This week, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Season One came out on DVD and Blu-ray. If you had not caught up on the El Rey original series, now is your chance. The series expands upon the movie, adding in subplots like Seth Gecko (DJ Cotrona)’s visit to Big Kahuna Burger, and different outcomes for characters like Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez). From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will be back for a second season on El Rey.
We met up with Wilmer Valderrama at the El Rey Network’s cocktail party for the Television Critics Association. He plays Carlos, the Gecko brothers’ boss. It was the role played by Cheech Marin in the movie, but is quite different on the show. Early on we learn that Carlos is a vampire, and he has a relationship with Santanico. Check out Valderrama’s thoughts on the first season and beyond, now that it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Nuke the Fridge: Carlos is quite different on the show than in the movie where he just comes in at the end. How much of a role did you have in creating the Carlos we see on From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series?
Wilmer Valderrama: Humbly so, when I took the character, it really wasn’t on the page in the first episode. So it was more of a leap of faith that we were going to create it as we go. I was very blessed that the character evolved as we performed. I kind of took shape in the first two or three episodes and eventually we understood what his purpose was really going to be and the type of presence he was going to have when he had a part in the story. That all happened almost serendipitously, accidentally. We figured it out as we went and then eventually the character had a certain type of influence that I was so honored and blessed to take on this responsibility.
Nuke: You at least knew he was a vampire in the pilot, right?
Wilmer Valderrama: It’s funny because we don’t use the term vampire, because we’re snakes. We’re only bloodthirsty because of our mythology of the Mayan and Aztec, the Mesoamerican stuff which is bloodthirsty gods and all that. But it’s a very different type of vampire that we created, and we’re mostly snakes. We embody snakes, you know. So with the first assassination on the show, I think it’s episode two, I was petrified to figure out, first of all, I’ve seen all the different vampires on all the different shows and movies. I want to create my own way of assassinating somebody. Somehow, take two, I looked over and saw Robert [Rodriguez] at the monitor saying, “Hey, this might look stupid or it might not. It might be cool, who knows?” Then I did the snake thing, the illusion that the snake was gearing up for an attack. When I did it, the moment they said cut, I looked over to see if Robert liked it and he had no facial expression. I was, like, flipping out. I was like oh, that was stupid, really dumb. He comes over and goes, “Hey, that was pretty cool, that thing you do with your head. Let’s do it one more time.” I was like oh my God, I started sweating, he’s awesome. It was very serendipitous how it all happened and I was very blessed that the writers trusted me with a lot of what this character can be. We figured it out in performances really.
Nuke: Since Cheech Marin played three of the characters in the movie, was there ever talk of having you play multiple roles?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yeah, we talked about him being a shapeshifter. I think one of the reasons Cheech Marin in the first movie somehow played those different characters is because he was a shapeshifter. We utilize the shapeshifter element to tell a more strategic story than in the movie, which was the experience of the Gecko brothers. For me, it was more of a tactical move in the series to be a shapeshifter. To be honest, as this evolved and the season took course, the exciting part about the character was that he was hiding something. He discovered Santanico. He was the one who was working to free her. That was a responsibility that was just awesome to take on.
Nuke: So is Carlos Santanico’s boss, or is she really in charge?
Nuke: I thought by episode six or seven it became unclear who was in charge.
Wilmer Valderrama: By that point, you understood there was a difference of opinions and that some people had a perception that the journey of 500 years to get to where we are now was perhaps misunderstood. She had a different definition what this was all about and I had a different definition of what this was all about. Eventually, in episode nine, you understood immediately that we were not on the same page after all. There was a type of betrayal that happened that made it really feel that not only are we not on the same page, but we are after different things.
Nuke: Is season two going to be really uncharted territory?
Wilmer Valderrama: Oh yeah, we went beyond the movie in season one. So we were very blessed to be able to at least put our foot into that, but this next season I have great meetings with Carlos Coto and the writing staff. Let me put it like this: We worked really hard on developing these characters for the first 10 episodes, just to really get to where we are now. Starting season two, we have the subtext, we’re going to have the story, we’re going to have the adventure and we’re going to have some interesting evolution for every character. My character definitely is going to have a very unpredictable role as we follow into the next season. I’m excited and it’s unpredictable. It’s just a very delicious adventure for Carlos and I’m excited to embody him again.
Nuke: Was it a tough decision for you to come back to television?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, it was very tough. It was actually the scariest decision I’ve ever had. The reason why it was scary is because after finishing That ‘70s Show, doing 200 episodes and eight seasons, you don’t want to recreate that experience with that cast. You don’t want to recreate the experience with a new team. You miss that team because that’s a magical moment that we had. Then I went on and tried to do something different with Howard Gordon and Awake. Awake was awesome with Jason Isaacs, Steve Harris and Cherry Jones. Howard Gordon is a mastermind and it was awesome to work with them. Ultimately, for me, it was about finding something that I’ve never done before. It was about finding a vehicle that was unlike anything that was on television. When this came along, I thought Robert was doing the right thing. The fact that Robert was writing and editing and composing was a no brainer for me. We knew that this was going to be different.
Nuke: You’re a producer now also.
Wilmer Valderrama: Yes, the exciting part about the show that complements what I’ve been doing with my production company and the studio that I built, I have the ??? company and Lionsgate and have been producing for television and film for them. It’s exciting because I’m going to get into directing, I’m into producing. The idea was to be able to control the fate of the platform that I’ve been performing on. That’s the reason I wanted to. I’m coming swinging next year with really cool things, thanks to the mentorship of Robert. The fact that cable nowadays has really challenged network and studios to think on a bigger scale, understanding that it’s not about creating a scale that hopefully entertains most. It’s about creating television that really targets a demographic and a genre and an audience that’s been waiting to be entertained. That’s why they turn away. That’s why they go to YouTube. That’s why they go to direct download because there’s not enough destination that really fulfill our taste buds and utilizes the technology we have today to really capture those shows and storytelling formats to the caliber film is. The fact that Robert’s coming to television is a big indicator that we have a different landscape.
Nuke: So are you exclusively pitching to cable?
Wilmer Valderrama: Not really, not really. I love network. I’ll always work with Fox. Fox is my home. I love ABC, they’re great people too. The idea is to challenge them to think outside the box and take risks unlike anything they have on television already. That’s the thing. I can’t see myself doing anything that’s on television at the moment for network. I just can’t see that. Specifically From Dusk Till Dawn, I just couldn’t see myself going back to network on that level again.