With his dark hair and brows and piercing green eyes, actor Manny Perez (Bella, El Cantante) is the perfect guy to play the intense, tortured title character in La Soga, open in limited theaters across the U.S. Luisito, a.k.a. La Soga, is a sensitive-soul-turned-government-assassin seeking revenge for his father’s death at the hands of drug dealers. Set in the Dominican Republic and New York, it’s action-packed and insightful, touching on themes of corruption and the redemptive power of love. It’s also Perez’s brainchild (he wrote the script), and when we caught up with him at his New York premiere, he told us about the movie’s painful, rewarding birth and about the unique challenges of filming in his native land.
You started writing this movie 10 years ago and have seen it through the entire process. How do you feel?
I’m overwhelmed. I really think that God has helped me out here. It’s been a 10-year process and finally coming out is a big accomplishment in my life.
What does it mean to you to be able to tell this story of corruption and redemption?
Let me put it to you this way: in 1979, I left my country. I was 11 years old. My hometown, Baitoa, had water and electricity that it got twice a week only. I go back now and we still only get water twice a week. Where’s the justice? So that’s my point is that we have to change the way we run the country. This film hopefully will make people say: Hey, let me change my ways so I can change the country.
Your character is a pretty hard case but he’s got a soft center, ultimately. He’s pretty complex.
My character is the type of guy that you hate at the beginning, but you love him in the end. He really redeems himself with what he does. I feel in life, we redeem ourselves a lot. Now, I’m not a killer like he is, but at the end of the day, I understand why he does what he does.
What is your writing process?
I lock myself in my apartment and just start writing. Feelings start happening. I start laughing, I start crying and I just let that roll. Then I go back and I edit. Then I finally work on it again. This one took 10 years because I wanted to be true to my country. Corruption can change. I would be like, now I have to make my character a General instead of a cop, because all these generals became millionaires because of narco-trafficking. I tried to make it true to what was happening.
What was the craziest thing that happened filming in the DR?
Oh, there were crazy things happening all the time, but we managed to do it. The crew was a low-budget crew, so everybody was eating yuca con queso, todos los dias. I thought that was a challenge, because I thought, man, we’re eating yucca con queso again! But we couldn’t afford anything else.