In this Q&A we talk with actor Raihan Baqui who plays Marine Juarez in the short action/war film Devil Dogs.
Q: What attracted you to the project?
RAIHAN BAQUI (Juarez): My agent and manager submit me for projects that they feel is best for my career. The projects I submit myself for, like Devil Dogs, are the ones I usually book because I’m choosing them because I connect in some way with the character. Acting is a passion, but it’s also a channel for many other dreams of things I want to experience in my life. Through acting I can be a rock star, I can be a gymnast, I can be a Marine. Devil Dogs allowed me to have a military experience. Of course, as much as I try, I can’t even imagine what the real Marines had to go through. We were actors on a set that was designed to look like Iraq, in costumes meant to make us feel like we’re in the military, in extremely hot conditions in the middle of summer – but we had the privilege of going into an air-conditioned trailer – the real guys are not playing.
Q: Are there any similarities between you and the character you played?
RAIHAN BAQUI (Juarez): When I read Juarez, I said “This is me!” I felt I could play him. He was almost an alter-ego of myself in another universe. It gave me incredible confidence going into the audition. My similarities with Juarez is the eagerness and the optimism. All the rookie mistakes that Juarez makes – when I get excited, I’m like that.
Q: What do you think you brought to your character?
RAIHAN BAQUI (Juarez): The script and the character breakdown were both strong. I wouldn’t say that I added anything to Juarez, I more filled in the character in different spectrums - bringing parts of myself, both my conscious actions and subconscious actions.
Q: How did you prepare for your role?
RAIHAN BAQUI (Juarez): Growing up, I was always the smallest, weakest guy – and I would be picked on. I had a friend who joined the Marines, and he had this incredible confidence, and composure, and internal strength. I associated that with Juarez.
My preparation was mostly mental preparation. I went to the script and started personalizing everything Juarez was going through to make it resonate with my own life. I also researched the Fallujah battle and watched video footage on the Internet. Just viewing what these guys went through caused me incredible anxiety, and allowed me to understand somewhat, not just the physical aspect, but the mental preparation these Marines must have in that situation. My duty as an actor was to bring as much truth as possible to their story.
Q: What was the experience on set and working with the other actors?.
RAIHAN BAQUI (Juarez): On set, like Juarez looks up to the older Marines, I looked up to the other actors. The experience was incredible, I felt like I was finally considered a “brother”. The best part was, as actors we were fulfilling our characters’ needs on camera, and off-camera we were still those same characters with one another, we had that bond.
I was nervous to work with Eric Roberts because he is such an esteemed actor. That feeling I was experiencing in my scene with him [edited from the film] was the same as what the character Juarez is meant to feel meeting the Colonel, so it added to my performance in a way I hadn’t expected.
The filmmakers were so committed. There is a scene where my character is dragged on a dirt street and the camera angle is from Juarez’s point of view. One of the cameramen [Steve Carter] put on the military uniform and was dragged around through the dirt to get that shot.
Before Devil Dogs I considered myself an “aspiring” actor. I had never played a substantial character. This job allowed me to realize and say to myself “I am a professional actor.”