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Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick in Ray Donovan season 6, episode 4 "Pudge" - Photo Credit: SHOWTIME Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick in Ray Donovan season 6, episode 4 "Pudge" - Photo Credit: SHOWTIME

Ray Donovan

Sandy Martin talks Ray Donovan’s Sandy Patrick (Interview)

Photo Credit: SHOWTIME

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The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Ray Donovan’s Sandy Martin about her extraordinary performance as the multilayered, true to life Sandy Patrick.

There’s a family member in all of ours hidden somewhere in the soul of Sandy Patrick on the sixth season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Actress Sandy Martin’s portrayal was so effectively comforting that Mickey and Bunchy weren’t the only ones who let their guard down, it was us. Close your eyes and you can still visualize the iconic sizzle of a lit cigarette as Sandy rides off a heist as a presumed millionaire. Ice Cube’s “Drink The Kool-Aid” roaring in the background with the thumping heavy bass of the car’s audio system. A Donovan in every sense of the word.

Martin told The Natural Aristocrat about the grand experience of working on the series this past season. The juxtaposition of a character longing to escape her loneliness while robbing herself of the opportunity by taking the money bag. Only to realize it wasn’t impressing others that she was after… It was having a family to call her own again. Having a purpose instead of just a home.

Interview with Sandy Martin on Ray Donovan’s Sandy Patrick:

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Was it decided early on that you’d have the same first name on Ray Donovan? How did that happen?

Sandy Martin: All I know is by the time I was shooting my third episode, one of the producers said to me, “We wrote this role for you because you auditioned for us once before. You were so funny and great, we never forgot you!” I think because of that, they used my first name Sandy.

How often did you get to ad-lib on the show? I’ve seen a lot of fans, myself included, love the “Cop Kebab” bit!

(laughs) They have a little bit of wiggle room but mainly the reason I was attracted to the show is because the writing is so, so fantastic! And it’s up my alley. I mean, of course, I ad-libbed here and there. Like when I’m telling him all the jokes in the living room and they all rush out the front door, and I go “Wahh, fun buster!” That was definitely something I buttoned down the scene with. But you know the writing is fantastic, I love the writing on the show. I trust it!

Speaking of Ray Donovan’s writing, how do you feel the show depicts Sandy Patrick’s story arch relative to the Donovans? It seems like Sandy is riding in euphoria after she takes the money, only to discover there’s no one to show it off to. That all her old friends have passed.

I just think they need a hideout and remember that their long lost brother Cormac had a widow and she was a live wire and a lot of fun. But that’s not their first reason for looking her up! The first reason is that nobody would ever think to take the house of a widower from the Vietnam war which was so many years ago. They were smart to figure out to go to her house.

She mentions once or twice that she’s been a bit lonely and that’s why she’s playing horrible comedy nights at horrible bars. Making stupid jokes that she thinks are funny. She needs to meet some more friends because she’s lost quite a few of friends, as we find out later. The tricky part about Sandy Patrick is why would she run off with all their money when she finally has some family in her life? But I guess money talks, bullshit walks! (laughs)

Would you like there to be flashbacks showing Sandy and Cormac’s relationship next season?

Well yeah, but I don’t know what plastic surgery we’re going to need to have to make us believable! (laughs) Sandy Patrick is dedicated to every kooky aunt you’ve ever had that danced in a party bombed out of her mind, with a lampshade on her head. I just think that they stumble into coming to her house and then realize that, “Hey, we can relax around here!” I’m like a scammer myself. You know? I get in this nun’s outfit and he says, “Well, what are you doing?” And I said, “Haven’t you ever heard of a clerical discount?”

I’ll go out and pretend I’m a nun and beg on the street, I’ll do anything. So they hit gold when they arrived at my house… Because I’ll do anything to have all those hunky men around for me to put the make on! (laughs)

I thought whenever they said, “Go to Sandy’s,” on the show you knew something was going down. It always delievered too, like in the season 6 finale when you chopped that guy’s head off!

(laughs) I’d like to say that I come from these people because I have a lot of relatives that are detectives and cops in Brooklyn and stuff like that. But certainly me and my family are not running around chopping people’s heads off! I think it’s just that New Yorkie, Boston attitude, and I’m originally from Philadelphia.

