September 16, 2015 Interview – Ace Marrero
Following the dreams that we aspire to make reality is one of life’s magnificent challenges. For American actor Ace Marrero determination to do what he loves has driven him for over a decade in a professional career. Starring a slew of films/television series such as Law & Order: LA series (2011), Madison County (2011), Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013), and as a lead in Roadside (2013), Marrero has kept himself busy. While the road has been long and filled with a ton of learning experiences, Marrero continues to push forward with plenty of new and exciting endeavors on the horizon. Recently we sat down with the actor for a look into his passion for acting, his time working on Roadside, future projects, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in film for a decade or so now. First, tell me, what inspired you to get involved in film?
Ace Marrero – I was always an athlete. I grew up an athlete and played sports, basically, until my first year of college. I guess looking back, I was always on some sort of a platform in front of an audience. I always responded to that. In school, I was always kind of the class clown and liked to entertain people. I think a large part of that comes from just being an only child for my first eleven or twelve years before my sister was born. You kind of have to create your own mischief and entertainment at times, so I enjoyed doing it for myself. When I had others around, it was that much more of a treat. I think that was sort of the early makings of it. Then, of course, being inspired by watching different films, television actors, it was always something that I wanted to do, but again I played sports.
The schooling that I had, no one really had a theater program. I was in band for a couple of years through Elementary School. Then High School, I went to a Tech school, so I studied and I was an electrician by the time I graduated High School. They definitely did not have a theater program, it was all sports. It was not until I graduated High School, my parents are actually the biggest inspiration for why I am doing it, which is kind of opposite for a lot of actors. I was almost done with High School and I was looking to join the military, the Air Force specifically, and that was in 2000. I had a lot of family, particularly an Uncle, that worked in the Air Force for over two years. Basically, everybody was advising me against it. Nobody wanted me to join the military, my parents specifically. We had a sit down one day and they were kind of like,”You know, you always wanted to be an actor, what about enrolling in the County College and maybe taking some Acting classes.” It was kind of one of those “I didn’t think you would be supportive of that” and of course that was not the case. We all kind of did it as a team. I started taking Theater classes and played Soccer in my first year there. Then, I stopped that, just focused specifically on Theater, went on to get my BSA, transferred to another college, and the rest was history. I guess that is sort of a long answer to that question, but those are the main, key components when I look back at it.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is really cool that you had that support system from your family. Like you said, not many kids have that from their parents; directing them to go into entertainment like that.
Ace Marrero – Yes, I lost my dad a couple of years ago to cancer, so I have always been, even more so now, really appreciative of a lot of things in life, and in general. Even in this business, I have always had the mindset of, “There is always something more important than just this.” Even though this is my dream, my family, my friends, those things are always the most important to you. I think that is what has helped keep me, I do not want to say grounded in the sense of patting by own back, but just focused. This is a lot, and it can be a marathon and a lot of tough times, but I think part of what gets me through at times is I am always going to be okay. I have people that surround me that love me. I just value different things. That support coming from my family is everything. It continues to be that way, even now, as you said, after a decade, and not necessarily being a household name or any huge thing on a commercial or main stream level that people can identify. My family is never like, “What is your back up plan?” They are always just full of support, and I very much cherish that.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great thing, and it is a good outlook you have there. You have actually starred in a variety of television series, including an appearance in Law & Order: LA in 2011, but it seems that you have found a place in the Horror genre. You were in Madison County (2011), Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013), and Roadside (2013). Do you enjoy working in the Horror genre?
Ace Marrero – Oh yeah, absolutely. I think in this business, if you are an actor, or film in general, the work finds you at times. It seems Horror, specifically in terms of a sell-able line of content, Action and Horror are two of the bigger genres, they tend to get made more often, and then they translate. US comedy does not translate into foreign comedy, that is the stuff that is not the same, but someone getting stabbed or an explosion is the same in all languages. That just makes sense that is the most popular; I think that is part of it. I respond to it, personally. I grew up a big prankster; Halloween and October is one of my favorite months because I just love the idea of what being scared or scaring does to people. I have always been drawn to it as a kid and loved watching movies growing up. I have been lucky to be in a few that have made it out there to the masses.
I definitely enjoy it, I think it is great. It is one of those things that used to be sort of – not a taboo so much, but no one really took it as serious outside fans of the genre. Any big film maker, star, actor – if you look back they have all done it. I think now is an exciting time specifically for the genre because now it is being accepted on more of a main stream level. Now you see studios do more of it, big stars doing it, and big directors kind of taking it on now, so it is finally getting its moment in the sun – again. It has had it, but it is just an exciting time. I think there is not so much of a stigma surrounding it if you work on it. I am happy to be involved with it at a time when it was still a little bit of the old, and now it is progressing into something that is being appreciated on a bigger level.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it definitely has changed a lot, the genre is in the mainstream now. Roadside was actually a film that was featured in 2013 in a few film festivals, but now it had an official DVD release as of April 14, 2015. With that said, how exciting is it to you to finally get a DVD release?
