Traffic. American Gangster. Che. Mambo Kings. Yul Vazquez has appeared in a ton of iconic, award-winning films, but this summer, he goes for strictly popcorn fare, playing an epic bad guy in The A-Team. We caught up to the Cuban-born, Miami-raised actor and got him to open up about his own “dark side.”
Tell us about your character, General Tuco, in The A-Team.
He’s this really crazy Mexican general and the catalyst for putting the A-Team back together. He kidnaps some people and opens up a can of whip ass. I had a blast playing him.
On the other side of the acting spectrum, you are co-director for the acclaimed LAByrinth Theater in New York. How long have you been taking the stage?
I acted when I was a real little kid. My mother was an actress in a Miami theater company comprised of actors from Cuba like her and I was the default kid. I was f------ terrified. I was a late bloomer. I was a kinda shy little kid, definitely a child of the dark side. I wanted to play guitar and be in a rock band.
In fact, you’ve said that you never meant to be an actor and in fact, you were previously in a successful band, Diving For Pearls. Why the switch?
We came to New York and got signed by Epic Records, but I’d always been a fan of films. When the lead singer’s girlfriend suggested I talk to her boss, who was an agent, because Oliver Stone was casting real musicians for The Doors. I started taking acting classes and started auditioning and got my first job 6 months later.
That was The Mambo Kings. Pretty good start!
I never imagined it would be that way. The universe will put signposts in your life. You can either ignore them or embrace them. You can choose and wish for all the things you want, but the things that are coming to you, you will never be able to hide from and the things that you want so bad that are not supposed to be for you for whatever reason, they’ll never come to you. But the universe is never going to hurt you. It’s going to conspire to help you. There are no accidents.
Are you satisfied with your career? You’ve worked with top filmmakers but are still not quite a household name.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest filmmakers in the business, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg. If I die tomorrow, I’ve done the two hardest things anybody can do in this life with the least amount of security—music and acting—and I’ve had success in both. I can’t really complain. I try not to live my life that way.
Is there a principle that you live by?
The one thing that I try to achieve every day in my life is to go to bed knowing that I haven’t intentionally f----- anybody over. Actions are louder than words.