I’ll never forget Esquire magazine once ran a survey on all these popular towns in the United States and Philadelphia came up as the vendetta state! (laughs) So, I’m used to that kind of rowdy East Coast toughee stuff. It’s a pleasure to be back in those shoes after living in L.A. for so long.

What was it like shooting that dance scene with Jon Voight? It felt organic and really had a classic Hollywood feel to it. As if Sandy and Mickey were right there dancing in your living room.

Yeah, Jon’s very creative in that sense! In the last few episodes when Bunchy’s in the room he dances with him a little as well. When Sandy was dancing with Mickey, I was playing that I was so bombed, that it was just making me sad that my husband wasn’t there.

Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick and Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in RAY DONOVAN (Season 6, Episode 04, "Pudge"). - Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: RAYDONOVAN_604_1210.R.jpg

Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick and Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in RAY DONOVAN (Season 6, Episode 04, “Pudge”). – Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: RAYDONOVAN_604_1210.R.jpg

Mickey tried to cheer me up and I’m just trying to function because I’m not used to plowing one whiskey after another. But when Sandy’s in this crowd, she’s just letting it flow. So I sort of played it like, “Okay, you want to dance? Well, I can barely stand up but I’ll have fun with you for a minute!”

I thought your character had a interesting relationship with Bunchy. One second you’re taking care of Bunch in a grandmotherly fashion then the next, you’re openly flirting with him. How did you feel about the scene where Bunchy tries out the priest uniform with Sandy in the room?

I’m really flirting with him, I say from the minute he walks up to my front porch that he’s “well endowed for an infant!” That was the clincher line for me! I had a couple of people swimming around me for jobs and when I read that line, I went, “Well, I’m in!”

Then, I showed him the back bedroom and he’s gonna have to sleep on the floor but I tell him, “I’m happy to share!” So I’m trying to get one of Bunchy and Mickey into my bed… But I don’t know as Sandy Patrick, the back story of Bunchy’s traumatic experience with his priest. She can’t play that because she doesn’t know that, you know? So she’s just like, “Oh come on, put that thing on! Don’t worry!” She’s a little bit lighthearted about it because she doesn’t know what the poor guy is going through.

I thought that was a really fun scene to do because I act like, “Come on, we’re going to take pictures! You’re just going to wear that.” I think he’s just uncomfortable wearing something different. I had no idea about his past history and that’s why I go, “Okay, come on you can put this on!”

I thought one of the most memorable scenes, if not the most memorable, this season was right after you stole the money. When you see Sandy smoking in the car and listening to Ice Cube rapping, delighted. It was just a really fun scene! When you were reading the script did you think she’d get away with it?

Oh, she thought she was going to get away with it! She just has a whim, she’s bombed, everyone’s passed out in her living room, then gets up and sees all that cash there and loses her mind! She stuffs the cash in her bag and takes her bottle of vodka and hits the road in her crappy car. I don’t think she thinks of the consequences too much at all. Her plan was to get together with her friends and wave some money around, take them for big dinners, and buy them things that they needed. She was gonna play God for two seconds.

In the back of my mind, in my back story… I think after I’ve spent some money, I’ll go back and return it, because I miss them. You know? The key to this character to me is how lonely she’s been and now she has a house full of fun. So when Bunchy catches me, chokes me, and is yelling “Where’s the money?! Get in the car!” Daryll is like wait a second, ‘This is a really old lady! Why are you tossing her around like that?’

Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan and Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick in RAY DONOVAN (Season 6, Episode 08, "Who Once Was Dead"). - Photo: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: RAYDONOVAN_608_01.R.JPG

Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan and Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick in RAY DONOVAN (Season 6, Episode 08, “Who Once Was Dead”). – Photo: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: RAYDONOVAN_608_01.R.JPG

And next thing you know we’re in the car and I’m telling this story about two guys, the snap monologue. One of my favorite pieces of material! Big Peter and Peter the painter, they were playing a game of snap and suddenly two 10s come up. Then Bunchy, even though he was so pissed at me and he’s lost so much because of me… He couldn’t help but think, “Christ what a funny old lady she is.” Dash Mihok had this kind of sneaky smile on his face after I finished that monologue.

My favorite Sandy joke this season was the cannibal clowns saying ‘You taste funny!’

(laughs) That was one of my favorites too! I love it! That’s one of my favorite jokes because it worked better than, “Did you know that pigeons die when they have sex? No. Well, the ones I have sex with do!” I think that’s one of the worst jokes I’ve come up with! But I’m trying it out because I want to do it a comedy night and Bunchy breaks my fun.

