José Miguel Vásquez is an Atlanta-based actor featured in The Walking Dead, Cobra Kai, and Netflix’s new mini-series released on Veteran’s Day, "The Liberator." He shares insight into his background and life as an actor, the status of the industry in Atlanta, and diversity in film.
José dives into his experience in shooting "The Liberator," using new Trioscope technology for a groundbreaking animation experience. He also talks about how he started a YouTube channel with his family and the challenges that come with growing an audience.
Listen to him as he shares encouraging advice for actors and entrepreneurs.
0:17 — Intro
1:04 — His background
4:11 — Moving to Atlanta
6:30 — Status of Film Industry in Atlanta
8:16 — Experience with filming "The Liberator"
9:12 — Trioscope technology
13:14 — Casting on the Thunderbirds & filming in Poland
17:50 — Teaching & Coaching
19:19 — Jose’s YouTube channel
20:50 — Future of his acting
22:12 — Difficulties of creating a YouTube channel
23:11 — Challenges of growing an audience
26:13 — Role of faith in their channel
27:00 — Work-life balance
30:11 — The impact of COVID
31:39 — Encouraging advice
33:43 —Plan B job for actors
36:06 — Dealing with morals as an actor
37:36 — The reason behind still being an actor
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José Miguel Vásquez (00:00):
It was such a breath of fresh air to find out from some of the bigger casting directors and talent agencies in the Southeast that we're basically saying, "You know, it is very possible for you to have a career here in the Southeast." So I was like, "Okay. Well, if it's a doable thing, let's make it happen."
Tanya Musgrave (00:17):
Welcome to There To Hear, an educational podcast where industry professionals talk nuts and bolts on how they got from there to here. On today's show Jose Miguel Vasquez takes us behind the scenes acting in the Netflix mini-series The Liberator, diversity in film, and his venture into a YouTube channel with his family. If you want to keep in touch with us, you can follow our new Instagram CoLab Inc. Film. This is also the place to ask your listener questions now, CoLab Inc. Film. From CoLab Inc. I'm Tanya Musgrave. And today we have Jose Miguel Vasquez, Atlanta based actor in the Netflix mini-series that features groundbreaking animation, The Liberator. You can also see him in The Walking Dead and Cobra Kai. Welcome to the show.
José Miguel Vásquez (00:54):
Hey, thank you for having me. This is absolutely exciting. Thank you.
Tanya Musgrave (00:59):
We're excited. Let's start with your background. How did you get from there to here?
José Miguel Vásquez (01:04):
I gave up on this dream because I became a dad pretty young, and I thought, "Man, the responsible thing is to just put all that aside and just do what I had to do for my family." Then the dream came back and it came back in the shape of just sticking to college. I went to school with my three kids and my wife. We literally were walking University of Central Florida campus with babies and strollers and taking turns taking classes.
Tanya Musgrave (01:30):
José Miguel Vásquez (01:31):
And I really thought the safest thing to do was just to get a teaching degree. But lo and behold, I ended up getting into acting right out of college because of the 2008 bubble bursting. The economic bubble burst and there were no teaching jobs. I was able to start acting after graduating in 2008 because of this unfortunate circumstance. And I've found this career that I had given up had just kind of returned to me in the shape of first, commercials in Orlando. Florida is a pretty prominent commercial industry, and then when things really started to get serious by 2009, 2010 with doing some more theater, obviously the hubbub of, well, let me get into TV ad. This has always been kind of like my dream. And that led to a TV show that I filmed in South Florida called Burn Notice.
José Miguel Vásquez (02:18):
But then obviously some of my friends that knew I was doing this, they had already moved to Atlanta because Atlanta was becoming this hub that it is now. And they started literally texting me like, "Jose, you need to be seen for this. You need to be auditioning for that." So that led to me getting an Atlanta agent. I assigned on and within the week I had an audition for a film. I think the following week after that I had a callback and then I had to drive up to Atlanta during the snowpocalypse of 2014. And my wife was like, "No." We're a very close knit family. I mean, my family is going to be all over this podcast. So it's only normal that you hear, as of now, they were coming with me to this snowpocalypse callback, which by the grace of God I got casting. I got to work with Vince Vaughn. I was directed by Peter Billingsley. The film was Term Life.
José Miguel Vásquez (03:06):
And that really opened my eyes to this world, this city that was unified it in its understanding, at least it seems so at the time, of this industry that was starting to shape its economy and its culture. And I was blown away by the way the streets were closing down and people just kind of got it. They were annoyed, but they got it. They understood this is what needed to be done. A major film was being filmed, big stars on set and big directors and all this stuff. This is my dream come true. Absolutely dream come true. And that's really where it started. From there we moved here, and that's essentially how I got here really.
