Latina recently got the chance to chat with Michael Peña, the Mexican actor set to star in Chavez alongside America Ferrera as wife Helen and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta. But before conquering his role as the iconic civil rights activist, Michael can be seen keeping the streets of Los Angeles civil in his latest flick End of Watch, also starring America Ferrera, Natalie Martinez and Jake Gyllenhaal. Check out what Michael had to say about working with America and why he's actually been shot at in real life!
Latina: There are so many references to Latino culture, specifically Mexican heritage in the film. Did it make you proud?
Michael Peña: I liked the fact that it feels like the Latin community was celebrated in my movie. It doesn't happen that many times; what I think really helped me out was that David Ayer is married to a Mexican woman and he has a bunch of kids just like a typical little Mexican dude (laughs). This character was written for a Latino - it almost seems like it was written for me at times.
What was it like working alongside America Ferrera?
It was pretty awesome because she was really cool and dives into her characters; then we did another movie together called Chavez. It was super easy to work with her and I'd love to do it again.
The chemistry you have with co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in this movie really brings to life the characters as more than just best friends and partners - they're like brothers. Do you have a special person like that in your life?
It would be my brother. I was lucky because we were talking about how he is with his sister and how I am with my brother; I would imitate myself a bunch, then figure out what kind of stuff would piss me off. That's kind of what I felt I was doing with Jake. We rehearsed for four months; it's the kind of movie where you just tried to do it with two weeks of rehearsal, I don't think it could have been pulled off.
What's one thing people would be surprised to find out about Jake?
It was really hard to train with the guy because that guy loves running. I think there's a shot of paparazzi running and he looks like he's in the Olympics and I look like I'm about to throw up - and this was three months after training. I just don't have it in me - I'd rather do boxing or bicycling.
There's a scene in the film where you run into a burning building twice to save kids? What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you in your life?
I remember when I was 17 and I was in the north side of Chicago and my buddy and I went to this party and we got into a fight with seven dudes. He had a can of mase and he sprayed those guys and I remember getting kicked in the face; we then ran down the steps and outside and when you're in someone's neighborhood and you're running and they don't know you, they chase after you, so they started shooting at us. So I hid in between the curb and the wheel of a car.
Whoa! So you've actually been shot at. Was it good training for the film?
Yeah, not really at all.
One of the guys you arrest in the film has a serious gun collection. What's something in your life you love to collect?
I don't know why - I have a ton of books, five full cabinets of them. So that, and just because I've been playing golf for so long, I have stored up golf clubs.
Will you be checking out End of Watch this weekend? Tell us what you think of the film in the comments!