When you work on Ray Donovan, do they generally tell you your character arc ahead of time. Do you know if your character is going to make it into the next season or do you just go episode by episode?

They just tell you when you’re working and get over to Brooklyn because I live in L.A. now. You know I got very little direction. I mean, some people said a few little things to me but I just went with the rhythm I think is right for that character. Everybody was laughing so much that they didn’t want to mess with me as far as changing things up. But no you don’t really know what’s happening.

I jokingly said to show runner David Hollander, “Well… After chainsawing somebody’s head off I guess I’m not going to live very long!” (laughs) He goes, “Oh don’t worry, don’t worry! That’s not a problem at all.”

I thought your performance was incredible this season and you had great, seamless chemistry with the entire Donovan family. Especially with Mickey, all your scenes together felt so effortlessly natural on-screen.

Thank you! Jon Voight is a wonderful actor and he’s very thorough in his approach. One thing David Hollander told me is he couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to just sink into this family, and get all the different people. All their different jokes and rhythms. He was impressed by that. I said, “Well, these are my people. What are you talking about?!”

Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan, Pooch Hall as Daryll, Kerris Dorsey as Bridget Donovan, Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick, and Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in RAY DONOVAN (Season 6, Episode 12, "The Dead"). - Photo: Mark Schafer/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: RAYDONOVAN_612_4401.R.JPG

Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan, Pooch Hall as Daryll, Kerris Dorsey as Bridget Donovan, Sandy Martin as Sandy Patrick, and Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in RAY DONOVAN (Season 6, Episode 12, “The Dead”). – Photo: Mark Schafer/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: RAYDONOVAN_612_4401.R.JPG

Do you feel your acting method has changed significantly since you started?

I’m very lucky that I can do drama and comedy believably. I go from ridiculously different roles. A couple of years ago I played this really sad sack, goofy, losing your mind, mother of Tennessee Williams in the last play he wrote called, A House Not Meant to Stand. It was in a renowned theatre here in L.A. called The Fountain Theatre and people just couldn’t believe that I went from Mac’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where I’m this weirdo who doesn’t speak, just grunts to very believably this sad old woman who’s just lost her son but has a sense of humor.

But now, Sandy Patrick to me is so thrilled to have people back into her life because she never remarried. And these are her people. Now they’re in, thick as thieves. I mean, they’re in it so deep, they have to stick together. They’re not going to just pull away from her house and say, “See you! We’re going to stick you with three bodies in your backyard!” I’m really glad I can switch gears and play different kinds of roles, where it’s a certain caliber of a person. Where you can say, ‘They’re not that awful yet!’

I feel that’s what makes Ray Donovan’s characters so special because they all have their own flaws but they’re still extremely likable. Every single one of them really, even dangerous ones like Sam Winslow.

Yeah, that’s true about Sam Winslow. I’m sad to see her go actually, I was like, “What?! Woah…” I unfortunately had no scenes with her. I have my own little pack back in the house of sin! (laughs)

In-between seasons of Ray Donovan, you’re playing the role of Verna The Secretary in Disney’s upcoming reboot of Dumbo! How did you go about becoming part of the timeless franchise?

I used to hang out with Tim Burton back in the Beetlejuice days because a friend of mine, Glenn Shadix, was playing the Interior Decorator (Otho). The big guy with the crew cut hair. He unfortunately is not with us anymore but he had a lot of parties at Tim Burton’s and his own house, so I knew him. And the DP on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was also the DP on Dumbo.

They were saying, “Where are we gonna get somebody who sounds real New Yorkie or East Coastie or whatever to play Michael Keaton’s (V. A. Vandevere) henchwoman?” The one guy (Ben Davis) who was the DP said, “Well, we had this funny old lady on Three Billboards, her name is Sandy Martin,” and Danny DeVito was sitting there and goes, “She’s on my show!” Then Tim Burton says, “You mean Sandy Martin from the 80s? Yeah, she is New Yorkie… Okay, let’s fly her out!” (laughs)

So I was given that job and it was great to see Tim again. I don’t have a very large role, but Tim Burton works magic with little funny characters bobbing in and out of his fantasies. I was thrilled to be there! I play the head of the secretarial pool and I have a bunch of secretaries that I bark at. They run around and help me!