Ace Marrero – It is very exciting for a lot of reason. Obviously, I am the lead of it, so on that level it was exciting. It was also my first. I had actually done another feature with Eric that never ended up being completed because we did Madison County right after it, and Roadside right after that. It was more experimental as a feature and it was hand held. It was before Paranormal and the big movement of Point Of View style films; it was very much in that vein of filming. I was the lead of that, but it was something that was never completed. Then, it was not like a standard narrative type of film. Roadside, being that first one for me, is special, as my first lead, but also too I produced it. It was a film I produced with my company, and also just the nature of it. A lot of people were interested in it early on because of the success we had of Madison County, and it was a different type of film. Even though for marketing purposes, and how it is being handled now, it is pretty much being lumped into being a Horror film, which we never really saw it that way and still do not necessarily think that is it, but of course it is the easiest way to sort of market a film like that. To show a different color as filmmakers, we also knew that this was not a film we wanted to do the same thing that we did in Madison County. The offers we had early on were kind of along the same lines of put it into the machine and turn it out the same way as a lot of other titles. We wanted to have a little bit more care and handling of it. It has been a long road to get it to here, and ups and downs for sure.
Even just on a personal level; getting it to this point. It had been silent for a while because we had gone through entertaining different offers. Eric was doing Contracted. That was starting to pick up speed so we kind of decided to hold on Roadside a little bit to see what Contracted could do in terms of raising more awareness, or worse in so many word,s for Roadside. Then, it was kind of me who said we have to get this thing going. I kind of took the bull by the horns and basically championed getting it to the point where it is now and getting it released. I reached out to Image and kind of found a sales company that handled foreign sales. It was a lot to undertake solo, because Eric was working on Contracted, so Daniel and I were doing a lot of it. It was a personal victory for me to know that I was also kind of helpful in getting it out and in front of an audience. We do these films for so little, as far as monetary, and I think everybody knows that going in. If we were doing it for money, we would not be in this business, that is for sure. For me, it is more just honoring the time that people put into it. That was kind of what I wanted to follow through on to this, especially because on a personal level, I lost my dad around the time Roadside was being completed so he never got to see the finished film. He saw a rough cut and loved it, so it was just one of those things I wanted to do to honor him, as well as my wife’s grandmother who was also a big fan of the film because her granddaughter, my wife’s sister, is Katie Stegeman, that is my sister-in-law, so it was kind of a family affair.
CrypticRock,com – Wow, that is actually pretty cool. It is finally great that the film is seeing a DVD release and is getting shown to the masses. Now this movie is filled with a lot of tension, but it also leaves a lot to the imagination. Was it your objective as the producer and portraying the role of Dan to kind of leave those empty spaces there to leave the viewers on the edge of their seat?
Ace Marrero – As a Producer, I would not say it was not necessarily my call. Obviously Eric wrote and directed the script, so that was always what he intended. We definitely have had in our films a very collaborate work flow. We all sit in and edit when there was something to show and all give our thoughts. It had a very democratic way of selecting how we wanted to move forward. It was pretty much the majority; whatever the 2 to 1 option was, was what we went with. It was kind of just understood with no hard feelings. We did not really come in and change anything. There were things that were added like the whole beginning sequence.When we are driving through the road and there is the guy that is in front of us, stomping the brakes, and we are trying not to hit him. The whole tension at the beginning, that is one of my favorite parts.
I think for us, what goes into that, that moment when we are staring through the windshield, the car stops, and we are like, “What the hell is going on,” there is that mini scare where the guy walks out from behind the car and gets into the truck. That moment was something that was added in in the editing, that was not in the script. That was something Daniel had come up with for the idea looking through footage. We ended up adding it in, and I think it is something that sets up a lot of tension and suspense for that moment, and also for that character. It was one little thing that adds a lot more to that character in the truck and makes you wonder what the hell is going on. That is stuff that we would help with and come up with ideas for, but for the most part, the script and the movie was very much Eric’s idea, and we just kind of set it out. As an actor on it, it was just my job to collaborate in my way as an actor. Also, to just follow through, deliver what is expected for that, and try and find ways to add moments to your performance. Other than that, it is the directors job to find, and you trust that they are going to create those moments through their vision.
