Today’s Guest: Paula Garces, actress, Red Princess Blues, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Alex Ferrari, director, Red Princess Blues
Paula Garces’ lovely features may be familiar to you if you saw such movies as Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Clockstoppers, or Man of the House with Tommy Lee Jones. She also flirted with Meadow’s boyfriend on “The Sopranos” and has guest-starred on “CSI:Miami.” She was also promoted to series regular for the upcoming fifth and final season of “The Shield.”
In April, she’ll be in a Harold and Kumar sequel, Escape from Guantanamo Bay. I’m laughing just thinking about that.
Today I’ve invited Paula on the show to talk about her current project in which she voices the lead character in Red Princess Blues: Animated. We’ll also be joined momentarily by the film’s producer, Alex Ferrari of Numb Robot Studios.
BOB ANDELMAN/Mr. MEDIA: Paula, what is a beautiful young woman like yourself doing out of sight in an animated film? I can already hear a thousand fan boys crying.
PAULA GARCES: I appreciate that “lovely” comment. I was just really drawn in and really attracted to the character of “Red Princess,” and I just wanted an opportunity to sort of work on the voice-over side of production.
ANDELMAN: Have you done any of that before?
GARCES: I’ve never done any voiceover and always talked to other friends, actors and actresses, that have done it before, and they’ve always had great experiences and have always told me about it and how relieving it is not to think about the way you look or any of those things that you have to think about when you’re doing a live-action piece. When you’re doing voiceovers, it’s all just creativity, and it all has to do with your voice, so it’s great. It’s a relief, actually. It’s really nice.
ANDELMAN: I think I read recently where Mike Myers was talking about doing all these Shrek movies, and someone said to him, “Do you really show up in pajamas without a shave and having not showered?”
GARCES: I could totally see him doing that although I didn’t show up in my pajamas for Red Princess. I didn’t think about it. That would’ve been more comfortable.
ANDELMAN: How did you get involved with my friend Alex?
GARCES: Alex and I met at a workshop called NALIP. It’s a workshop that’s held in Tucson, Arizona, for writers, directors, and producers who sort of want to work out their coming projects and have an opportunity to work with working actors and sort of actually film one or two scenes of their script. And we worked together about a year and a half ago. He invited me to be his lead actress in one of his other projects, and we loved working together. I guess he got enough nerve to show me Red Princess Blues, the short story. I read it, I loved it, got back to him, and then he presented me with some lovely artwork done by Dan that was just really inspiring and creative artwork that had to do with the live-action film that we’re planning to do. And I just loved it. Then I guess they got together and wanted to do an animated prequel to the live-action film, and I just thought “How creative! And what a great tool to sort of try and market and get this film up and going.” The animated short film just came out so beautiful that I’m really inspired and have a lot to work with as a producer as well.
ANDELMAN: I want to tell folks who are listening. You can check out the prequel. It’s just a short bit of animation at redprincessblues.com. Were you much of an anime fan or even an animation fan before you got into this?
GARCES: I love animation. I love cartoons and animated films. I’ve always liked them, films like Shrek and Finding Nemo and things of that sort. And I just got turned on to Adult Swim at Cartoon Network. I have been a fan of “South Park” for a long time so I’ve always liked that sort of thing, but I was not very educated on anime and how hard it was and how protected the art form really was. When I saw Dan’s work, I was really inspired and really saw how talented he was so I immediately wanted to do something like it.
ANDELMAN: You referred to Dan. That would be Dan Cregan, the director, I’m assuming.
ANDELMAN: Why don’t we bring in the film’s producer, Alex Ferrari? Alex is no stranger to Mr. Media regulars. I did a program with Alex about his last demonstration film, Broken, which I still think is an amazing piece of work for such a short film. Alex, welcome back to Mr. Media.
ALEX FERRARI: Thank you for having me back, sir.
ANDELMAN: Glad to have you here today. Obviously, you know Paula.
FERRARI: Yes, we’re familiar with each other. Hi, Paula.