Thanks Sandy!

Thank you!

Check out Sandy Martin’s official website to watch some artful moments in her Drama, Comedy, and Combo acting reels! Be sure to catch Dumbo when it arrives in cinemas across the U.S. on March 29, 2019.

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Interviews

Rob McElhenney talks Mythic Quest: Quarantine (Interview)

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Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine - Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney via Apple TV+
Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney via Apple TV+

Rob McElhenney spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the production of the highly culturally relevant Mythic Quest: Quarantine, the future of Hollywood, shooting on iPhones and more.

This interview contains spoilers for Mythic Quest: Quarantine. It was conducted this past Wednesday, May 20th fittingly online during a journalist roundtable press day.

Rob McElhenney described the challenges of making Mythic Quest: Quarantine come alive on Apple TV+’s streaming platform to The Natural Aristocrat. The episode’s cast all shot their parts individually from home on their iPhones… Perhaps, an omen for the future of Hollywood for the next year or more. McElhenney detailed how one scene where his Mythic Quest character Ian visits a lonely, quarantine shellshocked Poppy was actually the actress’ real-life husband.

McElhenney on his unlikely body double:

“I left for one particular scene where I was walking outside. But then I just walked right back onto my property and walked into my garage. The person on the other end of that particular exchange is not me. That’s a body double, and that body double is Charlotte’s real life husband, Bayden.

Bayden [Hine], who is not an actor by the way. And he suddenly forgot how to stand like a human being. (laughs) So he could hear me because he we were all communicating through these earbuds and I was saying, “Okay, Bayden you know just stand there.” All of a sudden he forgot to do what you’re supposed to do with your arms when you stand as a human being. Standing! And he just started to like kind of raise up in like this robotic way.

I was like, “Bayden, Bayden, stop, just stand!” (laughs) The poor guy was such a trooper because he’s not an actor and has no experience doing this, and all of a sudden he’s not only acting, he’s pretending to be me. He’s a 6 foot 2, 200 pound Australian man and I am not. And he’s got me in his ear telling him how to stand!”

Rob McElhenney Interview with The Natural Aristocrat:

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: When I was watching Mythic Quest: Quarantine, all I could think was if this is the future of Hollywood… If shows for at least the next year, maybe even past that, are all going to be recorded from the actor’s homes. Do you feel that’s what’s going to happen?

Rob McElhenney: I hope that this is not the future of Hollywood. I hope that we can be back together working again on these soundstages. But I just don’t know. And I think anybody that pretends to know is not paying attention. So you know from my perspective, I always want to come up with a plan and be ready for the worst and best case scenarios.

But at the same time, I think we have to be respectful of what the situation is, the experts, and the people out there who do this for a living. And as a television writer, I am not one of those people. I respect science and I respect scientists, and I’m going to listen to them.

Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine – Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney via Apple TV+

I feel with this episode that you were ahead of the game. I did notice the camera footage was still professional level quality despite the webcams.

Well, first of all, I appreciate that! Thank you. Yeah, the truth of the matter is we shot everything on the iPhone. At the risk of sounding like a commercial for Apple, we could not have done it without the technology of that company and those phones. And this is not hyperbolic to say, this is the truth. The camera in the most recent iPhone is better than the camera we shot Sunny Season 10 on.

It collects more information than we were able to do in Sunny Season 11, as well. So, the ability for us to do this is both, technologically based but also just simple human ingenuity. Sticktoitiveness and desire to want make something great… Under not so ideal circumstances.

I was excited to see the final scene with all the contraptions set up and the webcam boxes… I felt it was partially spoiled for me personally with the zoom ins. I was wondering if there is going to be an unedited version released where you just see it straight through?

It’s funny that you should say that because Craig Mazin (Creator of HBO’s Chernobyl & Lou on Mythic Quest) had the same exact reaction you did! I sent an early cut to Craig because I always check in with him because he’s really smart and understands what we’re going toward.

I said, “Well you’re crazy!” Both of you guys are crazy because you’re wrong. Trust me this is the way, it’s gonna be better this way emotionally. He said, “Yes I understand but trust me the way that my brain works is different than the way that your brain works. I’m telling you it’s gonna be more satisfying to just see this thing operate all the way through without cutting into each individual box.”

