Sometimes when a film gains a lot of unexpected success, its actors will go to great lengths to distance themselves from the role that gained them so much fame. Whether its going on hiatus a la Maculay Culkin or Elizabeth Berkley’s move from “Saved By the Bell” to “Showgirls,” many actors have taken roles to avoid being typecast for the rest of their careers.
It seems as though Efren Rameriz from “Napoleon Dynamite” – Napoleon’s good buddy Pedro – is on the right track to a diverse career, dabbling in a little bit of everything in his post-Pedro days. From the HBO drama “Walkout,” to the recently-released action film “Crank,” Rameriz has certainly been making it hard to pigeonhole him. In a roundtable interview, the Campus Times spoke with Rameriz about his latest films, Pedro-crazed fans and what the future holds for him both as an actor and a producer.
CT: Are you worried that your more serious films won’t be taken as seriously because of the fact that you’re well-known for making people laugh?
ER: No. When I did a film called “Walkout” for HBO, even though I was the comedic relief, it was a serious issue.
It’s part of what you need to do as an actor – to be able to do comedy as well as drama. So, I have no worries at all.
CT: How did you react to criticisms of your character Kaylo, a cross-dressing informant, in the movie “Crank”?
ER: Why do they think that he’s gay? We don’t know yet – we’ll see in the prequel. But I’ll tell you one of the secrets of Kaylo is that I’m so madly in love with not only Jason [Statham’s character Chev Chelios], but as well as [Eve, played by Amy Smart].
CT: How did you get involved with production of the teacher-student sex scandal documentary, “After School?” Are you pursuing other work in the field of production?
ER: I was talking to Chris Barrett [from the 2003 documentary “The Corporation”] over at the Sundance Film Festival and he knew that I spoke at different high schools. So we decided to form a company called Powerhouse Pictures up in New York. What we want to do is start out with documentaries and move on to short films and then to independent films and from that to feature films.
In this business – the art of cinema – I want to be able to go into it as an actor, producer, director, writer.
But with documentaries, I want to do something that has a major influence. So we said, ‘Why don’t we make a documentary about this whole teacher-student sex scandal?’ No one talks about it because people are afraid to talk about it and it’s a controversial topic.
And I’m thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to move the world.’ And if I can move the world, dramatically or comedically, then I’ve done my job as a human being.
CT: What would you like to tell the college audience about your upcoming comedy “Employee of the Month?”
ER: “Employee of the Month” is for the artist and the working people in regards to the creative-type aspect. It’s a smart comedy with great writing and comedic timing.
You think about actors like Dane Cook, Dax Shepard, Harland Williams, Andy Dick and Sean Whalen [all of whom are in “Employee of the Month”] who have been doing this for years, whether it’s stand-up comedy or working as actors. And you can see their experience in the film.
People are going to be enjoying the film, so I’m really pleased and excited to be a part of it.
CT: Tell us a little about your role in the movie as Vince’s assistant.
ER: Vince is played by Dax Shepard and he’s the number one checkout guy. I play his busboy and [laughs] our relationship is quite like Laurel and Hardy [the famous comedy duo from early 20th century cinema].
My character is always getting hurt and there’s a whole love push and pull that’s going on between my relationship with Vince. You get to see it throughout the entire film, especially when I help him out to try to win the heart of [Jessica Simpson’s character Amy].
CT: You’re probably still recognized a lot as Pedro.How much fan recognition does it take for you to become eventually frustrated or angry?
ER: [Laughs] Well, when I was doing “Employee of the Month” there was one time when I went back to my hotel room and there was a girl sleeping on my bed and I said, ‘What?! I mean, talk about room service!’
So I go downstairs and talk to the manager and the manager’s like, ‘Well, your girlfriend wanted to surprise you’ and I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have a girlfriend.’
So I go back upstairs and she had a bag of “Napoleon Dynamite” stuff, like t-shirts and plush dolls?it was a little odd. But I signed it for her and we had breakfast. And there are fans out there and it’s good, but it can be kind of odd. How far are people going to take it?
CT: Was that the craziest fan situation you’ve had?
ER: I think that has been the craziest part so far. There’s been people who have actually made cakes and sent them over to 20th Century Fox assuming that Pedro’s said to live there.
[Laughs] And people think that when they meet me – for some strange reason – that [Napoleon Dynamite] is a documentary, and they’re like, ‘Well, you mean you’re Pedro, but you’re not really Pedro?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m an actor! I studied acting.’ [Laughs]
So to their surprise – especially when I DJ at clubs – they’re surprised that I played the part of Pedro but I’m not really him!
CT: So what are some upcoming projects we can look forward to seeing you in?
ER: I just signed the contract to do “Revenge of the Nerds.” I’m really excited to be working with everybody over on the east coast again.
CT: What about your movie “Searching For Mickey Fish?”
ER: It was a film that I did in Utah and to me it was exciting – the fact that I was going back to that area to work on this film. My character – I can’t even remember his name anymore, I think it was Hector – ended up becoming this multi, multi-billionaire.
It’s a comedy where people are always looking for love and trying to figure out if money can be the answer to everyone’s problems.
And again, to work with William Mapother and Daniel Baldwin and Curtis [Armstrong], who was from the original “Revenge of the Nerds” – it was a great opportunity for me to work and understand and observe acting from their point of view.
CT: Even though this was a while back, what are some memories you have of being on the set of “Kazaam” with Shaquille O’Neal?
ER: [Laughs] That was a while ago! It was fun! I was about 13 and it was my very first feature film and I was so excited about getting to work on that project because I was studying acting in east L.A. and for me to work in movies was a big deal for my family.
And then it was like, ‘Well, now what?’ and my dad was like, ‘Well, now you have to go to school and study acting.’ So they helped support me and I thought that was really cool. But I got to meet Shaq.
It’s funny because in “Kazaam” I worked with Francis Capra and we ended up working together again in “Crank.”