ANDELMAN: Alex, what can you tell folks about doing an animated prequel — or introduction — to what is intended to be a live-action film? This is a little different process, I think, both, well, not so much for you but probably for Paula and other people. Tell us a little bit about how this came about.
FERRARI: Well, basically, I had written a feature film called Red Princess Blues a while back, and my creative director, Dan, for my company came to me and asked me he’s like look, I really wouldn’t mind your help doing an animated movie over the summer cause he had some time off, and he wanted to kind of spread his wings a little bit and do an anime. At that point, a little light bulb came up, and I said, “Would you like to do a prequel to Red Princess Blues?” And he’s like, “Why not? That’d be great.” And it was born from there about six months ago. We started in June, and we finished the first week of December. And Dan worked his little butt off. He came to me with 35 shots, and then I told him no, we need more shots, and it ended up being about 85 shots because I didn’t only produce it, but I wrote it and edited it as well as kind of guided the process in regards to the vision of the film cause it is based on my feature film that we’re gonna be doing, hopefully, in the coming months.
Dan was wonderful. He’s such a talented artist, and I wanted to spotlight him as much as we can, and he’s been very instrumental in helping this movie get made and helping also getting Paula’s attention with his artwork as well as the story and the script. That’s the process we went down in. We were just kind of using the template that the Matrix boys used with Animatrix a few years back when they released I think it was nine Japanese anime shorts as a prequel to their second part, A Matrix Reloaded. And I thought that would be a good idea, and no one really in the indie world has done that before so it’s kind of a unique thing cause it’s very difficult to do. It’s not a 3D movie. It’s a hand-drawn, old school, 2D Japanese anime with some visual effects, wizardry here and there, but for the most part, it was Dan sitting down drawing hundreds and hundreds of images and animating them. I think that’s why a lot of people have been so receptive and been kind about the film.
ANDELMAN: How do you convince someone like Paula, who’s got some substantial credits, to do something like this? I’ll ask Alex, and then Paula, you can refute whatever he says.
FERRARI: First of all, you slip a Mickey in their drink. Secondly…No, you know what, when I was given the opportunity to work at the Latinos Producers Academy for NALIP, and they asked me, “Who do you want to work with on your scene?” I’d already thought of Paula and was writing the part for Paula for Red Princess Blues so I took the opportunity to cast her in the scene that I was doing and also wanted her to see how she would do in that scene, but my intentions were really…It was a set-up. I ambushed her. I was able to work with her on this project, and I literally had a movie poster drawn up. Dan drew up a wonderfully beautiful movie poster with her as the lead character in it. We used her face. In rehearsal one day, I just said “Hey, I wrote something for you with you in mind,” and that always gets an actress’ attention. I think so. Paula might refute that. I’m not sure, but I think it’s flattering when you say, “I wrote something for you.” And then if that wasn’t enough, then I slammed oh, and here’s your movie poster.
GARCES: Actresses don’t like any pictures of themselves at all (laughs) because, really, most actresses hate seeing themselves on posters.
GARCES: The bottom line is Alex is a very talented director. I got to see him how he would work on a set firsthand cause we did do two scenes together, and he was very talented, had a lot of cool things to say that inspired me in both those scenes and for this project. And then Dan’s artwork was extremely beautiful — not cause I was in the poster (laughs), but it was just very well-done, and he had shown me some other artwork that would inspire the film and sort of give me an idea of what the film’s mood would be. At the end of the day, the short story was really well-written and very beautiful, and the character of Red Princess … I just was drawn to her and knew that it was gonna be a challenge for me, but it would be a challenge that I would love to take on. And that’s why I’m passionate about this piece.
ANDELMAN: Paula, why don’t you tell folks a little bit about the short anime that they can see at redprincessblues.com?
GARCES: I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?
ANDELMAN: Yeah, I’m sorry. Can you describe a little bit about the prequel, the animated section, that people can see online, what this little bit of story is about?