He said, “What you have to do is cut a version of that together and then release it after you release the episode.” So sure enough, I did that. I have it. It’s ready to go. And for people whose minds work the way that yours works and Mazin’s works you’re gonna get what you ask for. (laughs) And it really truly is pretty cool.

Thanks Rob!

Thank you!

Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine – Photo Credit: Apple TV+

Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interviews with Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet’s Charlotte Nicdao on portraying Poppy and F. Murray Abraham on C.W. Longbottom’s backstory.

Watch Mythic Quest Quarantine now on Apple TV+. A free 7-day trial is available for non-subscribers.

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Better Call Saul

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez talks Better Call Saul’s Bagman (Interview)

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Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez as El Jefe and crew - Photo provided by Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez
Photo provided by Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about playing an unknown cartel’s ‘El Jefe’ opposite a shivering Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul’s iconic, 5-star “Bagman” desert shootout.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez praised Better Call Saul’s co-creator Vince Gilligan as a visionary, with a sharp eye for the tiniest of details in our interview. Every second mattered in the Gilligan directed “Bagman”, featuring G-Rod’s crew abruptly stopping Jimmy’s $7 million-dollar sunswept, victory lap drive into a life-altering nightmare. For the first time on Better Call Saul, Jimmy’s silver tongue was unholstered to no effect. It shot blank, after blank, after blank. No word Jimmy could say was the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

G-Rod’s ‘Jefe’ saw the abogado as nothing more than collateral damage, signaling the universal ‘cut off his head’ motion after confirming the money was all there. G-Rod walked The Natural Aristocrat through the intricate foundations that made Bagman’s shootout unforgettable. The moment when Jimmy McGill had to pay steeply for the actions of Saul Goodman, lives interwoven irreparably forever.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez gives signal as El Jefe to take out Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC

This interview contains spoilers for Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 (“Bagman”).

Interview with Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez on Better Call Saul:

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: The shootout in “Bagman” is one of Better Call Saul’s greatest scenes. Arguably Top 2 alongside Jimmy’s speech to Kristy Esposito in my opinion. The entire moment has very little dialogue outside of Jimmy, building on explicit intimidation and chaotic silence. What was it like being the leader ‘Jefe’ of the scene?

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez: When I first got the call, I was so excited that the episode was going to be directed by Vince [Gilligan] because he gets so invested in every single shot! All the details. That’s something that anyone who’s watched his work on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad appreciates. I knew why they chose me for this role because they wanted to really dig in from all angles and provide the audience as much coverage as possible. So, that the audience could appreciate the intensity of the situation that Jimmy was in.

That’s why they wanted somebody with a stunt background, that had an action background. If you had to focus on not only providing that coverage and getting those angles that made that scene so intense, it would be that much more difficult to get an actor that you had a double. That way they could really just focus on Jimmy or Saul, I think it was Jimmy in that moment.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez approaches Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as El Jefe on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC

They opted for a stunt actor so they wouldn’t have to worry about those angles, they wanted someone who was going to sell the action, obviously safely. We were going to sell all the action safely. I knew going in when I read the script, I knew it was going to be intense and that Vince was going to go above and beyond. I was already visualizing from paper to the day that this thing was going to be very expensive. We were out there for two weeks, and I think that originally it was slated for around eight days.

At one point, the stunt coordinator Al [Goto], came up to me, “Hey Vince wants to get more of this. Would you mind sticking around for another 2-3 days?” I was like, “Let’s do it!” It ended up being two weeks out there in the scorching sun. (laughs) It’s so amazing the way Vince works, he wants to really dig into every single action. Vince told me, “I’m visualizing this guy really wants the money. He gets pissed off, goes this way, and then gets shot by Mike (Ehrmantraut).

Were you disappointed your character gets shot? I mean it was an amazing moment when you picked up the bags but also the Jefe’s exit from the series.

I loved everything about the scene! Of course, I would have loved to have lived through maybe a couple more episodes but I knew what we had to do. I knew what Vince was trying to get across. When I get sniped while running off with the money, it was funny because Vince was like “G-Rod you’re going to run this way, you’re thinking damn it, I want to leave with this money! And then you get sniped here.”

I kind of showed him how I would lay into my death, and he goes, “Yeah but you really want that money! You’re not letting go of that money, you’re hanging on to that money with your hands into your death.” Me and the stunt coordinator looked at each other for this five second moment, looking back at each other, then back at Vince. Because I knew what he was getting at. He wanted me to keep my hands on the money bags and then face-plant on concrete, on pavement.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe attempts to run away with the Money Bags – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC

Did that hurt?

