In this Q&A we talk with actor Andres Perez-Molina who portrays U.S. Marine Hernandez in the short action/war film Devil Dogs.
Q: What attracted you to the project?
ANDRES PEREZ-MOLINA (Hernandez): Number one: the story attracted me. I had watched the film Lone Survivor about a week prior to receiving the script for DEVIL DOGS, and that movie stuck with me. I had never seen a group of actors be so invested in their characters. The brutality in that movie was so intense, you almost have to look away at certain times. The brotherhood that they brought, the pride of the U.S. military – those elements stuck with me.
When I received the DEVIL DOGS script I felt it was a short film version of that experience. I felt that my character, Lance Corporal Hernandez, was - along with Hicks - the core of that experience. It would be like playing Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kirtch’s parts in Lone Survivor – the two guys who were the core, who had been there and done it.
In the dialogue, Hicks is more the laid-back funny, charismatic kind of guy and also the leader, and my character was “say-less, do more”. He was the “old soul” of the group. I didn’t have as many lines, but my lines are impactful. My dialogue is more than just talking about the war and the mission. Hernandez questions what is going on, but he is fully committed to his country and his job. Hicks is lovable, he is in the moment. Hernandez is looking at the bigger picture.
Q: Are there any similarities between you and the character you played?
ANDRES PEREZ-MOLINA (Hernandez): I am naturally very protective of my family and close friends. Like Hernandez, I tell people what they need to hear not necessarily what they want to hear. It’s about caring versus taking the easy way out of a situation.
Q: What do you think you brought to your character?
ANDRES PEREZ-MOLINA (Hernandez): I think I brought an experience and confidence in who Hernandez is. My perspective was Hernandez had more questions than the other Marines. Whereas, Hicks was the one with the statements, and the orders, and the plan, very black and white – Hernandez was the one who felt there are some gray areas in the situation. There is something wrong here – there is something bigger going on than what we’re doing. Yet, his first commitment was to the mission.
I wanted to bring a big brother or father approach – let Hicks lead but Hernandez will be the backbone and ensure everyone is good-to-go. It was shown through actions, as well as through the dialogue that the character was almost questioning everything he was doing and yet still loved and respected what he was doing. He’s internally asking the question “What is the real meaning of why I’m doing this – are we eradicating the threat or increasing it?” That is the core of what he is about, and when I recognized that, it gave me a point of focus to bring him to life.
Q: How did you prepare for your role?
ANDRES PEREZ-MOLINA (Hernandez): I felt Hernandez’s character was so committed to his service that the Marines were almost his family. I naturally felt that Hernandez probably didn’t have a family. He had somehow lost his family. During rehearsal working with Greg we created a backstory that Hernandez has a sister who Hicks has been dating. That informed my performance – I thought it was perfect because now I know I’m the over-protective brother. I’m her only family – no wonder Hernandez is the way he is.
A week prior to shooting I told my family I was only going to email them. I didn’t communicate with them in any other way. I didn’t call. I didn’t want to hear their voices, because every time I did I felt I was right back home in Virginia with my extended family – talking with my young nieces and nephews, everyone laughing and happy, it would put me in a cheerful frame of mind. I didn’t want to feel that. I wanted to create a sense that I had no family. It brought a certain loneliness not having that contact, and it also made me appreciate more the Marine brotherhood.
Q: What was the experience on set and working with the other actors?
ANDRES PEREZ-MOLINA (Hernandez): The first day of table-reading we all just clicked. We all fit our roles. It was the perfect casting. Everyone became their character immediately. Nothing was forced. Everyone brought something to the table. Everyone knew where they stood. A natural trust formed between all of us. It made it easier to be Hernandez with all those other great actors.