GARCES: It’s basically about a young girl who finds herself in a situation where she has to rise up from it. I don’t want to give the story away, but she’s basically sort of an orphan and is being taken by this caretaker who’s not very friendly, and they’ll know what I’m talking about when they see the short story. And it’s basically her discovering some talents that she has and discovering that she has to go on this path whether or not she wants to or not. She doesn’t know yet, but she knows that she definitely has to take control and go on this path to find out more about her past so that she can have a future. It’s just really well done. It’s very beautiful. There’s a lot of mood to it. It just creates a very whimsical sort of Wizard of Oz but in a sort of new way type of feel to it. I just love it. I like that you can sort of sense the action that’s going to come from that, and you can sense that the story is going to be a very true story, a very realistic character with some very extraordinary powers. It’s just done in a really creative, very beautiful way, and hopefully, people will enjoy it.
ANDELMAN: Alex, I want to make sure that I explain it well, or if I don’t, you do. You have this short animation that’s sort of the prequel, the introduction, to Red Princess Blues, but the movie itself that you’re planning to make is not animated.
ANDELMAN: It’s live-action, right?
FERRARI: Correct. Correct. I found that’s confused a few people cause it is a new concept of introducing a live-action movie with anime. Batman is going to be doing it this summer. They’re going to be releasing six animated shorts as a prequel to the feature, and The Matrix kind of really was the first one to do that with the Animatrix. And then a few other major studios or major projects have followed that suit, but yeah, that’s basically it.
And by the way, to see it right now at redprincessblues.com, you can find out information about the short, but to actually watch the short, the full seven minute short, it’s exclusively available for the next thirty days only on latinoreview.com, which is a huge film website that is spotlighting us, and it’s only there for the next thirty days.
ANDELMAN: And so what’s the deal with a couple Latinos working in a Japanese format?
FERRARI: (Laughs) Well, Dan is not Latino. He’s not Japanese, either. That’s the other thing I think a lot of fan boys and people in the industry have really taken notice is because it’s a Japanese anime made by Americans but definitely has a Latino flavor to it. So it’s a Japanese anime with an American flavor that’s Latino dabbled on top of it. There’s never been a Latino-based Japanese anime so it’s a very new and unique take on a very old craft. And obviously, Dan’s American, and he’s just a big fan of Japanese anime, and we’ve been compared to a lot of the American animes like the “Spawn” series and “The Maxx” that was on MTV and even “Aeon Flux,” the original “Aeon Flux” cartoon, as well, which are all wonderful, and we’re very grateful for those comparisons. But, yeah, it’s kind of a unique thing having a few Latinos doing Japanese anime.
GARCES: What I like about it is that I think it’s very representative of what young people in this country are like today. No one that I know of, that I hang out with and friends of friends and friends and kids who I know, no one really sticks to just their own kind of their own thing. Everyone’s listening to each other’s cultures and influences and sort of making up new ideas and creative things. And that’s what I like about this that yeah, we are a couple of Latinos and a white boy who’s drawing Japanese anime, but it’s sort of what we’re not afraid to express what we are influenced by even if it’s not by our own certain culture at that given moment. I think the risk that we took is a good one. I think it’s a good one, and it sort of represents what young people are doing today, creative young people, which is not necessarily sticking to their own backgrounds but sort of taking things from their own backgrounds and other cultures and sort of mixing it up to do new things, new and creative things. That’s what I liked about it.
BOB ANDELMAN/Mr. MEDIA: I was thinking about the business side of all this, and I kind of guessed where Alex is coming from. He’s got a piece of animation here that sets up the feature, and I’m sure he’s trying to get financing for it. And then, Paula, I look at your side of it, and you’ve done some very high-profile things film-wise, and you’re on the rise and yet I look at this, and I think well, it’s probably worth the risk of getting involved with this because if it happens, if the live-action happens, you’re front-and-center in that. That could be a very big break, I imagine.