CrypticRock.com – Right, but obviously as the actor, you have to bring it to life, and you did. One of the key aspects of the film is that the characters are so believable, and so is the story. You are extremely believable as Dan, so that also makes it work. With that said, what was it like for you to bring the role of Dan to life?
Ace Marrero – First of all, thank you for that, that was a really nice compliment. I appreciate that. I come from the theater, so for me, I am always focused on the story and the script. When I read this, I instantly responded to the character and understood the situation. I liked the dynamics of what I would have to go through as far as the character goes, like the back story, the possibility of their being some sort of affair, and then finding out that there is a lot more to it than that and there is still a lot of love. I am the sort of person that, when I see material, I always try to find a way to play the opposite and look out for the traps and the holes. On paper, it could be a character that might not be very likable or lovable, and everybody is going to play it that way. If it is written that way, then it is written that way. I remember talking to Eric early on about certain things, and I think a part of me thought I wanted to find out more about the characters that was likable. It was not a matter of Ace as an actor wants to be liked, it is just more that I know when I watch something, if a person does not have any redeemable qualities, I am like, “What am I watching, what am I rooting for here?” It is just going to be the same all the time, you need to have that balance. That was something that Eric was smart about as far as what he saw for it. He said, “Ace, you just have to trust me on this. This character might be written this way, but you as a person, and what you bring to the screen,”: I remember him saying, “there is just sort of a likable quality to you that no matter how much of a dick you are going to be, you are still going to come off in this way and it is a relatable character to people.”
It was an interesting journey for me, and even learning that, and trusting that sometimes yeah, you kind of take it for granted how you come across as a person, just in general. Some people can come across like that or some people just have a more brisk personality to them, and sometimes that is what they have to fight against. I know on Madison County specifically, that was one thing that we had to work on because I played much more of a jerk character that I could not be afraid to be too much of a prick, if that makes sense. It was fun for me. Also being able to play against Katie, somebody that I know for probably ten or eleven years now, we naturally just got along because we already had a relationship. I will say that element and the whole behind the scenes of the filming process was difficult enough where it was not tough to put us in a terse or tense situation. We are shooting vampire hours, no sleep basically, especially me as a producer, having a wrap and then doing preproductions for the next day and setting up when normally the actor would be sleeping and resting or prepping the next day on his acting stuff. We are running on fumes and it was an endurance test for sure in a lot of ways and it taught me a lot about myself, the business, how to just be challenged by it, and just do your best over time.
CrypticRock.com – Right, it is a challenge. Speaking of challenges, this film was all essentially shot in one location. As an actor, was that something difficult to create a chemistry with your co-star like that, because the spot light really was on you. It was not like there was any changing scenery in the background to distract the viewer.
Ace Marrero – Right, it is interesting you asked that. To simplify it, when I got into an audition, there is somebody reading behind a table. You are lucky if they are even looking at you. It is not like we have someone to really act against. You have to create that, and create a sort of one sided performance, fully. As an actor, we are always prepared for that, whether you are acting across somebody or they are telling you to stare at a tennis ball, or carry out a scene where my wife is dying or whatever. The fact that it was Katie and I in a car, that was just a bonus. I am lucky I had her there and somebody that was giving equal performance back to play off of. The stuff that was the most challenging was all my stuff to the gunman, because we do not have anybody in the trees. There is somebody right behind me, our script providers are just reading monotone off the page. I have to, again, like my audition, react to and look into the trees, not that my character could see anybody in the tress anyway. You have to be able to know your character arc and know how to change things based on that. You do not have somebody in front of your face in a big yelling, screaming fight scene that you can just instinctively respond off of. That was tough.
Also, because of the nature of the way the film was shot. Eric would say,”Okay, today we are set up for lighting this way, so Ace we are going to run through scene 8, 12, 14, and 16, then we have to jump back to scene 8 to get the reverse side.” It was, like i said, acting to nobody, but then out of order, and sometimes popping back to a previous scene and remembering where I was in that moment and how to sort of continue in the tone of that moment even though we shot that maybe six hours ago or maybe two days previous. That is more I would say the challenges were because we would shoot out of order and sometimes in a sort of machine gun, assembly line, sort of way. That was my first in that way, and I think a lot of our firsts in that way, and that was really challenging to over overcome.
CrypticRock.com – It absolutely sounds like a challenge. It sounds like it could be very difficult, but it all ended up great in the end. The film is very intense and people are going to enjoy it once the masses get to see it on DVD.
