We all know George Lopez as a comedian, but in a new indie film, River Runs Red, Lopez gets to show off some dramatic acting chops. Starring alongside Taye Diggs and John Cusack in a politically-charged thriller, Lopez plays Javier, a father dealing with the loss of a son to police violence. George sat down with us at Pure Fandom to talk about the film, which is now available on 4K, UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD.
Pure Fandom: I gotta start with a George Lopez Show question. I was a fan of the show, and it was sort of a trailblazer. The landscape of television was so different. This was before we got some more diverse castings. Do you carry some pride about that?
George Lopez: I believe that, from the time that show started, we had great writers. The initial order was four shows. And then it became a whole season after that. But with the initial four shows, I had the best writers you could find at that particular time. All showrunners. So what we tried to do was just write good stories. We weren’t necessarily writing to color. We were just writing for stories. But I don’t think anyone expected it to do as well as it has in syndication. Or that we would survive against American Idol for almost, like, the last three years it was on. So it just seems to be a show that doesn’t go away.
PF: So tell us a little bit about the movie, River Runs Red.
GL: The movie’s about the unfortunate death of an African American teenager. He’s, you know, driving a bmw, his father’s a judge, but he’s mistaken for being a gang member. And it’s an unfortunate incident that’s played out much too often in our country right now.
PF: I think people may be surprised by not just how dramatic this role is for you, but also by the action scenes. We get some George Lopez, Action Star, in this movie.
GL: Yeah, it turns into three different movies. It’s a little bit of a romance starting out, then it goes into a crime drama, and then it goes full on into a buddy dramatic film role there at the end.
PF: Right, such a great third act. And it is a very serious movie, but … come on … those fight scenes had to be pretty fun, right?
GL: No I know, I know. We were doing that one big fight scene and the [stunt] guys had all the pads and stuff. And I’m like, I don’t know man. I don’t think I want to wear a pad, you know? We did it three times. That big fight scene. And the first time I didn’t have a pad. The second time the guys thought I should wear one, but then you could see it through the shirt. So I said, “You know what man? I’m not gonna wear it.” And those stuntmen were Marvel guys.
PF: Like, Netflix Marvel fight scene guys?
GL: Yeah. You know, they were really pros. You know, somebody asked me, “Would you do dancing with the stars?” Absolutely not. But I think going over fight choreography has to be as close to dancing with a partner as you can get.
PF: I’ll bet it is. It was a great fight scene. But you had some emotional scenes, as well. One in particular comes to mind. When your character Javier is getting ready to head out on the big third act action sequence, you have a very emotional scene with your onscreen wife.
GL: Right. Yeah, they wrote that after we had already done some of the shooting. I think the distributors wanted one more scene with me in it. That actress, she was a model and actress from New York, and she was really, really great. It’s powerful because I think she knows and I know that when [Javier] leaves he might not be coming back.
PF: Did you do multiple takes?
GL: No, we didn’t really do that. I kissed her twice because, in the moment of it, it was like, one wasn’t good enough to go. Like, I know I’m not coming back, so one wasn’t good enough. And the second one I think is the one that elicits a lot of emotion, because it’s like he grabs her by the back of the head and pulls her closer because he knows that’s the last time they will see each other.
PF: Yeah, I mean, I’m not an actor, but it just feels like it would be tough to pull out that emotion multiple, multiple, multiple times.
GL: Well, you know, with independent movies, that house belongs to somebody. They were in there kitchen. You’re trying to get ready, and they were in the kitchen, you know, sitting around drinking coffee. And you’re saying to them, “Shh, I’m doing this dramatic thing like right on the other side of the door.”
PF: Oh, wow. So not much room for error, huh? But besides being emotional, it’s also a very political movie.
GL: Yeah, I think the moral of the movie is (and I believe as well) that violence is not the answer to anything. And that revenge or vengeance is not the answer either. There have been too many of these incidents in this country, and I’m not sure I know what the answer is. But I know having River Runs Red out there for people to see might open a few eyes.
PF: Yeah, I hope so. I don’t think we’re spoiling anything to say that, like, you can tell early on in this movie things do not end well for these families.
GL: Yeah, Javier is just trying to live his life away from the remembrance of his son, who he lost. And Taye Diggs holds that mirror up up to him and shows him that body cam footage [of Javier’s son being shot], which is kind of a big turn in the movie there.
PF: Yeah, I think Javier’s first scene is a guy being carried in with a gunshot wound. He can’t get away from the violence no matter how hard he tries.
GL: Yeah. He can’t get away from it. He’s kind of in this gang infested area. You know, there’s no way to tell in the film where it takes place. There’s no city. And I thought that was smart. It doesn’t have a place. You know? It can be anywhere.
PF: Yeah. I mean we’ve seen it in Los Angeles and we’ve seen it in Ferguson. It’s not big city exclusive. Violence takes place everywhere.
Speaking of current events, I noticed that you put out some things about helping the California firefighters, so I wanted to let people know where they could find avenues to help, as well.
GL: Oh yeah. I mean listen, the devastation that’s gone on the last couple of weeks here. I did a PSA with Brad Garrett about helping the California firefighters, but that was just to help them because of the work that they do all year. And then now you look at what’s gone on the last two weeks in California. I think everybody supports the firefighters, and I do especially. Anything that you can do to help them out would be appreciated.
PF: So to close out, I will be in huge trouble if I don’t pass on the message from my daughter that she loves you in Sharkboy and Lavagirl.
GL: Well, you tell your daughter that Mr Electric loves her, as well. It is funny. Robert Rodriguez said to me, “You ready for every kid in the world to know you?” And I thought, yeah. But then now … uh, every kid in the world knows me. It never ceases to amaze me that [The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl] did not do very well in the theater, but continues to a soar with all kids.
PF: Do you have any movies on the horizon?
GL: A few. I have a movie called The Tax Collector with David Ayer who wrote Training Day. I also did one called Walking with Herb, with Kathleen Quinlan and Edward James Olmos. And then I did El Chicano, the superhero, which will be out in March.
PF: Can we get you and Taye Diggs in a buddy cop movie?
GL: Yeah, we’ve got to find something else to do now.
PF: That third act really clicked. Great chemistry between you two.
GL: The greatest, the greatest … We did this long, long shot in the middle of the night. And as we go under the bridge, there’s a homeless guy pushing a shopping cart, and he looks at us filming. And as the car passes, he goes “George Lopez!” You could hear him in the tunnel. They went to yell cut and said, “Did that guy yell George Lopez?”
PF: We are all that homeless guy in the tunnel. Thanks, George!