PAULA GARCES: Yes. When I go into a project, I don’t think about the future of what’s going to happen with the project. My immediate thought is, “Am I going to have fun doing this? Is this something that’s going to challenge me creatively?” And second, “Are the people involved with the project, am I going to be able to live with them for the next three to six months while the project is in pre-production, production, and then post-production?” You have to talk to these people and sort of live with these people, and I like everything involved with this project. I think it’s a very creative project that touched me personally. Then I liked working both with Dan and with Alex, and it also challenges me not only as an actress, but it also challenges me as a producer because I definitely want to go into the production side of the business. For me, it is right up my alley of what I was planning to do anyway. But to answer your question, did not really think about what the future would hold as far as like for my career in this piece, but you’re absolutely right. If it does take off, I am front-and-center, but then again, it’s a huge risk because if it’s not good, I am front-and center. (Laughs) I just like the challenge of being able to sort of baby the baby from the beginning and watch it grow and grow up and hopefully take on its wings and fly. And that’s what I think this project will do.
ALEX FERRARI: No pressure, thanks. (Laughs)
ANDELMAN: Alex, I want to turn my focus back to Paula in a second and talk about some of her other work, but I want to ask you about Broken. Has anything happened with Broken? I should remind people it was kind of a short horror film you did with a lot of special effects. It was very cool to watch.
FERRARI: Thank you.
ANDELMAN: I’m just wondering. Has anything developed in the six months or so since we last spoke?
FERRARI: Well, Broken pretty much has gone down the wayside. We still sell our DVDs. We have a wonderful community of independent filmmakers who follow the work that we do at my production company, and the DVDs have still been very helpful to a lot of people with a lot of the three hours of how we made it and helping them get their projects off. I get emails everyday of people thanking us for putting the DVD together and helping them out and answering a lot of questions for them.
As far as the project’s concerned, I learned a lot of what not to do on the road with Broken. There were a lot of mistakes made during that little round because I did get a lot of attention from Hollywood and from producers and things like that the first time around. Unfortunately, we didn’t, me and my former partner, didn’t have a lot of our Ps and Qs ready for the attention. Basically, the lesson learned is when you’re hot, you better move quickly because you have a very, very short window of opportunity.
So with this project, I decided to write the feature script first, then do a short, and then when the attention came on, not only would we have a short, but now we have a star attached. We also have pre-production. We also have concept paintings and a full animated movie. There is a video game trailer in the works as well that we’ve been working on for the last few months. So we have a nice package, and we’re not just presenting a script. We’re presenting a full property that can spawn off into other ways of trying to market the film and get the movie made. So that is what I learned with Broken, but right now as it is, Broken, other than we did release a book called The Art of Broken, which is also available at whatisbroken.com, which is about all the concept paintings that we do for the feature that will never be made and the short film and all that stuff. So that’s where we’ve been going with Broken.
ANDELMAN: And for Red Princess Blues, I’m guessing that you’re out looking for cash right now, and do you want to even say your…
FERRARI: No. Actually, no. I’m on vacation. I think Paula’s not doing a whole heck of a lot with it. No, of course we are. We’re hitting the pavement really hard. We launched the short on Monday on Latino Review and the first day got a quarter of a million views, and a lot of that was industry, which it’s great to put it up on YouTube and get 3 million views, but if none of those people can help you make the movie, it’s a waste of time. So one of the reasons we chose that website is because a lot of the industry does watch it, and we’ve been getting contacted by studios and producers and just interested parties at this point in the game and hopefully some money as well. We have a lot of leads right now. A lot of people are interested in the project, and we’ll see what happens with it. But, yeah, that’s the plan right now. We’re trying to get it done. We’re trying to get it in production prior to June, God willing.
ANDELMAN: Alright. And if you’re interested in helping our good friend, Alex, out with that — redprincessblues.com or numbrobot.com.
FERRARI: We take food stamps, money, cash, credit, whatever.
ANDELMAN: Now I want to turn my attention back to Paula. So Paula…
ANDELMAN: Every beautiful girl on the planet wants to go to Hollywood and be on TV or make movies. You’ve done both. How do you manage to stand out in one of the most competitive settings on the planet?
