Oscar-Nominated thespian ANDY GARCIA has taken a different turn from his usually intense movie roles. The Havana-native and Toluca Lake resident has done a mixture of television work through the years appearing on both dramatic episodics like Hill Street Blues and Murder She Wrote, and comedies such as Will & Grace, Frasier and The George Lopez Show, but in film, he tends to stay on the darker side. He has gripped our attention playing powerful characters in the features Internal Affairs (with Richard Gere), When a Man Loves a Woman (with Meg Ryan), Black Rain (with Michael Douglas), The Godfather Part III, list goes on and on. For his latest theatrical release Garcia decided on the comedy At Middleton, which opens Jan. 31. Part romance, part college life parody he plays “George,” a stick-in-the-mud dad dropping his kid off at college to Vera Farmiga’s disillusioned “Edith” who drops her kid off at college … the two parents meet and the story begins.
Garcia was born in Cuba and came to Florida as a child. After discovering that acting was his calling, not sports like he had originally planned (he was a basketball player in high school), he later attended Florida International University in Miami, and performed in plays. Shortly thereafter he spoke with his only friend living in L.A. at that time (he starred in Scarface! ~ see below) and made the ambitious move to Hollywood. Garcia was kind enough to take some time out of his extremely busy schedule to sit down with The Tolucan Times to discuss why he chose to star in At Middleton and much more!
What made you come out to Hollywood from Miami vs. New York or Chicago for acting?
I wanted to make films and it seemed like films at that time were really being made more here. I had one friend here; I knew nobody in New York. My friend was doing very well, he had just moved here – his name is Steven Bauer. He had gotten under contract with Columbia Pictures so I jumped on a plane and got out here and I didn’t work for seven years….
You started here in improvisational theater, mainly The Comedy Store … Do you still use any of that training?
Absolutely! Not only in comedy; I use it everywhere! Training as an improvisational actor is essential; I do it all the time. I’ve been improvising for the past 33 years! I’m improvising right now! (Laughs)
At Middleton is a lighter movie than we are used to seeing you in. Why this choice?
The material: I was presented the script and became enamored with it. It was beautifully constructed and had a great tone to it. I saw the movie in my head, I love the character, it came to life to me and I really was endeared to Adam [Rodgers] and Glenn [German] as writers/filmmakers driving the passion for this story. I have a soft spot in my heart for people trying to get a movie made with passion, but it was really the quality of the material that got me involved and I knew it would attract a great actress….
That brings me to your leading lady Vera Farmiga….
She is probably one of the greatest actresses of her generation, let’s just start there. We were blessed to have her; she was always at the top of our list. If it were reversed and Vera was attached first and I got the script and asked, “Well, who’s playing Edith?” and they told me Vera, I would say, “I’m in!” It was reciprocal; we wanted to work together and this happened to be the spot. She is incredible. This is a movie where it’s an artistic endeavor; we wanted to play these parts and have this creative experience with each other.
My favorite quote in the movie is when you’re asked about what happened to the last 16 years and your character “George” responds with, “Sleepovers, soccer games and slamming doors.” Did that remind you of real life?
Yeah! Not so much the soccer games, but rehearsals and … slamming doors! (Smiles) [My children] always had ballet, theatre or play rehearsals. When you are reminiscing it all gets narrowed down to that: You dedicated your whole life and this is what you got – memories of this, this and this!
You have worn many hats working on some of your films including writing, directing along with starring in a picture, for instance 2005’s The Lost City (co-starring Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray). Is that harder for you or easier?
Wearing many hats is just different; if you take on the responsibility to tell the story as the director then your hours are much longer, the movie [shoot]is over and you’re still with it for six months; you have to put it together and bring it to the finish line. But it is very invigorating because you’re telling the story that you want to tell so it’s extremely rewarding. The adrenaline flow is so intense when you’re working on a film, especially if you’re directing and acting because you are responsible for guiding this amoeba. You have to be a leader and stay on schedule, especially on an independent movie!
Winning ALMA’s Anthony Quinn Award for Achievement in Motion Pictures in 2006 has special meaning to you.
It was a great honor and a privilege. He was a great role model for all actors. The passion in which he approaches his work was very evident in all his characters. I had the great fortune of actually meeting Anthony before he passed away and when someone whom you’ve looked up to and admired your whole life talks to you, has even been paying attention to your work, gives you support and encouragement … That personal reaction from him was very profound.
Your buddy and fellow actor Joe Mantegna loves doing “Fat Tony” on The Simpsons! What made you take a role on that show?
They called and said they have this idea for a character that they were writing in the show. They told me he was a publisher, but they want to kind of loosely base it on my persona in Ocean’s Eleven; that kind of guy. So I said, “Okay”! It’s a great show!
And the beloved Dora the Explorer!
They asked me to play Don Quixote – well, how could you turn that down!
Which genre do you prefer working in: television or film?
Film, but I think television has changed a lot; there is material being explored on television that is not being explored in the studio system. It is being explored in the independent cinema, but there is [really good]subject matter in television now and the quality of writing in television has really been extremely elevated; the walls have been broken down in many instances.
What do you want your legacy to be? My legacy lies in how my children feel about me….