Interview with Stronger cast member Carlos Sanz

Courtesy: Aaron Marion PR
Courtesy: Aaron Marion PR /
Courtesy: Aaron Marion PR
Courtesy: Aaron Marion PR /

Carlos Sanz talks with Hidden Remote about his new role as Carlos Arredondo in the movie Stronger.

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Carlos Sanz was born in Chicago and has two siblings. One you may recognize as Horatio Sanz from Saturday Night Live, Carlos has been in several different forms of the acting profession. Some of these include theater, daytime television, movies, and on several different TV series. As well as hit movies such as Crank (Carlito). And now, you can catch him in the film Stronger  as Carlos Arredondo, a character who could be considered the most important in delivering the film’s message.

Hidden Remote spoke recently with Sanz about his role in the film, how he and fellow actor Jake Gyllenhaal decided to get together to make the magic happen. We also touch on his hobbies and how Hispanics are treated in the film industry.

Hidden Remote: When did you first discover acting?

Carlos Sanz: My father was an actor, but before I was born, he was a stage actor in Venezuela. And I remember as a little boy finding some stage drills with my dad in these classical plays and he’s dressed in a toga and he would have his bio and his big picture of my dad and I have him for the third grade and deciding to do a play I think it was the Snow White, which is the one where the girl is asleep and the kid had a princess to kiss to wake her up?

Hidden Remote: Yes, yes, yes exactly (oops, it’s actually Cinderella).

Sanz: Ok. So, it was Snow White and I think it was the third grade. And the only reason I got the part was because I was the only kid who would kiss the girl. I only did it just because I thought it was something that my dad liked. But that was the initial discussion into the whole thing.

But the real way it happened was that, in my last semester of my junior year in college, I don’t know if you know this, but I have a degree in math and I had a minor in philosophy. The first semester of my senior year I wasn’t going into overload, so I took three math classes and I needed an extra class to fill up my schedule.

And I worked it out. I only had to go to school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and I saw I looked through the entire course book and I had 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. slot and I saw this thing called Fundamentals of acting. I said, “Well, this can’t be hard.” I took the class to fill out my schedule and the professor was supposed to teach it got sick, and this guy from Chicago who runs a theater in Chicago ended up taking over at the end of the class.

He asked me what grade I thought I deserved and I saw what everybody else did, and I said, “Well, an A.” And as I was leaving he said you know I think you should pursue this and when I graduated I had some job offers and I started going back to graduate school and then I got a call from professional theater in Chicago called Victor Gardens and I got the job. It was a union gig. Some agents came to see it and that’s what I’ve been doing since I got out of college.

Hidden Remote: It was like meant for you and you sort of divvied off a little bit with the math and psychology or was it was philosophy?

Sanz: Philosophy. You’re right I mean I think I think you’re right. My father my my my father passed away recently and he was he was he was an artist at heart. And I think my brother Horatio, Horatio Sanz, he was on Saturday Night Live.

Hidden Remote: I do know of him.

Sanz: I think my family always had a kind of a very artistic bent and if it wasn’t music or painting or classical art or something and I think that’s one when I all of a sudden wasn’t going to go into some kind of more conventional profession and I was like I’m going to be an actor. I think they got it. My parents got it. My dad got it. My mom was cool with it. And then when my brother did it. They were like ya, its cool, as long as you understand that the artistic world is and the demands and the frustrations and they were very supportive and I think that’s just because my father my father stop acting when he had a family and I think it was important to him.

Courtesy: Aaron Marion PR
Courtesy: Aaron Marion PR /

Hidden Remote: Now what was the audition process like for you for this role?

Sanz: It’s interesting because I just got this whole scene for the audition and it was so intense for me to read it. I couldn’t get through it. I kept reading this thing and I would be halfway through it and I would just have to stop it and I was just like. my god, this poor guy.

And so eventually (giggles) after five or six attempts I finally got through the thing and I started to work on it. And when I went to audition I felt like I had a really good understanding of this material that John Pollono just resonated with me so much that I felt really comfortable with it in a way at least of understanding.

I didn’t do a lot of research on Carlos Arredondo that other than to watch a few interviews with him, post-bombing. It was mostly just to sort of understand his demeanor and maybe get his accent a little bit. So, when I went to the audition, my number one goal was not to break down. It was just such an emotional thing for me and I kept thinking about this.

What It must be like to lose something, it was just like don’t, don’t break down. And I remember when I got to the audition I just sort of put my head down and I was like OK I get it. And I didn’t break down. Then I looked up and everyone in the room was crying.

Hidden Remote: When you when you looked up and you saw them that they were emotional. Did you feel like you nailed it? (Sarcastically) Did you feel like OK if I don’t get this role then you know something in the weird stars didn’t add up or something like that? (Carlos laughs)

Sanz: Listen for an actor that happens a lot. You go away and you just feel like listen this is the most extraordinary performance ever given. And if I don’t get this job there’s something wrong with you.

