(Pictured in the middle with fellow actors Panchito Gomez (left) and Richard Coca (right) on the set of the movie American Me)
TheBoxingBar.com : Where were you born and raised?
Steve Wilcox : I was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela which is in the news a lot now for very sad reasons. I lived there until I was five. Then my parents moved to Florida, and we lived there until I was ten. Then we moved back to Venezuela, until I graduated from high school over there. Then I came to L.A. to study and go to college and I’ve been here ever since.
TBB : Why Venezuela? Who was from there?
SW : My dad was Canadian, and both of his parents were English. He went to Venezuela in the 50’s when it was a “big boom” country. There were a lot of Canadian owned businesses, so there was a need for a lot of engineers and things like that. He met my mother who was a local Venezuelan girl. They got married, and my older brother and I were born down there. Actually Edward James Olmos coined this, he called me a “half-breed”, and it stuck ever since.
TBB : Venezuela is known to have some of the most beautiful locations and women in the world. What are some of the things that come to mind when you think of that country?
SW : I think of the weather and of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve ever seen. Venezuela is a country that has every geography. It’s got beaches, sand dunes like if you were in the Sahara, and Angel Falls which is part of ‘La Gran Sabana’. If you saw that animated movie “Up”, it was inspired by that. It’s basically like prehistoric land that has never been seen before. In Merida they get a lot of snow. They have everything there. I go back whenever I can.
TBB : Through your mom, do you have a lot of relatives in Venezuela?
SW : Yeah, a lot. My mom is from the city of Barquisimeto. The majority of my family is still down there, but sadly people are moving out now. When I go to Venezuela I always spend time in Barquisimeto because my family is centralized there.
TBB : You had said you had moved to Florida from Venezuela when you were five. If you can remember that far back, was it a big transition for you as a kid moving to the United States?
SW : I’m sure it was a huge transition especially for my parents. I was born speaking Spanish. Although my dad tried teaching me English in Venezuela, it just didn’t stick. When we moved to Miami when I was five, I learned English very quickly. As you can hear I’m fluent in both English and Spanish. Moving out of Venezuela at such an early age immersed me into the North American culture. Then I was lucky enough to go back over there. So I’m very much in touch with my Latin roots, but if I was walking down the street everyone would assume I’m “U.S.A. all the way.”
TBB : What was school life like in Florida the first time you came?
SW : It was a great thing all around. When I lived in Florida, which was in the mid-70’s, we lived in a very white neighborhood back then. I think I was the only kid that had a mother that everybody else thought was the maid. I was the weird kid on the block because I actually had a parent that was not white. I saw it as an observation, but I didn’t dwell on it. I thought it was great. Growing up I got to meet all the Cubans that were around there. When we moved back to Venezuela, my parents put me in an English-speaking school which had its pros and cons. I wrote better in English than I did in Spanish. I always knew how to speak it, but I had to learn how to speak it more properly as an adult because I had been going to more English speaking schools. I was always speaking my Spanish on the streets talking “street talk”. So my Spanish is more slang.
TBB : Because you don’t look Latino, do you get people saying things about you, in front of you, thinking that you don’t know what they are saying?
SW : All the time. I would get that in elevators. I’d be in an elevator full of Spanish speaking people, and they would start saying stuff about me. It was always fun to surprise the hell out of them by calling them on what they’re saying in Spanish, and getting their reaction. But yes, all the time.
TBB : (Laughing) I’d most likely do the same.
SW : (Laughing) If I don’t really want to deal with it, then I’ll pretend like I didn’t hear anything. Other times if I feel like calling someone out, I will. A funny story, when I was cast in “American Me” Edward James Olmos introduced me to the cast. He told them, “Careful with this guy because he knows Spanish better than anybody else here.” Pepe Serna came to me and said, “Hey man, where did you learn your Spanish?” I answered back, “Well I learned my English in Miami.” The cast and crew were laughing and were like, “Oooo, he told you.” It’s funny because I kind of popped off at Pepe Serna who is a real working actor, and I was just starting out. I didn’t know how he was going to take it, but to this day he’ll introduce me and tell that story. So obviously he thought it was funny that I kind of threw something back into his face.
TBB : How did acting enter your life?
SW : I was thirteen years old, in junior high, and in Venezuela. At that time, they would let you pick an activity class as the last class of the day. They had a lot of options too. They offered fencing which I had down as my first choice. Then I chose wrestling, and there was nothing else that interested me so I chose drama as my third and last choice although it didn’t really interest me. It’s what I ended up getting, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. It was a lot of improv and stuff. It was very basic, but I was hooked. I knew that it was what I wanted to do. My mind never changed. Since I was thirteen, I knew that when I graduated high school I was going to go to college to study acting. I chose Los Angeles instead of New York because I wanted to study film more so than theatre, although I love theatre. So yeah, I never swayed. I knew what I wanted.
TBB : When was the first real time you were in front of a camera or an audience to perform?