Oh yeah, I had to do it a total of nine to ten times. If you look at it, that’s a little dirt sprinkled on top of actual concrete pavement. Under the scorching sun, 110 degrees, whatever it was. So he looks at us and says, “Can you make this happen?” And we both go, “No problem!” (laughs) I knew what was coming! If you’re doing stunt work, it’s not going to be one take typically unless it’s going to be a hard reset where you’re going to swap in a whole vehicle or something like.

Vince told me, “I really want to feel that life steps outside of that body suddenly, and then you face-plant.” I had to really use that core strength to sell it while staying safe. To make things more complicated, Vince wanted me to land facing a certain way so the camera could capture my face, “There’s a tattoo I want the audience to see on your neck.” Think about it, you’re ‘dying’ and you have to really focus on all these intricacies. (laughs) Vince said, “Oh by the way, I don’t want your leg to land twice on the bag. I want the bags free and clear of your leg!” I was like, “Okay, got it!” (laughs)

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe takes Car Key from Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC

That sounds like hyper-attention to detail!

Oh it’s incredible! He is unbelievable and he is thinking of every single detail. It’s funny on one take, they were aware that I was deathly scared of tarantulas. And they were out there, they actually caught one. Word got to Vince that I was deathly scared, and on one take I died and there’s so much gunfire. You know these are real guns, we’re just shooting blanks. I have earplugs, so I didn’t hear them yell ‘Cut!’ and I’m not moving because I’m dead. At one point, Vince got closer and louder and yells “G-Rod tarantula!” And you better believe I got up immediately! (laughs)

The way everything was shot and the way Bob Odenkirk works is phenomenal. The guy really knows how to elevate a scene. There was a moment where we did a hard reset, a good 30-minute reset, they had to clear his shirt of dirt and such. And Bob jumped right back into it on the ground, crawling to the car like that! I thought, “Wow this guy logs back in so quickly!” A good thirty minutes, Bob just takes a sip of water. Within a split second when Vince said “We’re going hot. We’re going to spit fire” Bob is dialed back in. It was truly amazing to see that kind of sharp talent. I think we can both agree and appreciate, that he had to really step up. Jimmy had a situation that Saul had put him through. And now it’s Jimmy who’s got to deal with it.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez in shootout as El Jefe while Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] crawls on ground – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC

He had to really sell that Jimmy is in a f****d up situation and really elevate it. So, that the sense of fear would really come through. We know the guy is talented but to do it so quickly after over a thirty-minute reset process that pulls you out of it, to dial it back in two seconds is just amazing to see.

I thought there was so much incredible body language in this scene. You could practically watch it on mute and it would still come across. First when you grab the key out of Jimmy’s hand… And especially when the ‘Jefe’ gives the universally understood signal to ‘cut off his head.’ What went into crafting that major moment?

When I signal Kenneth Trujillo (Matedor) to kill in a way that Vince wanted to deliver, “Less is more”. The ‘Jefe’ goes for the money, he breaks a smile, he’s thrilled, can’t believe it. You’re done with this guy. You’re done, just signal your guy to kill him, what are you going to do? Vince gave me a bit of creative liberty there, which is where that motion you’re talking about came from. I say Épale which means “Hey!” in Spanish over in Venezuela, where I’m from. Then I’m back to the money.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe signals Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman’s [Bob Odenkirk] fate – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC

It’s cool that they kept that in because I’ve had Venezuelas reach out to me and say “Oh you must have been a Venezuelan cartel!” Because we don’t really know anything about this mysterious cartel other then I’m the Jefe of it.

How do you feel about Stanley Kubrick style ‘take as many takes as needed until it’s perfect’ directing as an actor?

I love it! That’s what you saw with Vince and this scene. When you’re looking at a setup that takes thirty minutes just to get Jimmy in the right angle when he’s walking to that rear view mirror… Just to get that 1-2 seconds shot of that angle. Taking in 30-45 minutes of resetting to shoot it not once, twice, three I think it was four times, you’re thinking alright this guy has a vision.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe signals Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] to get out of the car – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC

He wants to have an arsenal of coverage, so when editing comes around, he has it all and then some! That was cool to experiment. I started my career in this business in ’09 and I have yet to see somebody who’s out to create that arsenal of coverage like Vince.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez motions Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as El Jefe to get out of the car on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC

I’ve read that you originally wanted to be in the U.S. Border Patrol before becoming an actor, and acted out a literal audition in a job interview for it. Is that true?