So you learn not to rely on those kinds of feelings because you never know exactly what it is that they’re looking for. I mean, it can be an extraordinary performance, but if the director feels that it doesn’t really gel with his overall concept of the film or maybe it doesn’t work with the people that you’re working against you can’t you can’t rely on those kinds of feelings. But I felt like I did what I wanted to do. I felt like I got to that place where I wanted to be with this guy. And I thought well if you want a kind of a performance that is honest and truthful and it’s about really being in that state. then I was their guy.

Hidden Remote: Val Kilmer when he played Jim Morrison of The Doors, felt that he was not Val Kilmer, he was Jim Morrison. Did you feel that that kind of bond with Arredondo?

Sanz: Well for me I feel like… I trained as a method actor and so for me when I’m experienced from emotion it’s it’s really me experiencing that emotion. I mean even if it’s something that is foreign to me at that moment I’m genuinely feeling it and I feel like I feel like the characters that I play are me but a different part of me, a me that would exist if these things had happened to me. And so when you see me in a scene and I’m angry and volatile how about to kill someone I’m really experiencing those things. For example in Stronger, when you see that pain in this person. That’s a real I’m I’m I’m actually viscerally experiencing that kind of thing. I didn’t feel like I was Carlos Arredondo but I was Carlos, having lived the life the car was in the script. If that makes sense.

Hidden Remote: Yes. 

Sanz: So that’s the kind of experience that I’m having while Im in that moment. You know fortunately with respect to Stronger is that Jake Gyllenhaal is that kind of an actor also and he’s like I mean when you watch that movie, he is in every single moment in that film. So when we were doing our thing he’s there he’s in it. You look into that man’s eyes and you look you-you see the world that he’s in the world that he’s created in the world that he’s living in. it helps you to sort of navigate your own thing. So, it was a pretty extraordinary situation.

Courtesy: Carlos Sanz Instagram @mrcharlieV
Courtesy: Carlos Sanz Instagram @mrcharlieV /

Hidden Remote: How is Hollywood progressing for Hispanic actors? Are you seeing the same stereotypical roles such as the janitor, prisoner, gang member or are the roles getting more well-rounded?

Sanz: Well I think over the years I’ve noticed that the roles are better. There is a real effort to try to realistically mirror what’s happening in our society. There’s more lawyers and more doctors and those kinds of roles. But I will say I still feel like it’s not enough that there aren’t enough roles.

It’s not enough just to say OK I need college educated forty-five year old dude who works on Wall Street and it doesn’t matter what it is it’s immediately assumed that that’s not the character of a minority character or a character of some foreign descent. I mean I think part of that is that there aren’t enough writers and enough directors of mixed or different ethnic backgrounds.

I was talking to someone the other day I think I’ve done some five dozen guest stars on television projects and I think I’ve worked with two Latino directors three women and one black guy and I won’t even call them African-American because he was English of African descent. So, I think people genuinely are moving forward and make or making a conscious decision to be more inclusive.

But there’s a long road to go and the truth is that it isn’t reflective of a society in the United States. I mean I don’t know what the last census is but I would imagine that, and I believe I’m close, but I think Latinos are nearing 30 percent of the population and it’s clearly not reflected in the media.

But it’s getting better and I think we’re all doing our part to make it better. I just remember early on in my career refusing to do certain roles because I just felt that I didn’t want to be part of a negative social impact.

I didn’t want to look back at some point and go and I did that and it just really didn’t help people. And so I’ve always kind of had that bent. And I think I think now I’m pretty comfortable with the kind of stuff that I see. Occasionally I’ll read something and I’ll be like this is just absurd. and I’ll make it I’ll make sure that the people who are who are trying to put this thing together at least look at it and go maybe we need to re-examine this a little bit.

Hidden Remote: I think that’s an inspiration to other Hispanic actors by saying: “Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t do something just because it’s there for you, do something because it’s right.”

Sanz: Absolutely, that’s absolutely correct. I’ve always felt that what I do is kind of like painters. I always think about what they do and how they do it and what it means to them. And that kind of expression. And I think you have to be. You have to be true to yourself and you have to always have to always think long term because what you say and what you do matters. It really does. And even if it influences one person or two people. But it matters because it has that butterfly effect.

It wasn’t till later when I moved to New York, and I was a little older, and the work was a little more substantial and more interesting. And it wasn’t gang bangers and all that stuff that those decisions became a little a little easier to make and it was it was easier to go, ya. this is the kind of thing that I feel good about. I think you’re right. I think it’s important. You have to make those choices.