Ace Marrero – I really appreciate that. The reviews we had earlier when we did a few of the festival screenings, they were actually favorable of the film. It has been interesting to see how it has fallen in the timeline, like you have mentioned, it was filmed when it was and released now a couple of years later. We had our first couple of festivals play it a couple of years ago, and that is when we had some reviews come out. A lot of people were comparing it to our previous movies, saying how much they felt we had grown as filmmakers, and Eric as a director and writer. With the gap between then and now, having Eric’s last film Contracted come out and doing really well, now people are comparing it to that. Some of the reviews are a little harsher because they are comparing it to that. That is just the nature of the business, and that is just the way it goes. I do not like everything I watch either, so it is nice to hear that people enjoyed it, and I appreciate that.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and you cannot please everyone. That is the bottom line, it is impossible. You had mentioned the time gap. In the time gap, you worked on other things, and you have a TV series in pre-production right now, entitled Abigail’s Destiny. How are those future projects coming?
Ace Marrero – Yes, Abigail’s Destiny, that is coming up. It is funny you bring that up and I chuckle because it has come up recently doing press for Roadside. I think because it is one of the more recent credits on IMDb, but Abigail’s Destiny is something that a friend of mine is working on putting together. He cast me and several other actors in it and we have done a table read. They are in the position now where they are piecing it all together in pre-production. It is very much in one of the beginning stages of pre-production. We have not even rolled a single frame of footage on that thing yet, but it is definitely something I am looking forward to once we do begin. It is just funny how some people are bringing that up because it is one of the things that I have done the least amount on at this point as far as being in that limbo. I did a film in Columbia called Piloto. That is complete and I know they are trying to find a home for that. It is a drama. I play a father of a child who is very sick. I am a pilot, I fly into Columbia on my airline, and I end up getting mugged. All my documents and my passport are stolen. You find out my son is sick, who I am a donor for, so I need to get back to The States. It is a run against the clock. These drug runners find out I am a pilot and try and coerce me into running drugs for them, and holding somebody hostage.
My wife and I, she has actually created a parody series of the show Once Upon a Time on the ABC. Our show is called Once Upon Anonymous, and it has kind of taken off. The fans for the actual show on ABC are such a big fan base that they love any content that is out there for the show that we have become “The Spoof” of the show. We are currently filming a Rock Opera that we have raised money for. A lot of great actors are in it, a lot of funny stuff, and great music, so we are literally filming that now. I am trying to think of what else that might be on there that I have worked on, it is kind of hard to think of off the top of my head. I literally have been fielding phone calls for production related stuff to the Rock Opera even before I got on the phone with you, so it has been in my head-space.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you have so many cool things in the works and coming up. Speaking of Once Upon Anonymous, many are probably not aware of that and will be checking it out.
Ace Marrero – There was a line in the TV show when Emma was tracking down Lily, Lily asks something like, “Are you in some sort of 12 step program?” Unless the writers write it and someone tweets it, we are pretty positive that is in reference to us, because our show is called Once Upon Anonymous and basically it is all the fairy tale characters in a 12 step program dealing with their post-curse identities. There is a bunch of characters that are not on Once Upon A Time that we have allowed in, and a lot of the typical Disney type characters that we have thrown into Storybrook setting, so there are a few characters that we parody. My wife looks very much like Jennifer Morrison, the lead, and that is kind of who she plays; she plays Emma in our series.
CrypticRock.com – My last question is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music, but we also cover Horror movies. If you are a fan of the Horror genre, do you have any favorite Horror movies?
Ace Marrero – Yes, definitely. It is always tough for me to play favorites, but I think of stuff that has inspired me recently, and I am a huge fan of everything James Wan does. I love The Conjuring (2013) and how effective that was with his film-making and his telling of that. Insidious (2011), the first one, I think was a really solid movie. I love a lot of old movies too like Cat’s Eye (1985), and just different movies for different reasons. I love a lot of the old Ghoulies (1985) movies. American Psycho (2000) is probably one of my favorite Horror movies. I love Comedy and Dark Comedies, specifically, so there is just so many great elements to that movie that I really appreciate.
I think as far as what I was most affected by growing up, A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) is probably the scariest Slasher growing up. I was just terrified by him, and I definitely had nightmares. I think that is what those movies bring. Those were definitely effective movies for me. Fright Night (1985) is a great film. Not the most traditional, but a genre film I really loved was the original I Saw the Devil (2011) ) film. It is a revenge film. I saw it one year we were at Sundance and that movie was just incredible. I enjoyed it a lot. Again, it is not a Slasher film, but obviously the Horror genre has so many films these days, and, just by technicality, it is considered a Horror film. I believe they are doing an American remake of it. I am not too sure how I feel about that, but the original film is pretty solid. The 2015 Poltergeist remake looks really sharp, and I am definitely curious to check that out as well.