Tanya Musgrave (03:44):
José Miguel Vásquez (03:44):
As far as Atlanta, logistically.
Tanya Musgrave (03:45):
Yeah. Atlanta. I mean, that was actually one of our listener questions, was how important was that move to Atlanta? Because I mean, you were in Florida and one of the main things that people think acting they think LA obviously. So why Atlanta?
José Miguel Vásquez (04:03):
That was my question when I was in Orlando because funny enough having a strong family unit is so key. And it's one of the things we talk about in our YouTube channel Faith Family Film. I remember my wife sat me down when I really was considering this, and she said, "Look, if you need to go to LA to do this, do it. Don't let me and the kids hold you back. We're here for you, whatever you got to do." And that was a big thing for her to say to me. And this was when we were in Orlando. We were barely finishing college yet. And I was just in no position to even have a vision of me going to Los Angeles. And to be honest, Los Angeles has always been this place that I'll go when it calls. It's never been in my instinct because I was a daddy first and then actor second. But it's never been my instinct to pursue Los Angeles.
José Miguel Vásquez (04:51):
And so it was such a breath of fresh air to find out from some of the bigger casting directors and talent agencies in the Southeast that were basically saying, "It is very possible for you to have a career here in the Southeast." So I was like, "Okay. Well, if it's a doable thing, let's make it happen." And I just found out what I needed to do. I had the meetings I needed to have with, for example, the Fincannon. Fincannon and Associates are one of the biggest casting directors in the Southeast. And they looked at me and they said, "You could move to Atlanta. You don't have to. You could work out of Orlando. If you move to Atlanta, obviously it's going to be the hub and you'll have a little bit more of a direct link to certain things," but they were very adamant about don't ever feel limited by where you are.
José Miguel Vásquez (05:36):
And this was back in 2000, 2011, probably. And they were just like, "Don't be limited by anything." We're living in a very digital age. It's changing. It's changing. Lo and behold, here we are in the COVID days and the Southeast we've been self taping for the longest time. It's not anything strange or weird for us. There's always been this sense of kind of being ahead of the game. Tyler Perry set the tone even during COVID with all of this... of knowing how to have this bubble to keep everybody safe so they can still make these shows. Ultimately it was a beautiful surprise that I could come up to Georgia and make a living. I've not been to LA yet. And it's going to be exciting when I go out there because it's not the place I'm chasing.
Tanya Musgrave (06:26):
Speak a little bit more on how Atlanta has changed over the years. I remember hearing, "Oh, Atlanta is kind of the new East Coast LA." And then I also heard later, "Oh, yeah, but Atlanta doesn't have the infrastructure. They're all going back to LA." Put your finger on the pulse of Atlanta for a second.
José Miguel Vásquez (06:44):
It's always seemed to me that this place just kind of finds a way to continue to offer a place for people to film, for people to work. Again, I brought up Tyler Perry. He was kind of adamant that we're going to keep working and we're going to make sure everybody is safe. But even before COVID I realized that it's a part of the morning news. You get your weather report, you get your usual reports in the morning. Well, apparently here it's normal for you to get road closures due to filming reports. That way you can kind of navigate traffic.
José Miguel Vásquez (07:17):
So I came from Florida where Florida is still wanting to have something like that. And because I know the void, I appreciate the plenty that were living here. I came here in 2014 and it was already moving full steam. Obviously with this year, 2020 has just put a halt on so many things. But guess what? The moment SAG-AFTRA came through with its safety protocols and everything was in line and everybody was on the same page, it was instantaneous you start hearing about all these folks going back to sets and getting auditions. The amount of activity that's been going on is exponential. I mean, it's-
Tanya Musgrave (07:56):
José Miguel Vásquez (07:57):
We're like a Tesla car. We go from 0 to 60 in like 2.5 seconds. It's amazing.
Tanya Musgrave (08:03):
So The Liberator is a four-part series released on Veteran's Day, November 11. This involved a completely new technological space with Trioscope Studios. What can you tell us about your experience with the filming process?
José Miguel Vásquez (08:17):
Trioscope Studios has amazing leadership, great people at the helm. They are Atlanta based and they're very proud to say they're Atlanta filmmakers. But their ideas expand beyond this market. And I think it's a global thing and it's a beautiful thing. When they brought The Liberator this concept was so new and yet it's so important to our history. It's so important to tell it in this way, in this kind of new format. I loved it. I was blown away by how much my craftsmanship was vital to the whole thing. The way they created this story truly relies on the interaction of the actors, the believability of how immersed we are in our environment.
Tanya Musgrave (09:05):
Were you on a set in an environment?
José Miguel Vásquez (09:08):
Fantastic question. Yes and no. Physically, it's just all blue and you wonder, "Okay, well." It's kind of like what you hear with all CGI. You have reference points and you know where to talk and this and that and the other. We were given very specific visual cues so that we would know this is the moment to duck, cover, scream, yell, cry, whatever. It felt like theater, Tanya, is the best way I've been able to describe this to folks. You know when you go watch a show and it's like a black box theater and some of these shows that are very avant-garde, it's all black, and my sofa is a black block, right? It's just a cube of my emotions or whatever.
José Miguel Vásquez (09:49):
Well, it was more tangible than that. That's the good news. And it helped us. It helped us because they gave us just enough reference so that we wouldn't be lost in our imagination. We would all know exactly where we were standing and walking and sitting and interacting with each other. So that's why I say yes, we were on location because imagination wise we had to be on a bridge or underneath a bridge.
Tanya Musgrave (10:12):
Really? So you weren't actually... It honestly looks like you guys were filming in a field or on a bridge or what have you and these guys just went through and wrote a scope and stylized it up and put it through some kind of a filter or something like that. You know what I mean? It looked like you guys were on location. Interesting.
José Miguel Vásquez (10:36):
Well, I think that's exactly what we want. We want you to feel like you're there. Here's the thing. When you have Jeb Stuart, the writer, and Greg Jonkajyts, and you have Elsie Crawley. And they're there. They're accessible and they're giving you their passion for the story. Then that blue world is not just a blue world. Now it's this thing that's starting to come to life as we're creating it as actors. Then obviously in post-production the magic they do that is beyond my skillset. I don't exactly know. I don't know what they do. And I'm just blown away. Just the trailer I was like, "Oh, my gosh, this is so amazing."
Tanya Musgrave (11:14):
Well, your director is certainly not a stranger to visual effects.
José Miguel Vásquez (11:18):
No, no. He's well-versed in this world.
Tanya Musgrave (11:22):
Yeah. And he's been involved with anything... Marvel universe, Star Wars [inaudible 00:11:26].
José Miguel Vásquez (11:26):
Those little titles, those little indie films. You've heard them.
Tanya Musgrave (11:31):
How was it different or was it actually the same as kind of like the blue screen green screen?
José Miguel Vásquez (11:38):
It really did feel like we were just having to imagine being in France. But the camera, everything was the same. Everything was the same. And I did ask prior to our podcast because I wanted to understand. There's this thing called triosphere. And I think it's just they have these triangle angles and they have a certain way that they shoot so that it helps create, I don't know if it's a depth thing, but all I know is that they position us and the camera and the setting itself and they know how to use this triosphere atmosphere to create a special environment where I think in posts or maybe right on the spot I genuinely don't know.
Tanya Musgrave (12:21):
José Miguel Vásquez (12:22):
Yeah. That's what they use. It's the term they've kind of thrown at me. And I was like, "Oh yeah, triosphere." What the heck is that? It's three of something. I mean, I know a little bit of Latin. That's as much as I could decipher.
Tanya Musgrave (12:37):
Oh, my God.
José Miguel Vásquez (12:38):
It's a thing. And it's extremely impressive.
Tanya Musgrave (12:41):
I mean, is it a physical thing or is it just how they set things up?
José Miguel Vásquez (12:45):
I think it's just a setup. I can honestly tell you, there was nothing on set as far as an apparatus where I was like, "What is that?" I didn't see anything like that. And I think that's kind of the wonders thing of it. I remember you look around and like, "Oh, this looks like a regular set." I mean, cool but they clearly had some tricks up their sleeve, and I love it.
Tanya Musgrave (13:08):
So this film, it is a fascinating world W story about a unit of Thunderbirds made up of native Americans, Mexican Americans, [inaudible 00:13:16] cowboys. And they endured a brutal 500 day trek through Nazi occupied Europe. And your cast was a fantastic look through. You had Latino and native American, Tlingit, British Scottish. The range of representation was fantastic, and [inaudible 00:13:35] himself is Polish. So I imagine like connecting with this subject matter happened on a deeper level for many of you.
José Miguel Vásquez (13:42):
Well, when I got notice of the casting it very specifically said we'll be filming in Poland. And I was like, "What?"
Tanya Musgrave (13:50):
José Miguel Vásquez (13:52):
How exciting, how cool. And you do the cast, you do the audition, you submit the tape. And then when the thing comes in that you got it, oh, my gosh I was beside myself because I was like, "Okay. Well, I'm going Poland." And-
Tanya Musgrave (14:04):
We're going to Poland.
José Miguel Vásquez (14:06):
And sure enough, it worked out. We shot in Lodz for many reasons, but at least for us actors, it completely immersed us. We were in the vicinity of where so much of this happened. We were just like two miles away from one of the biggest ghettos, the Jewish ghetto of during World War II.
Tanya Musgrave (14:23):
José Miguel Vásquez (14:23):
We actually got to go to Auschwitz and experienced what that felt like. Yeah, it's a life altering experience. But filming there gave us... Although we filmed in blue studio, most of the time, all the time, any chance we got to go out and connect with the places where some of the stuff took place, we did it. And just being there, there's just so much history just looking at the buildings. So it was important. It was important to have us there.
José Miguel Vásquez (14:55):
I think that the thing that popped for me, and I say pop because literally my soul jumped when I got the audition for this, it was an opportunity to play amongst a group of actors that would be representing a true story of inclusivity in the 1940s. What? Hold on. And that made me dig deep into history and what was going on in those days, that nobody talks about, but it's a beautiful lens to see the story of Felix Sparks and the kind of soul that the character that this man had to see beyond the racial limitations that the culture of the day we're putting on these individuals. And instead he saw their potential. He saw their spirit. He saw their passion for brotherhood and for country.
José Miguel Vásquez (15:49):
It was just a wonderful gift to be asked to be a part of telling the story, which is... I mean, again, the thing that always leaves my heart just thrilled is that this is based on a real individual. He endured a lot. Felix Sparks endured a lot, but I think the loss of his brothers throughout the whole thing is something that we can only imagine. The team at Trioscope, that's one of their main passions with this project is to display the beautiful array of colors and cultures that are brought together in this effort to bring down Nazi Germany and to unite as brothers to fight together for something greater than themselves.
José Miguel Vásquez (16:30):
I remember in school, I'd be learning about World War II and I was like, "Man, that must have been cool to fight and... " right? And now, as a grown man you consider the family effect, the effect on country. And then it hits you, a lot of these individuals they've passed on and all we're left with is their stories. This limited series is going to bring people to just sit around and listen to a story that needs to live on.
Tanya Musgrave (16:57):
What I've found is that bit by bit you will have layers and layers and layers of a bunch of these different stories involved and how people join the resistance, right? I mean, stories that haven't come out until literally now, like this, like the Thunderbirds. And then you start to hear more stories and how people of all different races came together to resist what was going on. And it's a beautiful thing because you don't necessarily hear about all of these little stories. I don't know. I'm very excited.
José Miguel Vásquez (17:32):
It's a more positive [inaudible 00:17:34] to the human spirit. And unfortunately we do have to see the negative to see the positive. But again, it is ultimately a story of the human spirit prevailing, just in terms of these different cultures coming together and fighting for something greater than themselves.
Tanya Musgrave (17:48):
So you had mentioned teaching.
José Miguel Vásquez (17:51):
That all kind of started back in my Orlando days. When I started at the theater, I started teaching there. That became the thing I was kind of doing. I graduated to be a teacher and I ended up teaching at theaters while I got to play and perform in theaters. And now all these years later, I've recently been coaching on sets. I got to coach once on Te Walking Dead. I just coached and I got to play in a movie called Unarmed Divide, which is going to be on the Peachtree Film Festival. You know what it is? I get to just make sure people are living in the moment. I just try to honor the gifts that I find when I'm so connected.
José Miguel Vásquez (18:30):
Like right now, talking to you. I know we're on Zoom, but ultimately what needs to happen is people just genuinely connecting, and that there's no obstruction to that. A lot of what I've learned is based off Sanford Meisner. He talks in his book about how it takes 20 years to become an actor. I've been doing this for 12. I wasn't even planning on thinking of teaching people until I hit that 20 year Mark. It's just been people coming up and saying, "Hey, listen, I know you do this. I really want to start. I need to know where to begin." And I've done that. I know how to fight for this dream. And then when it comes to craft I kind of simplified it for you. Whenever I'm on a set, I just try to make sure people are living as truthfully as they can in this imaginary circumstance that they may be living in.
Tanya Musgrave (19:12):
So you have Netflix film on one hand, and then in the other kind of more of an independent realm and actually a YouTube venture as well. You have your-
José Miguel Vásquez (19:24):
MaJeliv. That's right. That's very good.
Tanya Musgrave (19:26):
... MaJeliv channel. It's your family. Tell us more about that.
José Miguel Vásquez (19:30):
The channel is a thing that happened very accidentally. The kids always mess around with... Back in Orlando, Jenny was a teacher. I was getting this thing started. They would just start filming these fun little things. Well, when we moved here, our eldest son who kind of knows more about the social media world, he just started saying we should do reviews on the movies we watch and just post them. I was like, "All right. Okay. That sounds cool." And for the longest time, my wife and I, we wanted to do like a blog and we never knew where to start. Well, leave it to the kids, man. They figured it out.
José Miguel Vásquez (19:59):
We started doing these movie reviews, and then one day he's like, "Hey, let's do a reaction. People do this on YouTube." And I was like, "Reactions?" Good teachers always say acting is reacting. And I was like, "Yeah, I can dig it. Sure. We'll do this." That's kind of how it kicked off. We did a reaction to Power Rangers. That was just fun. But I think the kicker was when we did a reaction to one of the Avengers movies, and the response was insane. I mean, I think we had like 50,000 views overnight. It was something ridiculous. And that's kind of where it is, but now we've turned that channel into this place where we also get creative. We have our short films that we shoot there. We do little sketches and games. And we're a family of artists and we have an outlet. And we're just very, very grateful for that.
Tanya Musgrave (20:43):
What about that role that MaJeliv plays within your creative space these days? Where are you headed in your acting?
José Miguel Vásquez (20:52):
I could tell you we're zeroing in on individual careers of the kids. So imagine if it's an acronym of all of our names. And so as individual artists, we are all rooting for each other and helping each other out. Now, some of our viewers on YouTube, they've seen some of our short films. My oldest son has worked on a Goosebumps too, and people have noticed and people have noticed my work and they were like, "Hey, we saw you in this."
José Miguel Vásquez (21:18):
I think our goal is to just focus on the individual, and we'll see if someone approaches us to write for an independent... And that's happened, that's happened where we get invited to either act on an independent short or help write one or help script doctor one, whatever opportunity presents itself, we're going to run with it. And we're going to give as much of our attention and passion toward a short indie project like we would a Netflix mega feature, whatever, because ultimately it's just going to come down to a story for us. And MaJeliv is really... That's what we're about. We're about making sure that the story is saying a little bit more than just have fun, enjoy the explosions and the action. Yeah.
Tanya Musgrave (22:06):
What difficulties did you run into for creating for YouTube?
José Miguel Vásquez (22:12):
Well, there's the technical of course, learning what we really needed to handle some of the editing capacities that we need, figuring out editing, figuring out the best camera so that we could capture ourselves and for it to look a little bit more cinematic. We've learned from YouTubers like Casey Neistat. We know we're filmmakers. So we want to have a filmmaker feel to our vlogs so that the editing feels more like a documentary at times. We signed up for a short film contest during shutdown lockdown days. And we spent, I think, three days between the five of us. And it wasn't until that third day that it was the three kids that came up with the concept. And I was like, "Hey, that... " And we were all laughing out loud. So we knew this is... "Okay, three days in, we figured this out." And we shot a short film. So it's a lot. It's a lot because there's five creative heads and then there's a tech. We figured out the tech, but when it comes to let's brainstorm ideas it takes us some time to find a good compromise.
Tanya Musgrave (23:11):
How was the learning curve when it came to the advertising side of things, like getting viewers and growing an audience and that kind of thing?
José Miguel Vásquez (23:22):
It definitely took research, a lot of research on my part with just titles and meta data and tags, knowing when to post, learning how to read the YouTube analytics so that you know when is our audience watching our work. I can't imagine who does that for like Netflix. Oh, my gosh, it should be a team of people I would imagine. I've had to learn all of that. What you say in the video matters. What you put in the tags and all that matters. And then what other videos you kind of align yourself with, all of that matters. So it's learning all of that. And then how to bring that to your Instagram and get people to organically want to watch your stuff without you being like, "Hey guys, click my link." Just spammy and all that. So it's like learning a new language. It's a culture. And at least in YouTube. I'm still learning the Instagram culture to be very honest with you, which I feel like has just changed. It just continues to change on me. But yeah, it's-
Tanya Musgrave (24:26):
Especially with reels. With reels and kind of the integration between that and... Social media is just a crazy beast in and of itself. But creating for social media, it is always a source of curiosity for me because it's something that I haven't cracked yet, particularly for those who make it a career, for those who run a channel and... For instance, I remember a couple of guys. They were being extremely transparent with their show, and it was probably, I don't know, millions of views on their stats, and their earnings were only about like a couple thousand dollars at most. He's just like, "Yeah, for all you people who think this is such a driving force of income... " Yeah.
José Miguel Vásquez (25:09):
It takes a lot to get to a point where you're like, "Yeah, I make a living off my YouTube channel." You've got to be in the millions as far as subscribers, I think. You've got to have a really good team of people. We have a manager, if you will. And we just started with them and we're learning more from them.
Tanya Musgrave (25:26):
José Miguel Vásquez (25:27):
And it's kind of like a talent agent, but they do it for channels. And so it's great because now we're learning this approach that is a little bit more... it's still creative, which is extremely important but then it's also very strategic in monetization and business and making sure that our creative effort does find some sort of financial grounds. But it's a slow build. It really is. .
Tanya Musgrave (25:54):
You mentioned that the channel was, what did you say, the intersection of family film and faith. Yeah?
José Miguel Vásquez (26:01):
Correct. Film and family for sure. The faith part is something that... It's a part of who we are. We don't shy away from it, but we certainly,-
Tanya Musgrave (26:09):
Yeah, of course.
José Miguel Vásquez (26:09):
That's not our niche if you will. We're not like a Christian YouTube channel. We just happen to be a family of faith, a family that knows that we are where we are today because of a greater grace and divine intervention, if you will. And so when asked we talk about it, but yeah, it's not the niche of our channel per se. But it is a part of who we are. And I think it comes through... I think it's the unspoken. One of my favorite saints says, "Go out into the world and share the gospel and use words if necessary." That's kind of what our channel is. We don't need to talk about it. How about we just live it? And that's really a lot of our little catchphrases, just living it. And that's also an acting thing, just live in this moment. Can we just connect? Let's just be kind and loving to each other and spread the light.
Tanya Musgrave (26:59):
Several times on this podcast we've kind of highlighted a healthy boundaries and a good balance between your work and your home, because so much about this industry can swirl around. If you are not killing yourself for Hollywood then you are not obsessed enough. And I was curious how you found that kind of intersection within your professional life.
José Miguel Vásquez (27:22):
Man, the balance act. Yeah, it's a dance. That's how I like to think about it. It's a dance, especially when you have... We have three teenagers in the house. My wife and I we're both artists as well and educators. And then our kids are each artists. I mean, yesterday was a day where we had four auditions between me and my two boys. So it's a whole family effort. We run lines with each other. We set up the studio, the space. We mark the lights. It's a whole-
Tanya Musgrave (27:52):
José Miguel Vásquez (27:52):
... family unit.
Tanya Musgrave (27:54):
José Miguel Vásquez (27:55):
Those babies were keeping us cheerful when we were staying up late writing papers. So it's a beautiful thing now to talk about having my oldest direct me while I was trying to hit comedic notes last night at 11:45 at night, and then he jumps on me with editing for the YouTube channel almost all this morning. It's something that does need its pause. We do need a moment to just be family where it's not about editing, where it's not about acting. It's not about pursuing the dream. How about we just live in the dream right now, the dream that we're living, which is we've got this little house, we've got a little space to call our own. We've got a little bit of time to just sit, veg out in front of the TV or maybe we just go walk the dog. How about we just like go sit down somewhere and just enjoy the breeze?
José Miguel Vásquez (28:46):
I remember one time we went to the river and we just sat by the river and did nothing for all of 15 minutes. Just sat there, listening to the water. It's very challenging, but I love the challenge. I love it. I'm a bit of a masochist. I mean, I was the kid that did... I did football, track, I worked in high school, and I rode my bike everywhere. So if I'm not doing something that's keeping me ultra busy I'm probably not alive. And so I have to keep at it. I love it.
Tanya Musgrave (29:13):
I actually heard a quote one time that said, "Rest is a discipline."
José Miguel Vásquez (29:19):
Tanya Musgrave (29:23):
José Miguel Vásquez (29:24):
I'm going to write that. I have never heard that.
Tanya Musgrave (29:24):
José Miguel Vásquez (29:24):
Tanya Musgrave (29:24):
It really is.
