Having the chance to speak with Danay Garcia, (best known as Luciana on Fear the Walking Dead), was an incredible opportunity. The performer was extremely forthcoming about her narrative on Fear but also about The Cure, a film that she co-directed, wrote and produced that came about as a result of shooting and living in Tijuana, Mexico for the hit AMC show.
Her film The Cure premieres Saturday, June 22nd at the Baja California International Film Festival at 8:30 p.m. See more at https://www.facebook.com/bajacaliforniainternationalfilm/ For more about her production company, This is Happening, please visit https://www.facebook.com/TIHproductions/ and Fear The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our phone interview with the wonderful and multi-talented Danay Garcia.
BT: Was there a moment that you knew that you were part of the Fear family?
DG: When you join a show that people get killed all the time, and it’s kind of like the story, the apocalypse and the Walkers, it’s like any time you can really go. I really didn’t focus on “Oh, let me just discover this family that I want to be a part of it, I want to be a part of it”, I kind of didn’t focus on that. I focused on contributing to the story. I really was every day, and still today, that’s really what keeps me going: how can I make this story that they’re giving me better? How can I contribute, because I’m like a soldier in this huge battle [laughs] and huge, it’s a big group, you know? I worry about what I can contribute to my fellow cast members and the director that is on board today and the hours that we have ahead, how can I make it easier on everybody on my pace and to move forward? Usually when I have that mindset, that’s when everyone starts supporting you too and you support them because your focus is on how to make this better on everybody. And that, little by little, started being “Hey! You were not here today, I missed you!” and I was like “Oh, wow! Me too!” [laughs loudly] And you become a person that people appreciate and that’s not something that I take for granted. I like to earn that every single day that I work and it’s basically honouring what everyone is putting out there because it’s a lot, it’s really a lot every day. And I care, I really care about this, so realizing that after what, 4 years on this show that I’m still around and I miss them and they miss me right back, [laughs] it’s a good feeling! When people miss you, they miss something that you are putting out and it’s really nice.
BT: You’re from Cuba originally and convincingly play a character from Mexico. How do you make this happen and how did this help inspire your film The Cure?
DG: It’s interesting because I spent time in Colombia, I spent some time in Venezuela and I also spent time in Mexico shooting the show. I’ve worked in Bogotá, Colombia, I’ve worked in Venezuela, and I’ve also worked in Mexico, so I kind of know the difference, with the Cuban Spanish [laughs] but also other South American countries, too. And what I really love and what really inspired me to write something in Mexico is that when we were shooting Fear the Walking Dead, because Tijuana is north in Mexico, the landscape was completely different, the desert is different than the Mexico that I knew. The Mexico that most of the people know is the “Frida Kahlo Mexico”, which is so many colours and really vibrant yellows and reds. What I realized living in Mexico and shooting Fear is that Mexico is so much bigger than that—the culture really goes to extremes, they have deserts, they have mountains, then they have rocks and the pyramids. It is profound, and in Tijuana, 40 minutes south of Ensenada, I found the culture and these people they are from all over and they are immigrants from all over the Republic, they found this place, and they claimed “This is my land”. Now there are about 2,000 people living in that mountain and they have no running water and they make it work! They make it work on the land and this is the Mexico that people don’t see every day. And to some extent, it was the Mexico that we are showing on the show, too, it’s a different kind. And I was so inspired to show part of the culture, about which people don’t talk, that people don’t see. And living there on the show, for seasons 2 and 3, on my days off, what I would do is to is go to the mountain and try not to speak with an accent so that they think that I am a tourist, [laughs] and some people would recognize me as Luciana, they were like: “Wait, aren’t you Luciana?” [laughs] I’m like “Yeah, well…” The good thing is that seasons 2 and 3, I had blood on my face a lot, so it was kind of like a mask, but I was able to blend in with them, but then when they would look closely, they would realize that I was Luciana. It was a really fun experience and my goal was…I don’t know, I think that I got so deep into who was Luciana and what she represented in the community and in the country, that also for the Latino community, that Cuban-born and raised as a Latina woman, to try and show a different version of this beautiful country that is Mexico. And this is how this story was born and I wanted to work with Mexican artists and I went to the theatre in Encinada and found amazing talent, so all the actors are from Mexico, from Encinada, with the exception of one, the Pastor, he’s from Mexico City. I met him in Los Angeles, we’re friends, and I wanted to go deep into the culture of Mexico, with actors and crew too who are from Mexico. I learned so much from them and they learned so much from me and they really felt so inspired that I am a tourist and not from Mexico, and it’s telling a story that has nothing to do with the narcos or violence. When it comes to movies, all we see in Mexico is the narco culture, or El Chapo, or this dark side. I wanted to bring something completely different that is also part of the Mexican culture, which is faith and positivity and how can you overcome crazy obstacles with nothing? There’s also darkness in the movie, but it’s not like the darkness you usually see in these kinds of movies in Mexico.
BT: Do you see writing and directing as a way of coming to the truth?