Yep, and after that you could hear a pin drop in the room. You know, it’s this big formal setting, with three senior level, big, armed border patrol agents. They’re been in it for ten to fifteen hours, and there’s a circular clock on the wall. It’s a pretty typical government room, all white walls and a table. So this guy looks at me and says, “Okay. Well, we’ve never had that before.” And he looks at the other guy.

“Typically when candidates do when we give them this scenario, they explain what they’re going to do. You have opted to show us. Okay, just give me a minute.” He confers with the other two guys and my heart’s f*****g racing. They might actually call a psych ward to have me taken out of here.

Then they turn to me, and the middle guy in charge says “After conferring, we’ve all decided that was a great job. Very unique. And you passed!”

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez – Behind the Scenes on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez

What ultimately made you decide to pursue acting after passing? I assume being a U.S. Border Patrol Agent was your dream at the time?

I walked out of there, and I’m like, “What just happened in there?” I had a self-analysis that night, and realized, I enjoyed the storytelling. I enjoyed that most of all! I reached out to an artist crew and started auditioning for student films and they were like, “Man, your look is amazing!” I was like “What the f**k are you talking about?”

I always thought I just looked like a regular dude, I didn’t know I’d be perfect playing bad guys. I thought, let me explore this a bit further and I auditioned for Burn Notice and Graceland. I had all these passion directors calling me up saying I love your look! And I was like, “What the f**k is this man?” (laughs) I was like let me capitalize on this bad guy thing and the storytelling.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez – Behind the Scenes Shot on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez

What kind of weaponry training did you have over the years? It’s noticeable off Better Call Saul alone that you’ve obviously had experience and know how to hold a weapon realistically. Do you spend a lot of time at gun ranges in preparation for potential roles?

It’s constant, I own firearms and it’s our responsibility as stunt performers and stunt actors. Obviously, my passion is first and foremost acting but I’m always going to be in a situation acting-wise where I’m holding a gun, throwing punches, or something. My background is in Karate, Gōjū-ryū, so it’s my responsibility to keep my entire arsenal skillset ready and fresh. So, when I walk on to a set on a day like that day, they’re going to notice how I hold a gun… And the audience sees this guy knows how to handle a gun!

In the behind the scenes clip of “Bagman” you posted on Instagram you’re singing the lyrics to a song, what was it?

In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins, released in 1956. That got a couple of chuckles because you’ve got these two guys, ready to rollout for a shootout and listening to this.

Thanks G-Rod!

Thank you!

Behind the Scenes Shot of El Jefe’s Crew on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez

Follow Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez on social media on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and his official website! Discover all of G-Rod’s acting roles on IMDB.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez Promo Picture – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez

Be sure to read Saul Goodman Vs. Jimmy McGill: What’s in a name? on The Natural Aristocrat!

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Homeland

Elham Ehsas talks Jalal Haqqani in Homeland Season 8 (Interview)

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Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, "Fucker Shot Me". Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME

Elham Ehsas spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Homeland’s notorious Jalal Haqqani going from exile to reclaiming the Haqqani lineage with pride.

Peace in the rearview mirror, a son lives vicariously through a childhood, idolized vision of his father. An RPG replacing the traditional bejeweled crown for his inheritance. Homeland star Elham Ehsas discussed the complicated dynamic between Jalal Haqqani and his father Haissam with The Natural Aristocrat. One inadvertently leading to the death of Max Piotrowski in the crossfire of black market, political chess. The potential for global war lingering with one triumphant speech leak via cell phone recording. What it means to carry on the Haqqani name in a world that already accepted the title’s curtain call.

Victory always peeking through the looking glass… Only to be an unremovable ship in a bottle. “Just strong enough to never lose, just weak enough to never win.”

Interview with Elham Ehsas on Homeland’s Jalal Haqqani:

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Jalal Haqqani capitalizes on his father’s death by lionizing Haissam’s youthful aggression. Thus, maintaining the Haqqani lineage and right to be his natural successor. Is it a product of active adaption (‘never letting a good crisis go to waste’) or was it always his dream to follow in the footsteps of the man he once admired?