GARCES: Oh my God. I have no idea. (Laughs) That’s the God-honest truth. And now that you put it that way, wow, I’m scared. How the hell am I gonna get my next job?
FERRARI: She’s so scared now. She’s not gonna…
GARCES: I’ve been extremely lucky. Listen, my family and friends will tell you I am relentless. I am extremely persistent. I work really hard, but at the end of the day, actresses are spoiled. The job is incredible. It is an incredible amount of perks to it. I have a lot of fun doing something I really enjoy. It’s basically been my dream since I was a little girl. So, yes, it’s hard work, but it’s work that I really, really enjoy and really love. And I’ve just been really, really lucky to have gotten the jobs that I’ve gotten, and I hope that I’ve done some justice to the material because I’ve really had a great opportunity to work with really great writers who, by the way, I just want to send a message and say that I fully support the strike and hope that it could be resolved really quickly so that the people who are suffering from the strike can move on and make some money and get back to work.
GARCES: But other than that, I really have been very lucky to work on TV shows like “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Shield” which, by the way, I filmed the last season of “The Shield.” The first season I was recurring, and the last two seasons I became a series regular thanks to the writers and the producers of the show so I want to thank them as well. And “The Shield,” the last season of “The Shield,” should be out in May. And I’ve just been really, really lucky to be able to do things that I love. I like to do all sorts of material so I go from really serious topics like that they’re touched upon on “The Shield,” and I’m also not afraid to make fun of myself, and that’s why I do movies like Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
ANDELMAN: I could not have segued more perfectly myself. I want to ask you about Harold & Kumar. How did you land your role in the original? And while you’re thinking about that, did you ever think when you were filming a movie called Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle that it would live to see a sequel?
GARCES: I really did think…My God-honest truth is the script was sent to my manager. They didn’t know for sure if they wanted to make her a Latino, what they wanted to do with it, but the script that was sent to my manager, and he gave it to me and was like listen, I know the title’s a little out there but just read this. It’s really well written, and it’s really funny, and if you have the sort of sense of humor that I think you have, I think you’re really going to be into it. And I don’t know what it says about me, but I loved it. And I didn’t care that it was a small part. I knew that Maria would touch a lot of people’s hearts, and I knew what the director and the writers of the film wanted to do with the film. And I saw beyond…I saw the film being something more than just a stoner film. I really did see the undertones and the underlying social and economic issues that they were touching cause, believe it or not, if you really pay close attention, they really touch a lot of issues that a lot of comedies don’t really want to delve into, and it just comes out so funny. And I just loved it. I knew that it was going to be huge, and then when I worked with both Kal Penn and John Cho, I knew that they were going to become huge stars and because of the material that they were given and my opportunity with the film, I knew that it was going to be great. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t do so well the first time around, but because of the DVD following and it’s sort of become like this cult film and with this other huge following that it has had, the sequel was able to be made, which I’m thrilled about.
ANDELMAN: Now there’s a whole lot of funny on the screen in the original movie. I wondered if there was any funny behind-the-scenes anything while you’re on the set that may have happened that you’d like to share.
GARCES: The only thing that I can remember is in the original, I did not recognize — oh God, his name is escaping me! — and I feel so embarrassed now that I even mentioned it, but he’s the star of “Law & Order:SVU.” His name is Chris Meloni, Christopher Meloni, yes. I did not recognize him although him and I did not work together on a scene together in the original. I did see him on set cause they were doing his stuff separately from mine, and he came up to me and said hello to me because we had worked together prior to Harold & Kumar on an HBO TV series called “Oz.” And I had done two episodes of “Oz,” and Chris and I had met before, and then he came and said hello to me on the set of Harold & Kumar, and I did not recognize him at all cause he was in his get-up. And so I was just really embarrassed cause after that, I got seven episodes of “Law & Order:SVU,” and he was like. “You didn’t even recognize me! I’m like, “Oh, my God.” I can’t believe that sort of just slipped my mind, and I didn’t get that, but that’s how good he was in the first one. And for the sequel, it’s even better. Seriously, I didn’t think the sequel was going to be so great cause, usually, sequels sort of go down a step and maybe they take it down a notch, but they didn’t. They went even further. And I think the reason being is because the writers of the original wrote the sequel and are also directing the sequel. So it’s basically being directed from the writers’ point of view, and if you think that they went there the first one, they go even further in the sequel. So it’s great. And I had a chance to go to Amsterdam, which was wonderful.