Hidden Remote: Now you’ve been asked this a lot, but you and Jake (Gyllenhaal) didn’t meet purposefully prior to the taping. I was wondering how that worked for you. What were the advantages and disadvantages of having that situation take place?

Sanz: Well David Gordon Green the director, my first day I got to actually we did that scene with Miranda Richardson outside the hospital. Jake was laying in the hospital bed, and there was some dialogue that I think really wasn’t put into the movie.

David Gordon Green came up to me and said Listen Jake wants to say hi, but he wants you to know that he doesn’t really want to interact until you do that scene, because it will parallel the actual storyline. Honestly, I kind of liked it. It didn’t bother me at all. Like I said I’m a method actor myself. I respect everybody’s process whatever you need to do to get to where you need to be. I’m okay with.

I’ve worked with actors who are just super chummy and constantly talking at you and that’s okay too. What it did do which was really interesting and it didn’t dawn on me immediately. But when we first got into that scene was it gave it a kind of an organic quality an energy that was extra genuine.

It was really quite an extraordinary thing. I remember it was really early in Boston outside the bar and they got the police and the extras and the moving traffic around and all that stuff. And I’m waiting outside to go into this bar and do the scene and David comes up to me and says, “how do you feel about shooting this fu*king thing.” I’m like “yeah let’s do it.”

No rehearsal nothing. I didn’t even know where he was sitting in the bar. I was just trying to get into my thing. So, I walk into the bar and I take my hat off and I look for him and I see. This kind of thing hit me in the chest like oh sh*t there’s this guy who was pulled up and I walked up to him. And when I shake his hand that’s the first time that Jake and Carlos Sanz connect. But it’s also the first time that Carlos (Arredondo) and Jeff (Bauman) connect. It was kind of extraordinary sort of blurring of reality in the world that they created. It was quite an extraordinary thing to be a part of.

Courtesy: Charlie Sanz Instagram @mrcharliev
Courtesy: Charlie Sanz Instagram @mrcharliev /

Hidden Remote: What inspiration do you draw from the film or in other words what does the word stronger mean to you?

Sanz: Well I have two answer’s for that. The first one is that when I saw the film for the first time in Toronto at the premiere I was so moved by the extraordinary ability for human beings to supersede horrible things that happen to them.

We have this enormous ability to care and to love and to move forward. And I’ll be real frank with you when I saw that movie and we got to the scene that I was expecting. I didn’t even think that it was about doing it about me it was just I was so into the movie. And by the time I think the movie was over, I think what happens is that you go on this journey and you leave a better person and I think it’s such a hopeful movie that it encourages you to be that kind of person to be a more giving person to be a stronger person.

I guess the second part which is really my own personal thing really was not I think an intention of the film or even ever even discussed between anyone on the film and me, not David or John or anyone. Given the way that things are in this country right now. For me, it was important to play an immigrant not only from Hispanic immigrants but a guy who’s a hero who lives and breathes for this country. Whose son died for this country. I think it’s important for people to see that. People forget where they come from who forget their grandfathers or great-grandfathers came over on boats.

I feel like it’s important for them. Even if it’s not a conscious decision but when you see that kind of person, you see that his loves and his pains and his respect for this nation as good as yours. As powerful as yours. it’s important for me that was a supremely important thing to convey and I’m glad that it’s that some people are seeing it that way and it makes me proud to be a part of the project. The film demonstrates the power and beauty of the human spirit. How much we can overcome and accomplish with love and kindness. I think that when you leave the theater after seeing Stronger you leave a little better person than when you went in.

Hidden Remote: Where can we find you on social media?

Sanz: Twitter @MrCharlieV and Instagram @MrCharlieV

Hidden Remote: In the spirit of James Lipton, I have a few closing questions. If you could pick any role to play in any movie what would it be?

Sanz: Ha. My initial thought would be a spy in the James Bond mold, I really dig those movies.

But it was mentioned to me would I consider playing Carlos Arredondo (the character in Stronger) in a movie about him? I’ve learned to appreciate what that man did and what he does, that it would be an extraordinary honor to play him again.

Hidden Remote: What was the biggest prank on set that you were a part of?

Sanz: Not sure I’ve ever been in on a big prank but I will tell you that I once worked with Chuck Norris (whose real name is Carlos by the way) in the middle of nowhere Texas, he fought my double, I fought his, later as we watched as our doubles fight each other, he turned to me and said you’re pretty good, I said “you’re not so bad either”, then he jumped up, got on a helicopter and took off.

Hidden Remote: You need to get pumped up for an audition, what song do you listen to and why?

Sanz: Up: Eminem “Lose yourself” it’s surprisingly too close what it’s like when you gotta deliver a performance. Down: Joey by Concrete Blonde, you can’t take care of everyone in your life. General Chill: any Led Zeppelin or Sinatra. Masters to emulate.

Stronger is playing in select theaters.