Actor Jordi Mollá knows what it takes to play the bad guy. From an insane Cuban drug lord in “Bad Boys 2” to a notorious Spanish arms dealer in “Knight and Day” to a violent henchman in “Colombiana,” Mollá has found a comfortable niche playing characters on the wrong side of the law. He continues on that path in his latest film “Riddick,” the third installment of the Vin Diesel –led franchise that started in 2000. In “Riddick,” Mollá plays Santana, a bounty hunter who travels with a team to a desolate planet to locate Riddick (Diesel) and bring him back dead.
“Riddick” was just released on DVD and Blu-ray Jan. 14.
What is it about the antagonist in the film that attracts you to those kinds of roles?
You know, I think this industry, in a way, needs to label things for the audience. I guess I’m just another label. Of course as actors we try to escape from the label. You can also apply that for musicians and artists. If someone like Prince doesn’t play “Purple Rain,” he’s not Prince. All of us are condemned to a label. So, my label is to play bad guys of Latin origin in American movies. I’m happy with that label. I prefer to play that than to play a city boy. The bad guy is always something very tempting for the audience. Anything that scares the audience on the screen is good. They won’t forget. They’re scared of the guy. If you see “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson, you remember him not only because he is Jack Nicholson and because he does a wonderful job, but because he is a threat. The bad guy is someone people will have in their minds forever if it’s a good bad guy.
You seem to be comfortable being “labeled,” so when you do get those roles that are different than the norm, do you know what to do with them? Is it a challenge for you to switch it up?
Well, my career in Europe and Spain is different. I think [playing the bad guy] is something related only to the American industry. It’s hard for the American industry to see a Latin actor playing something that is not a gardener or someone in a cartel. It’s hard to find the material that tells a story of a Latin or European Spanish guy that is not a bad guy. But on the European side, I’ve been able to play very different roles like saints and doctors and homosexuals and poets and romantic guys. I’d like to try to show to American audiences all my potential as an actor. But, as I said, I’m more than happy to play the bad guy until then.
I couldn’t agree with you more about Latino actors getting labeled a certain way. I think that’s why someone like actor Oscar Isaac has done something pretty amazing and rare with his lead role this year in “Inside Lllewyn Davis.” You just don’t see those types of roles ever going to Latino actors.
Yeah, I know. But someone will break the rule again, my friend. Somebody will do it! It just needs to happen. My dear friend Javier Bardem, in the American movies he’s played the bad guy very often. It’s something related to the American point of view. But I’m sure it will change.
Well, let’s talk a little about your new bad guy role as Santana. What did you like about him as a character?
Yeah, Santana is a crazy guy. He’s part of a team, but he has his own rules and plans. I have to deal with everyone. That gives me a lot of responsibility to have to deal with so many characters. I’m not only against Riddick. I’m against everyone, basically. That gives a lot of different colors to the role.
Was this the most special effects you’ve worked with in your career? Were you comfortable on the green screens and pretending to fight off CGI jackals?
Well, I just finished shooting a film with [director] Ron Howard (“In the Heart of the Sea”), which has a very spectacular scene with special effects. This might be the most special effects, it depends. I mean, “Knight and Day” with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, there was that scene with the bulls and there were really no bulls. You had to image everything – the bulls running, the people running. But, yeah, in “Riddick,” everything was green. Besides the jackals, everything was real. We had a huge, massive spaceship on set. The green screens were used more for the planet and how the planet looked.
Since starting your acting career in the late 80s, what have you learned about yourself as an actor over that time? Has anything become easier or more difficult?
I really don’t know what I’ve learned, but what I can say is that every time I get in front of a camera I still get nervous. Obviously, I have more technique and experience, but it’s a strange thing. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still get nervous! I think that’s part of acting – to still get nervous and control that fear. I don’t know how to get rid of that.