Elham Ehsas: I think Haissam was both Jalal’s biggest idol and biggest heartbreak. He grew up with a father who was the lion of Afghanistan, the one who stood up to what Jalal saw as an injustice and an attack on his country. Growing up with a father like that must have reinforced that zeal that was already growing in his chest.

Having been brought up in Afghanistan myself, my parents would often tell me that the first generation of Taliban were just the orphans of the martyrs who had lost their lives to the soviet invasion and they joined the war to avenge their fathers and drive the Russians away. They became a problem when their children grew up to take their father’s place in the Taliban and that is what I think has happened here.

Jalal is almost Haissam but version 2.0 even though he lacks the natural charm and charisma of his father, but his zeal for the war is double. He truly believes his father is wrong and is letting his land and country down with what he saw as cowardice by negotiating with the only enemy he has ever known.

Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

In your opinion, did Balach choose to confront Jalal privately out of fear or respect for his father?

I think in my head, Balach and Jalal both grew up together, almost as brothers under Haissam’s roof and it can be argued that maybe Balach is the son that Jalal can never be. Supportive, understanding and always there for his father.

The confrontation was like a definite fork in the road, where Jalal gives him the choice to go with him or against him. But it’s different now. They aren’t the friends that I suspect they were growing up.

Seear Kohi as Balach in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

Why do you feel Jalal decided to shoot Max instead of keeping him for extended leverage with the Americans? Was the statement worth more than any trade or was it genuine payback for his father?

I think genuinely Jalal loves his father. Regardless of what he thinks of him, he was an idol to him. Max served no purpose and Jalal isn’t clever enough to use him as a leverage, he’s more head strong and uses his emotions. But I suspect he may be developing a little bit of tact, especially when he watches how Tasneem so expertly weaves webs in everything she does. Maybe he might be learning?

(L-R): Maury Sterling as Max and Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “Fucker Shot Me”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

Of the scenes worked with Numan Acar, Nimrat Kaur, and Seear Kohi on Showtime’s Homeland, what are some of your favorite behind-the-scenes memories?

I have watched Nimrat in a Bollywood film called Lunch Box, so I remember during lunch we would often talk about that film and what it was like shooting it (it’s an amazing film if you haven’t seen it). It was an absolute pleasure working with them all.

Nimrat Kaur as Tasneem in HOMELAND, “Deception Indicated”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

Do you feel Jalal shares any remorse over the way he and his father left their relationship barren? Or was the public humiliation enough to leave a permanent mark of resentment for Jalal?

Yes, I do think there is always remorse because he did truly love his father and trying to get him assassinated was a form of that love. He didn’t want to watch his hero turn into the pathetic man he was clearly becoming in his eyes. But the public humiliation would have definitely burnt that bridge forever. But as with real life, we may burn bridges but we often think about the flames even years later.

(L-R): Numan Acar as Haissam Haqqani and Damon Zolfaghari as the second guard in HOMELAND, ÒThrenody(s)Ó. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

What was your daily routine to get into character as Jalal? Did you have any pre-filming military style training for handling the RPG?

Yes I did do some work with our great armourer, Thibault, who taught me different way to handle a gun and some basic military movements. I always prepared for the role a few month prior by hitting the gym because I knew Numan [Acar], my father, was very well built so I wanted Jalal to be able to hold his own with his father.

(L-R): Numan Acar as Haissam Haqqani and Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

Do you feel Jalal has fully considered the consequences, to himself, his country, and globally through the revelation of taking down President Warner’s helicopter? Whether a lie or truth, he becomes public enemy #1.

I think what’s happened so far is everything that Jalal would have wanted to happen, in terms of elevating his position, taking the reigns from his father, and leading the war himself. But whether he’s ready for it, is something we need to wait and see.

Thanks Elham!

Thank you!

Follow Elham Ehsas on Instagram and on Weebly.com.

Missed an episode of Homeland? No problem! Catch up on Showtime Anytime. Optionally, you can also sign up to Showtime on Amazon.

(L-R): Numan Acar as Haissam Haqqani and Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

Be sure to read Homeland: Would you have made President Hayes’ decision? and Homeland Season 8 Episode 4 Review: Must See TV, Groundbreaking for more in-depth analysis of Showtime’s jaw-dropping final season of Homeland.

Check out more coverage of Homeland Season 8 in The Natural Aristocrat’s Homeland category section.

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