Rapid Round: Edgar Ramirez on McConaughey’s 'Gold' Diet and Netflix's Groundbreaking 'Bright' (Q&A)

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Edgar Ramirez

"One of the things I admire the most about America is how, in a little over two centuries, the social tissue has been built through the freedom of assembly," the would-be diplomat tells THR. "It’s more important than ever."

Edgar Ramirez calls himself "the hunky geologist" in Gold, the Weinstein Co. mining drama in which he teams with Matthew McConaughey to excavate the jungles of Indonesia for the titular metal.

But long before he played the mysterious therapist in The Girl on the Train, the boxing legend in Hands of Stone or the risky thrill-seeker in Point Break, the Venezuelan actor pursued political journalism and hoped to become a diplomat. Though he has no regrets — "I have an amazing platform as an actor to try to help as much as I can," he said — politics remains a personal priority. Regarding the U.S. president-elect, he smiled, "The tension between power and art is very fruitful, so I think we’re in for great art over the next four years."

Ramirez, 39, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Towers about watching McConaughey gain weight for Gold (out Friday), disrupting the traditional movie model with David Ayer's Bright, and encouraging U.S. citizens to exercise their rights.

What do you want audiences to know about your character Mike Acosta?

He was incredibly loyal to his friend. You have to remember that Mike [is in the story as] a recollection of Matthew’s character, who is telling the audience about him. You don’t really know whether he was actually like that or not. So I play a fictional character who is the product of another fictional character.

What was the toughest part about shooting the mining scenes in the jungles of Thailand?

The rain was very bad. It was a shower — imagine working for weeks in the shower! Production would always have dry clothes and towels for me, but there was no point. We had very long days, from dusk ‘til dawn. At first it felt like a nightmare, but I’ll remember it as a very cool and extreme experience that we survived. Fortunately I never got sick, and thank God we didn’t have mosquitoes.

I think [the harsh conditions] ultimately helped the film, because we were right there in the moment, struggling to get the movie made as much as the characters were struggling to find gold. I think it added texture and authenticity to the film.

You also had to deal with McConaughey’s diet so he could keep that rounder figure.

Yeah! It was tough because I wanted the burgers and the beer, but I couldn’t do it because I was supposed to be the hunky geologist! So I couldn’t have fun as he did. As he’s having so much fun, I said, “You’re a handsome guy. I mean, you’re Matthew McConaughey — you’ve spent 10 years without a shirt on in a movie and now I’m the one who needs to do the diet!” [Laughs.] He’s my brother, I love him. He’s one of the finest actors in the world and he doesn’t get hung up in any drama.

This movie is all about the twist and turns, about a mystery that we needed to strongly believe in. So we agreed on a secret that we decided never to talk about with anyone. That creates an energy that I think trespasses the screen — a sense of camaraderie that hangs on that secret, that if we talk about it, then it’s gone. We’re actors, and we’re having fun with this secret we would never share with anybody.

What do you wish you could change about the film industry?

I don’t have all the facts to say exactly how it should be changed and I want to be respectful about it, but I wish there was a way to readjust or reinvent the financing of movies so that there could be a bigger variety of films thematically in the theaters that have an opportunity to be discovered by audiences. I wish that movies did not depend on just one weekend, that movies could have the time to build their audience. Of course, now we have streaming services; that seems to be the future for a lot of films, but there’s nothing like being in a theater, in the black box, and having the collective experience of watching a film next to somebody you don’t know but you’re sharing something with. That’s amazing.

I have nothing against big spectacle films at all — I’ve done them, I’ve done Point Break, and it was an entertaining, big movie. But I would love to go through an era where you could have movies like Kramer vs. Kramer being a blockbuster, in the theater for four months. I’m an actor, I know how hard it is to make movies, and sometimes your reviews are great and you get your gratification out of an experience, but it’s not only you, it’s a whole team. I don’t know — it’s probably a dream.

Bright, which you’re currently shooting for Netflix, touches on that idea.

Yes, that’s a groundbreaking project because it’s a huge movie, a big blockbuster-ish kind of movie that’s only for streaming services. So if it works out, it might change a lot of things.

David Ayer has said it’s a “hard-R” movie with “fantastical elements.” What does that mean?

It’s more of a fantasy thriller than sci-fi. I think the movie responds to David’s obsessions with a world he knows very well: police corruption, and social and racial tensions in such a complex city like Los Angeles. It’s great to explore that part of the universe, but instead of having only people, you have orcs and elves and etcetera. Of course, I don’t want to reveal too much, but it’s a very relevant movie. There’s an element — but I can’t tell — that I think audiences will find very relevant and that they will relate to very strongly.

David is very detail-oriented and he sees everything; nothing goes unnoticed by him. He knows exactly what you do and how to take you to the places he needs you to be in. So it’s very nice — you can try different things without having to monitor yourself, because he does it for you.

Before acting, you intended on becoming a diplomat. Do you ever regret not pursuing that?

No, no, no. I have an amazing platform as an actor to try to help as much as I can.

Gold hits theaters on inauguration weekend. What’s your hope for Americans over the next four years?

I think that America now as a great opportunity to revisit and to test the strength of the core values this country was built upon. Democracy is not to be taken for granted — though it is not perfect, it is a political system that can be perfectible, meaning that it can improve every day. Democracy needs to be exercised like your body: If you don’t exercise, your muscles get weak, your bones get smaller, you accumulate a lot of pains and sores, but your body will respond well as you exercise it. It’s the same thing. If you’re an American citizen and you have the rights of an American citizen, you need to go out and exercise them. You need to voice your opinion in whatever way you can in a peaceful way. Get involved, get engaged. That’s the only way.

Politics is the highest social science because in the end, it’s all about advancing societies in a collective way. When you get together with five neighbors in your building to talk about how to fix the pipe that got broken, that is a political act right there. Not everybody needs to be a politician, but just exercising your right to assemble, just to get together and organize yourselves, that’s one of the beauties of this country. One of the things I admire the most about America is how, in a little over two centuries, the social tissue has been built through the freedom of assembly. It’s more important than ever, especially if you belong to a minority that has been targeted in a certain way. You need to get together, get organized and get involved. [Holds up his cell phone.] These things serve for more than just posting on yourself; there’s power in this communication. You need to use them to be on top of what’s going on in your community.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.