In the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, Carlos was just the character the Gecko brothers were meeting in Mexico, and the third character played by Cheech Marin in the film. In From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, he is a main character and played by Wilmer Valderrama. Season one ended with Carlos sent into the labyrinth under the Titty Twister.
Rest assured, Carlos is back in season two of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Wilmer Valderrama was on the El Rey panel for the Television Critics Association, but I got to speak with him one on one. Season two of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series premieres tonight and airs Tuesdays at 9PM on El Rey.
Nerd Report: Is Carlos in trouble this year?
Wilmer Valderrama: I would say that everyone’s in trouble from Carlos. I would say that he was sent to the labyrinth, not expected to come out alive. He makes it out of the labyrinth a changed man, you can almost say insane. Now Carlos has a vision for what the future should be and he has a mission. He has a movement he’s starting himself. He doesn’t look very stable. He’s very unpredictable. He’s very twisted right now, borderline demented. That makes him very dangerous in everyone’s journey on the show. You will see that play out throughout the season, how he will once again, like he did in season one, he will be the puppeteer where all these characters collide. Six months before I came back to work, I got in the gym and started working out really hard. I wanted to show Robert and the showrunners that I wanted Carlos to be as dangerous as anybody else and I wanted, at the first sight of him, to be like, “Oh sh*t, here comes Carlos.” I think even Carlos Coto said there was a cue card in the writers room and that all it said for season two was, “Oh sh*t, here comes Carlos.” So we made it fun. We came in there, we started adding all those layers. He spent 500 years nurturing and making Santanico Pandemonium a goddess. He created the Titty Twister and made her the center stage attraction, and then she betrays him. So when he gets out of the labyrinth after spending almost an eternity there, he spent an entire lifetime in there, over 90 years. Outside in the real world, it was just a couple of months I guess, but inside the labyrinth it was 90 years. You see him tormented, you see what he sees in that labyrinth and no one can be expected to come out a sane man.
Nerd Report: That’s why I was worried for Carlos.
Wilmer Valderrama: Who knows? We’ll see. We’ll see for sure. I’m definitely bringing hell to a bunch of people on the show.
Nerd Report: Even Malvado and The Regulator?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yeah, yeah. They all get a version of what Carlos has in store for everyone, that’s for sure. I think everyone one the show has a certain connectivity with one another, but for Carlos, he’s got a vendetta over not only the system, the organization, but what he thinks the future of the Culebras should be. And he’s going to do anything and everything to control it.
Nerd Report: At the end of season one, did they tell you what this was leading to for Carlos or did you have to wait to come back?
Wilmer Valderrama: What was really cool is that we said we sent him to the labyrinth to be re-educated. That’s the only thing we knew. Then I had an amazing meeting with the writing staff and Carlos Coto in Los Angeles and we started talking about how do you see him surviving? What happened in there? And what does he want when he gets out? Because he probably doesn’t want the same thing he wanted in the first season. He wants something else. It wasn’t about making her a goddess anymore and having her be the queen. Now it’s about him. What do you want? What does Carlos really want? That’s what we started building from? What would now be his road? What would be his journey? It was a destructive one. That’s what we came up with. It was a destructive road. He was on a very destructive path.
Nerd Report: Is it fun to be part of the scenes about how Santanico became Santanico?
Wilmer Valderrama: The time lapse, it’s very cool. What’s really fun about what Robert does is there’s no rules. If we want to go 200 years back, we can. If you want to add another character that obviously was part of that mythology, you can. The canvas was blank going into it. It was really fascinating to see how many generations she’s been this image of seduction. The fact that I was, in a way, her caretaker, her painter, the guy who made the myth, who made her a goddess and made sure that people would follow her and worship her, that was the road that they took together. So to look back into it was awesome. I look back at season one two, when I arrived as a conquistador and I discover her inside the labyrinth. That was a pretty cool look back at how this all began.
Nerd Report: You’re on two shows now, with Minority Report coming up. Are there any movies in the works?
Wilmer Valderrama: I’m getting ready to announce a big feature film. I can’t tell you too much about it but you’ll hear about it very soon. Big movie that I was also the production team. I produced it with my company as well. I also have this other movie called To Whom It May Concern from French director Manu Boyer that probably comes out sometime later this year as well. An independent film, fantastic story, beautiful performances. Everyone did a fantastic job in there. That comes out later this year too. Other than that, there’s a few other things we’re getting ready to finalize that we can announce. I’m also going to be working with the El Rey network, leading some of the initiative of their digital platform, let my mini studio to partner up with a digital studio to produce and develop content and curate some of the tastemakers that come in to make films. I’m excited to produce alongside El Rey and also continue my relationship with Robert.