ANDELMAN: Is that where they escaped from Guantanamo Bay to?
GARCES: Well, that’s where Maria goes in the first one, as fans remember, Maria goes to Amsterdam at the end of that film.
ANDELMAN: Oh, right. Okay. Right, right.
GARCES: And so the second one picks up right there, and so John and Kal, Harold and Kumar, are trying to get to Maria in Amsterdam, but a lot of stuff happens along the way.
ANDELMAN: So you were kind of the goal of the second movie?
GARCES: It’s kind of like what drives it, but a lot of stuff happens. And there’s still a lot of really cool people appearing, and again, of course, N.P.H., Neil Patrick Harris, is doing his thing as well which, I think, the first one sort of revived him again, sort of made him who he is again.
ANDELMAN: Paula, speaking of the end of the first movie, what I really want to know is this: how many guys see you somewhere, come up to you and say, “Fuck it,” and try to kiss you as Harold…
GARCES: That has not happened yet, thank God.
ANDELMAN: Really? If I saw you, that would be the first thing I would say. I’ve been married for twenty years, but that would be the first thing on my mind if I saw you on the street.
GARCES: Wow. Wow. I appreciate that, but I don’t recommend any guy out there to do that, please.
ANDELMAN: And I would have to follow that by and agreeing that anyone who saw Man of the House, which you were in with Tommy Lee Jones and saw you kick the guy in the bar, probably knows better than to try that.
GARCES: There you go. Thank you. Yes, absolutely. I will kick anybody’s ass if they try to do that to me.
ANDELMAN: I think we need to be clear here. It was not their ass that you kicked.
FERRARI: And after they see Princess, they’ll definitely not want to mess with her.
ANDELMAN: Ah, I see. I’m guessing Princess would be kind of a little Jessica Alba in “Dark Angel”?
FERRARI: It’s a revenge movie, and she gets a lot of revenge on a lot of people. That’s all I’m gonna say.
GARCES: I’m hoping I’ll even be an ounce as beautiful as Jessica is on-screen and off-screen. I think she’s a lovely actress and a lovely person as well, but I think I’m going to be a lot meaner.
ANDELMAN: Well, I guess the last thing I’m wondering is obviously, Paula, you’re waiting for Alex to get them to back up a truck of money to make the live-action for Red Princess Blues. What else do you have in the works? What do you have already in the pipeline?
GARCES: Well, like I mentioned before, we just finished the last season of “The Shield.” Really, we finished production like a day before the Writers Guild went on strike so we lucked out there that we finished our season before the strike came on. And it’s the last season of “The Shield,” and it’s really incredible. It’s phenomenal. It picks up right from where the last season left off, and it’s just a ride. It’s action-packed, and it’s really well written. My character just goes through hell and back, and they redeem her really well at the end, and I was very, very happy with how they resolved everyone and how they left off the season, which is the finale. So I have that coming up. Of course, Harold & Kumar is coming out April 25 so I hope that all the fans of Harold & Kumar come out and tell a whole bunch of their friends and so on and so forth. Right now, I’m just taking a much-needed rest and trying not to step over anybody’s shoes, and I’m not crossing any picket lines. I’m staying very low-key back in New York City in my home, which I haven’t been for a very long time. So I’m actually taking a much-needed hiatus with my family.
ANDELMAN: Oh, great.
GARCES: And since I’m also a producer on Red Princess, my work doesn’t stop there. I have to bring as much attention to Red Princess as possible so that we can get all the money that we need.