DG: Absolutely, I really like the idea of…like the same things that Luciana, like the natives from Mexico, when I told them the way that Luciana would feel at the apocalypse, like the 3 kinds of death. Even they know about it, they were all like: “Oh my God, you’re right!” They didn’t make a conscious…it’s in their subconscious, but it isn’t something with which they grew up, they don’t know, until somebody looks at it from a different angle and say “you guys were raised like this, right?” like go to the pyramids and all they talk about is death—You don’t see that in Italy! [laughs] When you go to Europe, nobody talks about “After you die, this happens”. It’s different, it’s a different culture. So in The Cure, I do the same and I look at their own culture and the essence of it from a different angle to the point that even for them it’s a huge revelation. And it’s like when you guys are in trouble, this is something that has been happening in the culture. But now it’s 2019, how would you deal with something that they taught you generations before and how would you deal with it now? And that’s something that they’re like “Oh my God, you’re right! That’s something that we used to do and this is how we do it now” and I’m like “Yeah!” [laughs] So this is something that I love to do, but that’s kind of what inspires me in storytelling – I interpret stories, I interpret characters, I interpret people’s lives, and that is something that is exciting as a writer, to explore that and to create a world with my own interpretation of it and make it easy to understand, even for people that are from that place, that they can really understand the part of them that they didn’t quite know before. They were not conscious of it and that’s what I love. I think that’s one of the successes of Luciana in the Latina community.
BT: What has it meant for your own arc as writer and director to see your co-star Colman Domingo directing Fear the Walking Dead?
DG: It’s inspiring. It’s amazing! Actually Colman’s episode is coming up this Sunday. He did such an amazing job! It was really cool seeing him direct, to put on the directing hat. He’s extremely talented. I mean it was a very rough episode, wait until you see it. It’s a lot to cover. [laughs] A lot to cover. And when I got the script, I was like “Oh my God, Colman is going to be hands on and this is hardcore”. It’s really inspiring to see actors evolve into doing something different than acting. Whether it’s producing, acting, directing, writing, it’s really cool to see different angles in them and how they deal with it. When it came to Colman on Fear, everyone knew him as an actor, and the crew, this is his second episode directing and he is part of the family, so it’s like “How can we help you do this?”. He knows the characters really well so he doesn’t have to worry about if we know what’s going on. [laughs] He knows our process, so it’s easier, it’s so easy, it’s like you come to set, but you have a sense of it as an actor like you are now playing a different angle, this is the same story that you already know. And it’s exciting to see him grow as an artist—it’s inspiring to me, because, it’s not like I want to direct an episode of Fear tomorrow, but as an actor that wants to evolve, it’s cool to learn his process, too, which is really nice.
BT: What is it like to have someone who is funny and a bit quirky like Garret Dillahunt on the show?
DG: Garret is the best, you really want people with a sense of humour. [laughs loudly] You really do. When Garret joined the show, we came to Austin, we had left a home behind and family, our crew from Mexico behind and we were so used to them. So coming to Austin, a new country, new actors, a new crew. It was so refreshing to have actors that have a sense of humour, that bring light into it. New fresh blood, I would say. [laughs] We talked about blood so much, like new, fresh blood. And Garret is so talented. He’s so talented, like he made John Dorie [pauses] he made me believe that he’s been living John Dorie’s life forever—in the apocalypse, too. It’s like: “Wow, this guy’s really got this character so down”, and I believe everything that he says every time and with such a sense of humour, too. And he’s a unique person, his characters are a reflection of him as a human, like he is unique, therefore he creates unique characters that people absolutely have to love. You’ve got to love Garret, I mean, he’s just an epic guy, he really is, and he is extremely talented as well.
BT: How do you think that Fear the Walking Dead can help us deal with difficult times in our own experience?
DG: Well it’s a question for which I have two answers, one is really funny and one is not funny. [laughs] The funny part of the answer is that every time I am in a place full of people, like the other day I was on an elevator, and the elevator was taking forever to take me to the 12th floor and just was starting to notice that I’m on Fear, because Fear‘s out and one of the guys said “Oh my God, if there’s an apocalypse, we know who to go to, we are right here with her on the elevator”. And I was like “If there’s an apocalypse, you really don’t want to be with me. You should run away from me.” [laughs] Like don’t do this, it’s just a lot of pressure. So that’s the funny answer, that people reassure me that they are safe with me because it’s soooo cute, I like that. [laughs]
But the other side of the answer is every time that I get a script, or every time that I watch the show, I absolutely rely on a metaphor for life, I mean this is a show that it does not rely on material on the beautiful and superficial side of life that could easily exist to make things better than what it is. This is a show that does not have technology, we have no social media, we have zero like what’s the latest car phone or whatever. This is about pure human struggle and human survival. When you strip down everything that makes you okay, what is left? And that’s something which I really care about, because when I meet people, that is what I’m looking for. What I’m looking at is not what they’re wearing or what car they’re driving, I look for the person. And that’s something that the apocalypse makes very strong, which is should I trust you? Should I not trust you? You’re not going to earn my trust by what you’re wearing. [laughs] You’re going to earn my trust by what you’re doing to others and to yourself. And that’s something that I think is a huge metaphor for how we should look at the people that we have around, how we look at the people that we follow, and to whom do we relate in the most basic way, taking out the stuff that doesn’t really matter, which is the material stuff. And that’s something I really think is huge and that’s something which people relate to in a subconscious way. They really relate to a character, not because of the clothes or because of what they do, their values or their faith or how they see themselves in this world, whether you want to be a good person or a bad person. And what’s the difference between good and bad? What might be good to me might not be good to you. So it really puts you in check as to how you think today. And that’s something which I really feel passionate about and I really fight for my character to give people a message. On the show, she will survive with what she believes.
Fear the Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC