Meet Jose Maria Yazpik, star of the romantic comedy “Everybody Loves Somebody.”
The actor, a big star in his native Mexico, explains how Mexicans don’t speak Spanglish and why it’s easier to act in English instead of Spanish.
The romantic comedy “Everybody Loves Somebody” created a stir at the Palm Springs International Film Festival last month. Not only is it a good movie, but it’s fully bilingual, moving between English and Spanish. That aspect appealed to star José María Yazpik, a well-known Mexican actor whose career includes films in both languages.
In the movie, Yazpik plays a physician named Daniel, who returns home to Ensenada. He reconnects with old flame Clara (Karla Souza) just as she’s on the verge of starting a relationship with Asher (Ben O’Toole), a young medical resident. The film, written and directed by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, is believable, charming and funny.
The equally funny and charming Yazpik, 46, called from a shoot in Colombia to talk about the movie, which opens Friday, Feb. 17, and his career.
Question: What drew you to the role of Daniel?
Answer: I saw myself in that character. I had lived in Tijuana for several years and my family is from Baja. I have a real nostalgia about it. I left Baja about 20 years ago to become an actor in Mexico City. (Chuckling.) Every time I’m going through an existential crisis, I always go back there to find myself again. I see old friends and smell the Pacific Ocean, and that’s what my character does. He comes back to find himself again, to go back to his roots, to see what’s going on in his life. Those were things that I loved.
Q: You’re not known for romantic comedies.
A: This is my first. I’ve been offered them in the past, but I’ve never seen a script like this. I thought, “Hey, this is something special.”
Q: The movie is fully bilingual, which you don’t see very often.
A: You don’t. A lot of times you see bilingual characters and it seems very forced to me. In this case, it flows very naturally between Spanish and English. It’s not just bilingual; it’s bicultural. I’ve lived on that border; I used to cross over every day to study in San Diego. It’s a nice change in the times we’re living in: (Seeing) Mexicans that can cross the border without being pursued, and they are intelligent, educated, well-prepared, bicultural people. I think it’s important to show that.
Q: I think the language felt organic because it wasn’t Spanglish.
A: Yes! Americans have that mixture, which is real, but (it’s different with Mexicans). I’ve never seen characters before go from English to Spanish, respecting both languages. At the Palm Springs Film Festival, 98 percent of the public was American, and they loved it. The transition works.
Q: Are you surprised how well it was received?
A: I was, because I don’t think the American audience is really used to reading subtitles. Audiences all over the world are; because most cinema is American, we’re used to it. But this flowed really well with an American audience. I think because It’s a universal romantic comedy. It talks about love between a man and a woman, a kind of family love, parental love, so everyone can identify.
Q: The sense of family comes through very strongly in the film.
A: It’s a good cast, and we’ve all known each other a long time, and it’s well-written. Shooting in Ensenada also helped with that. It’s a small town, beautiful, but you live with your peers every day. You go have dinner with them, go surfing on the weekend with them. It created a very familial surrounding.
Q: What is Karla Souza like? You guys had great chemistry.
A: I loved working with her. I was blown away by her energy. We both take our work very seriously, and there was a special chemistry there. Let’s just hope the audience sees it.
Q: They will. My wife saw the movie and said there’s no way Clara is going to end up with Asher.
A: (Laughing.) A lot people think that way, but a lot of people think Asher is so damn adorable. That shows you very well how good the movie was made!
Q: You do films in the States, in Mexico, in Spain: Is there a difference?
A: A little bit. In the American films I’ve worked on, everybody is very professional but as soon as work is done, everybody just goes home. I find that odd. In Mexico, you’ll go to dinner afterward, play some poker, have fun. Working in Mexico is more like family; then again, the industry in Mexico is so small, you’re working with the same people over and over. But that’s really the only difference.
Q: What about acting in English vs. Spanish?
A: For me, it’s easier to act in English. The language is easier. In Spanish, everything takes a lot longer to say. Everything is “blah blah blah blah blah blah,” instead of just saying, “Hey, how are you doing?” (Chuckling.) It’s harder to make Spanish more believable, which I know sounds weird.
Q: You’re very well-known in Mexico and getting well-known here. Is that something you are pushing for?
A: I used to aspire for that but then I just realized it’s better to look for quality work and somehow things will happen. I have an American agent and a European agent. I’ll work anywhere; it’s just not a goal to work in the U.S. Honestly, for me right now, the priority is to spend as much time as I can with my 7-year-old daughter in Mexico City and work in projects that really speak to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big studio movie or an independent. I don’t care.
Q: You’re billed as a producer on “Everybody Loves Somebody.” What does that mean?
A: (Laughing.) It means they didn’t have the money to pay me what I usually charge.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8849. Twitter.com/randy_cordova.
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