Nerd Report: You were involved in a CHiPs movie for a while. Did you have anything to do with the one they eventually made?
Wilmer Valderrama: No, I didn’t. I kind of just lost track of a lot of that. In the studio system, it’s very unpredictable when a movie goes and when it will go or not go. I actually just read about it and I’m excited that the story’s going to get told and excited for them.
Nerd Report: They’re making a more serious action movie. Is that different than your approach would have been?
Wilmer Valderrama: Not really. We were Lethal Weapon. We had a pretty similar take. Look, I think at the end of the day, the point is to keep making movies. I’m proud of Michael Pena because he’s one of my favorite guys. The fact that he’s sitting on that chair I think is awesome.
Nerd Report: As a producer, are you able to give actors who may have been typecast a chance to break out of their boxes?
Wilmer Valderrama: Yeah, for sure. In the spirit of my company, what our company started doing was developing, yes, a diverse world but also kind of take off a little bit of what Robert started. Robert empowers actors to do things that audiences have never seen them do before. I really truly believe that it’s in our actor DNA to morph, to evolve, to transform. Actors have stories they want to tell. Actors have passion projects and passion scripts they want to tell that they know for a fact that if they were placed in that role, they will absolutely kill it. So I wanted to create a company, a mini studio, that allow us all to come and work together and make those passion projects a reality, because as we all know, studios and networks are not making enough shows a year. They’re having a tough time. They have a certain definition what they feel the audiences are watching at the moment, but all of us as performers and storytellers, we know what our audience is. We know what our fans will want to watch. Because of that disconnect, I created a disruptive platform for them to come in to say do it ourselves. Let’s raise the funds ourselves. Let’s shoot it ourselves and direct it ourselves and start it ourselves. Distributing is not an issue anymore because it’s all about creating content and we know how to find an audience. I think today it’s more empowering of the audience and the creator than the platforms. I think every network and studio is fighting to get the audiences to tune in. I think therefore, us as influencers and as artists, we have an easier way of getting to the audience. I think we’re playing on that and trying to empower that and I think that’s the point of creating a platform like this. Create a coalition of friends that can come together and create together.
Nerd Report: It’s funny, the studios and networks may be creating fewer shows each, but there are so many more of them that there’s more than ever to choose from. How do you get the audience to stick with you?
Wilmer Valderrama: And to add to what you’re saying, content is now getting louder and bigger and more expensive, because that’s just how you retain attention. That’s the philosophy. A simple comedy about two guys is not as exciting anymore. It has to be this odd look at society or an odd look at this group of people or an odd look at this person’s life. So it has to be somehow high concept. I think the way to keep the attention is to produce to your audience. Not one size fits all. I think that’s why networks like HBO and Netflix and Amazon are finding this crazy success because they’re unapologetically making content that doesn’t have to be for everyone. I think that’s where audiences are finding a voice and finding their own personal anthems. They go, “I’m this type of guy. I’m a House of Cards kind of guy so anything in the House of Cards universe, I will want to watch.” That’s a big audience.
Nerd Report: You’re right. Netflix even said at the TCA that since they’re a subscription service, they don’t need to make shows that appeal to advertiser demos. They can just make the shows people want to watch.
Wilmer Valderrama: That’s the future, by the way. It used to be that networks were like, “We love the show. It is fantastic. We know it will win 10 Emmys, but unfortunately we can’t get anyone to fund it. We can’t get advertisers to invest into air time.” That was really what started happening. Therefore, now content started being dictated by the ability of a network to sell an ad. That was a chicken before the egg conversation that allowed most networks to fail. I think the networks that were the most innovative and light on their feet to pivot and change and try things, like I love what El Rey is doing. I think it’s just so unique of a network.
Nerd Report: Fox was like that too, where you got started on That ‘70s Show.
Wilmer Valderrama: Fox started out that way and is returning to do that again. Look at the lineup. It’s like I don’t care if you’re an ABC person, an NBC person, a CBS person. There’s something somewhere in there. Today it’s not about where it’s showing so much. It’s about getting it to the audience. I started at Fox. We were the first of our kind at Fox. When had you ever seen a sitcom like That ‘70s Show. There was nothing like that on television period. Fox was the one to give it a shot and Fox was the one to say, “We’re going to ride with it.” Season two of That ‘70s Show wasn’t a success. It was a mild success. We were in a sandwich between The Simpsons and The X-Files. The dilemma was: are they getting ratings because of the sandwich on Sunday night or are they a real hit? When they started moving us from Monday, to Tuesday, to Wednesday, back to Tuesday to eventually end up on Wednesdays, they saw that we gathered fans on every night. All of a sudden, in season three it took off and we started getting two year pickups, but it was a struggle at the beginning.