José Miguel Vásquez (29:25):
You just made me exhale. Listen, that is a thing I never thought, I never considered that it's something I have to master and just be good at. We live in a society that teaches us, "Go, go, go, go. You got to it. You got to get it. Hustle, hustle, hustle. Achieve greatness." But only recently have I been listening to stuff and reading stuff and being mentored by people that say, "You need to pause, just rest. Catch your breath, man." Rest is a discipline. Yeah. People are like, "We just want to get back to work." Glad it's starting up again, I'll tell you what.
Tanya Musgrave (30:06):
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Did it treat you guys all right?
José Miguel Vásquez (30:10):
You mean what now?
Tanya Musgrave (30:11):
COVID. COVID. We're you guys all right?
José Miguel Vásquez (30:14):
Yeah. No, no. Health-wise thank God. We've been physically. We've not been-
Tanya Musgrave (30:22):
Well, no, even just professionally because tons of my friends, they were out of work for months.
José Miguel Vásquez (30:25):
No, no I've been out of work. I have not worked since... Yeah. It's been awhile. I haven't been on a set this whole time. It's just harder. It's harder. And now that it's starting up, the auditions are rolling in. So that's nice. I had a project that might've swung my way. We did a lot of the first auditions before all of this kind of hit. And so it looked like it was going to be a sure thing. Then I did some tests for it, screen tests I mean. And it didn't work out. And I know they started to shoot that in August, but then they got hit with hurricanes on top of COVID.
Tanya Musgrave (31:05):
Oh, my gosh.
José Miguel Vásquez (31:06):
So I literally just sent prayers, and I was like, "Man, I hope those guys get their show done." It's been hard. It's been hard. But people have had... There's other people that have had it even worse because they have the financial strain plus health strain. And I've told them my family here again and again, "Look, if we're healthy we've got everything we need. Money comes and goes. We'll be fine." But not working takes its toll. I miss it. I miss being on sets. I really do. And for my friend and colleagues that have been on they described the atmosphere and it's just different.
Tanya Musgrave (31:39):
So we have some listener questions from our Insta and Facebook stories, and Twitter. If you want to ask your questions to future guests, our handle on Insta and Twitter is @ColabIncfilm again. So this one is what is the most encouraging advice you've been given that has been true?
José Miguel Vásquez (31:56):
It's been uttered by a fictional character and then I've said it to someone, but I think it didn't land until my daughter said it to me. It's that Gandalf quote. It's about what you do with the time that is given to you. On this concept of rest and there's no time to rest. I got, "I have no time. I have to maximize my time. I have to... " The hustle, hustle, hustle. For me The Fellowship of The Ring, Lord of The Rings, all of that, it has so much significance, but it's that one moment in the film in The Fellowship of The Ting, it just destroys me in the best way.
José Miguel Vásquez (32:33):
It's just so simple. And when I apply it, when I just let myself feel the sense of peace because I'm giving everything I've got right now and that's all that matters is what am I doing with this time. I'm going to focus on loving. I'm going to focus on creating and building and edifying people, especially my people, my family. And there's days where I forget to do that for myself. The next thing I want to point at, it wasn't until my daughter said it that I got it because she made me realize I wasn't doing this for myself. I wasn't taking care of myself.
José Miguel Vásquez (33:09):
I wasn't having that perspective of, "I am doing enough for this time that I'm given." "Dad, you're doing enough." The time you've been given, you're making something of it. I think when your child tells you something that you know you've said before and it lands to the core of you you're like, "Oh, my gosh, I use the same words. What is going on right now? Why didn't I really fully fathom what I was saying." But sometimes it's like that. You just have to hear it from the kids that watch us.
Tanya Musgrave (33:43):
The next question was what kind of a plan B job should an actor have, or should they?
José Miguel Vásquez (33:50):
Oh, that's a question. It's a question that's asked and thought about and milled about and debated about. Okay. So if I knew then what I know now, right, that whole thing, if I was... So I mentioned Lord of the Rings. I saw that film when I was a senior in high school in the theaters. And if by some magical way I could have known then what I know now I would not have a plan B. I would just plan out my career study as an actor should. I'm talking if you know you want to be an actor and you know you want to be in films and you want to make films, find out who your heroes are, what they did, where they studied, who they studied with, all that stuff, and create a track that helps you focus on that.
José Miguel Vásquez (34:41):
And that means, yes, you may have to work at jobs. I cleaned houses. I worked at Publix Deli. I love Publix but when I'm on the customer side, not... They're great employers, but it's hard work, very hard work. You do what you need to do, right, to do the thing you love. And if acting is the thing you love you're just going to have to find a way to make it work. I've had students who financially they're good now. They're in a position where they studied something else that. I have one student who's a software engineer. And if you've kind of already had your plan B set, good for you. You've got some financial grounds to do what you got to do. But plan Bs are... They could be finicky. They can actually create a problem. It really depends on the individual.
