In what he’s considering his crossover film from the entertainment industry in Mexico to Hollywood, actor Jaime Camil stars in “Pulling Strings,” a romantic comedy from the same studio (Pantelion Films) that recently had major success with their box-office breaking project “Instructions Not Included.”
In “Strings,” Camil, who has starred in a number of telenovelas in Mexico including “Por ella soy Eva” and “El cielo en tu Mirada,” plays Alejandro Fernandez (not that Alejandro Fernandez), a mariachi singer working in Mexico City who is looking for a way to get to his daughter in Arizona. He soon meets and falls in love with Rachel, an American diplomat who ends being the person that denies him from obtaining a visa to make his trip to the U.S.
During our interview, Camil, 40, talked to me about how he used his relationship with his own daughter to help create the emotion in the film and what it is about mariachi music that he enjoys.
What was it about your character Alejandro Fernandez that you could connect with?
Well, first of all, it’s very funny that his name is Alejandro Fernandez because as you probably know we have a very famous singer in Mexico with the same name whose nickname is “El Potrillo” (The Colt). This Alejandro in our movie is a very confused guy. I’m a dad, so I can tell you I don’t function properly when I’m away from my daughter. This guy is so confused because he thinks what is best for his daughter is to send her away to Arizona to live with her grandparents. He’s completely lost in life. But thanks to his best friend Canicas (Omar Chaparro), he realizes his daughter doesn’t need the best school or best ballet academy. What she needs is love from her dad.
Did you think it was important for your first American film to be a wholesome family project?
Yes. It’s a romantic comedy. It’s rated PG. It’s a love story from Mexico to the world. Sometimes in Mexican films, the only things you see are bad news or the realities we have in Mexico like crime and drugs. But there are other realities we have like stories of hope and happy endings. We have to embrace those, too. I think that’s what we try to do with “Pulling Strings.”
Did you use the relationship you have with your real-life daughter to help build the one you have with your daughter in the movie?
Definitely. Actually, my character sings five songs in the movie. There is one scene where I have to sing one of those songs to my daughter [in the movie] and it was very difficult to sing those words because it’s a very heartfelt song. I really thought about my daughter while I was singing that song. I was like, “OK, please give me a break because I’m going to cry like a baby right now!” My relationship with my daughter definitely helped.
Was there something specific that drew you to this story beside the father/daughter relationship?
Well, I usually decide if I’m going to do a movie based on if I like the script or not. I thought “Pulling Strings” had every single element that a classic romantic comedy needs to be a success. It’s very well written. The cast was amazing. It was a decision I made based on the power of the script.
Was it fun to get all decked out in the mariachi outfit?
Yes. You have to do it with a lot of respect and honor to the culture. When you put on the suit, you really feel like a superhero. You feel like you did when you dressed up with a cape as a kid like Superman. The Mexican music and lyrics are so gorgeous. It was a huge, positive element to the story.
Did you have to study the way a mariachi performs to make that part of the character feel genuine?
Yeah, you’re right. There’s a very specific way they sing. I had opera training for three years and I have three albums out. I also did a Broadway show. I’m an actor that sings, so it is in my blood. It is in my system.
Well, in the film you focus more on soft mariachi ballads. You don’t perform songs like “Mariachi Loco” or anything like that. Was that something you wanted to stay away from?
Yeah, because mariachis are not all about “Mariachi Loco” or doing the Macarena. The real mariachis in Mexico are singers like Agustín Lara and Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete – the Golden Era of Mexican Filmmaking. Mariachis sing very soft and very beautiful. That’s old-school mariachi. They are caressing the songs.
We recently saw another movie from Pantelion Films, “Instructions Not Included,” have some incredible box-office success. It is now the most profitable Mexican film ever. Do you think “Pulling Strings” could do the same thing and find the demographic they are looking for?
From your mouth to God’s ear, right? I would hope, but I honestly don’t think so. Phenomenons only happen once in a lifetime. But it’s definitely opening the door. I think Pantelion Films has a very good success rate. I think the elements people liked about “Instructions,” we have those in this movie. There are a lot of similarities, but they’re different movies in their context and stories. The following that [“Instructions Not Included” lead actor] Eugenio [Derbez] has, I would venture to say Omar and myself have the same following [in Mexico]. Hopefully, it will do well in the box office. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed. We love Eugenio to death and are very happy about his success. He’s a good friend of ours. Hopefully, we’ll ride that same wave.
Do you hope this movie brings you more opportunities to make American films?
Well, hopefully I will never turn my back to the Latin American market, but I am doing [“Pulling Strings”] to crossover. We’re getting there. I have a small part in another movie with Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine (“Elsa & Fred”). But this isn’t about a career of speed. It’s all about resistance. It’s a lengthy process, but we are willing to do it.