was a historically relevant movie. You know, World War II, the Buffalo Soldiers and my character was based on a real living person, veteran of World War II who died before this movie could be made, Florentino Lopez, but it was a huge amount of responsibility. To answer your question, man, I really am afraid to think about that because it’s surreal. And I don’t want to stop and – – you know, it’s like one of those things where if you stop and think, you might get nervous and screw up. So I really feel blessed. I feel very lucky because in this business, there’s an element of luck that you can’t not acknowledge, but I just want to keep my nose down to the grindstone and keep pushing and to keep working and providing the best stuff that I got in me. I want to just get it all out.
What do you enjoy doing in your off time?
Laz Alonso: I like speed, so I like taking the jet skis out and hitting the water, or hitting the lake. In the winter, unfortunately, I used to ski a lot but I haven’t been able to ski in the past few years because thank God I’ve been working so that’s a good reason not to.
Did you get to drive any of the cars?
Laz Alonso: Yeah, I have a ’72 Ford Gran Torino GT that I get to drive in this movie and when we get down to Mexico, Justin promised us he’d let us open ‘em up. So I’m looking forward to that, but other than that, I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie. I box. I practice martial arts, Muay Thai. I love playing paintball. I do a lot of paintball. One of my buddies has a big 66 acre ranch that we go and we just get all cami’d up. Jarhead got me hooked on shooting people, but just paintballs. I only use paintballs, not the real thing.