José Miguel Vásquez (35:33):
If you're the kind of person that thrives with structure and security, you probably need some sort of just consistent income. If you're more of the explorer spirit where you don't necessarily worry about where you're going to get your next meal because you'll be fine with just a cup of rice, then maybe you definitely are the one that says, "No, I'm fine." I think that's very liberating when you can say I have a plan and it's just to focus on this thing. It's complicated though. It can get very complicated.
Tanya Musgrave (36:05):
As an actor have you ever been asked to do something against your morals and how did you handle it?
José Miguel Vásquez (36:10):
Short answer is no, I've not. Thank God. I've auditioned for some things that I was on the fence about. I think that's the beauty of the audition process. You sit some time with a character. Our job is to meet these characters when we first receive the sides or the script, and we meet them like a person on the page and reading it. But then by the time I'm on set, I think a lot of that has been anticipated and discussed to some degree or the other. I have been very, very fortunate that I've never had to do something in the moment where I'm like, "Oh, this is so wrong. Why am I going through this?"
José Miguel Vásquez (36:51):
I think that comes from a pretty sound family communication structure. My wife is very involved in a lot of the scripts I get. I don't really get cast too often in things that are outside of who I am, which is great, too far outside. But even when we're just reading through scripts, I'm usually prepared for what may or may not come on set. By the time an offer comes in you and your agent should be having a lot of these discussions, especially if the role involves anything that is potentially compromising to your integrity or what you represent, right? I think those are key things to keep in mind.
Tanya Musgrave (37:29):
Last question. What questions should I have asked you?
José Miguel Vásquez (37:33):
Wow! Yeah, here's one. Why are you still doing this?
Tanya Musgrave (37:36):
Why are you still doing this?
José Miguel Vásquez (37:40):
I ask myself all the time on the daily, and I think it's a normal thing to ask when you're an entrepreneur, not just an actor but when you're working for yourself, when you're trying to make a living for yourself. I think it makes it easier when your business is doing really good and your profit is just awesome. There's people these days that are not seeing a lot of that because of the situation the world is in. But for me personally that question had you asked it, I would have just said Chadwick Boseman would have been my answer. His passing solidified why I do this. I admired him since the first day I saw him on screen, the deep, deep sadness I have that I will never get to work with him.
José Miguel Vásquez (38:24):
But his passing as an actor solidified that I do this because I needed to have a clarity that I didn't ever want to take a role that would compromise my integrity but also my family's, my Latino culture, because there's enough of that. I think John Leguizamo was saying it in an article recently that it's so easy for us to get cast with this negative spin, always the bad guy, always the... Negative. It's just negative. It takes a lot of courage to say, "Well, I really don't want to get cast as that. And I want to tell different kinds of stories."
José Miguel Vásquez (39:05):
And it takes a lot of faith because potentially I'm saying no to a lot of work by the big people in charge. But then that empowers me because then I'm forcing myself to create my own stories that when my kids watch me on screen or other kids that look like me, or they don't even have to look like me, they can see someone of my essence and realize, yeah, they're not all bad. No, we're not. There's a lot of real good.
Tanya Musgrave (39:32):
The Thunderbirds, they're liberators.
José Miguel Vásquez (39:35):
That's right. That's right. I think when you meet Sparks, Cold Foot, one of my native best friends, and then Gomez, that's who I play, Corporal Abel Gomez, when you meet those three and the rest of the 157 you'll see that those are the kinds of roles, those are the kinds of people that need to be seen on screen. And there's a lot of good examples out there. There's more of the good now, but... I don't know. It was his passing that really solidified that for me. And when I'd feel down and when I feel like it's just not a good day for the business, for this little business, I just remember him because it's not about me. On my deathbed it needs to be about the work I left behind, the legacy I left with my kids, with my wife, with the people that truly know me. And hopefully my work meant far more than just entertainment.
Tanya Musgrave (40:30):
Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
José Miguel Vásquez (40:33):
It is my pleasure and honor.
Tanya Musgrave (40:35):
If you enjoyed this interview, follow us right here and check out more episodes at media.colabinc.org. If you have comments or know someone who would be a great guest on our show, send in your suggestions to Tanya@colabinc.org. José, thanks so much again for your time. Be well and God bless. We'll see you next time on There To Here.