SW : The first time I was acting in front of a camera, besides student films, I got cast on a TV series called Roomies. It starred Corey Haim and Burt Young which was kind of like a “Back To School” situation where a father-figure goes back to school and becomes friends with the nerdy kid. I got cast on the opening credit sequence where they play the opening music and introduce the cast. They showed what a loser Corey Haim was and showed like a montage of hopeful college students that could possibly live with him, but didn’t want to. I was one of them, so I did some sort of “not interested” reaction. I remember it was the first thing that I’d ever done, and I was so excited. It was my first time on a set, but I was literally in and out in like a day. I was never on any of the episodes, I was only in the opening credits part. The show ran for like a few months so you’d see me every week. It was very exciting, I remember that. It was like in 1987 or ’88.
TBB : I read this article where you were on a Spanish version of some courtroom show, or something?
SW : Yeah, yeah. I was really good friends with this guy that played Lieutenant Ray Calletano on “Hill Street Blues”. His real name was Rene Enriquez. He passed away in 1990. He was a friend of the family, so when I came to L.A. I contacted him. He was the one who gave me the opportunity to meet some people. Anyway, there was this daytime show called “The Judge” where they would reenact real civil court cases using actors. On one of the big Latino stations they wanted to do a Spanish version of it. So Rene Enriquez played the judge and recommended me for one of the episodes. Basically in that situation these Latinos, I can’t remember if they were Chicano, but these kids get shot by a group of white supremacists at a gas station. They’re in court, and I obviously play one of the white supremacists. It was in Spanish, and they wanted me to speak perfect Spanish. So it was kind of like this surreal world where it’s in Spanish but I’m supposed to be an American that doesn’t like Latinos and actually shot and killed this guy’s best friend. In the end, I end up going to jail for being racist or whatever, I can’t remember. The irony is that the actor who played the guy whose best friend I had shot was Panchito Gomez (actor who played the young Santana) and we ended up working on “American Me” later. So it’s quite a trip that we had worked together on some TV show earlier as arch enemies.
TBB : Is Panchito the one that told Edward James Olmos about you? Or how did you hear about “American Me”?
SW : No. Panchito Gomez got the part maybe because somebody recommended him looking like a younger Eddie Olmos. In my case, the same guy that cast that show of “The Judge”, Bob Morones, was later the casting director of American Me. So when Eddie was looking for someone that looked like William Forsythe and could speak Spanish, Bob Morones knew who I was and recommended me. I guess it was related to getting it from that show “The Judge”, but Panchito and I got it from our own sources. We were both surprised to see each other in the first actor’s meeting.
TBB : What was it like to get this first big opportunity to be on a film like “American Me”?
SW : That opportunity is what’s kept me in the business. There’s been times where work hasn’t been plentiful, but having worked on American Me is what’s kept me going. It’s been an amazing and life-changing experience. Ironically enough, Bob Morones was the casting director and called me. Back then he must have got my number from my manager and called me directly. He calls me and started talking to me in Spanish, and it wasn’t great Spanish. So I starting answering back, then he goes back to talking English and he tells me, “I was just testing your Spanish.” And I was like, “Dude, I need to test your Spanish because it needs some work.” He laughed and explained that they were casting for this movie and I might be right for one of the parts. He said Edward James Olmos was directing it and he wanted me to come in and audition, but was just checking ahead. I said, “Yeah, absolutely.” So he got my address so that he could mail me the script. I said, “Cool” and then we hung up. Like five minutes later, he called me back and said, “Actually we’re going to messenger you a script tonight because the director wants to meet with you tomorrow morning.” So I asked, “What scene do I need to prepare for?” He said it was just for a general meeting first. I get the script and read it that same night. It was obviously a great script. My girlfriend at that time, I remember, came home with some kind of crisis of all nights while I was trying to read this script. The next morning I drive to Universal Studios, where the offices were, in my little scooter. I was a waiter and I had my waiter uniform and my apron inside the little pocket of the scooter. I remember the meeting was at nine in the morning. Who has meetings that early in Hollywood, right? I walked in and Eddie Olmos is there talking on the phone and he kind of acknowledges me, but stays on the phone talking. He’s kind of looking at me a lot, so I’m kind of uncomfortable at this point and I sit down. When he’s done he comes over and is very nice and graciously says, “Wow. Where have you been? I wish I would have known about you” and saying stuff like that. Then I happen to notice on the wall there was a picture of my head shot next to William Forsythe’s whose work I already knew. I was a big fan of “Raising Arizona.” So Eddie starts talking to me about this film and saying that we were going to figure out a commitment, shave our heads, and have to be in prison, etc. Then the door opens and William Forsythe walks in. Eddie’s like, “Hey Billy, do you know Stevie?” And I’m in awe. Then Bob Morones walks in, then the producers, and soon the room was full of people. They talked just a bit about the project but hadn’t really said anything. Then they started talking about what they were going to do for the rest of the day for pre-production. So I interrupted and said, “Excuse me, did you just cast me?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Don’t you want to see my reel (professional highlight clips)?” which was on a VHS tape back then. He started laughing and said, “I don’t need to see your reel. I’ve worked with a lot of young actors. I’ll get you there.” That was that. Forsythe told me later when we became friends that he saw that my face was turning red and then white because my blood was rushing, but I was trying to keep my cool.
The most important and exciting part of this story is that this town (Hollywood) makes you jump through so many hoops to get the most insignificant role, but then there are still princes out there like Edward James Olmos who will give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure he had to fight with the studio people to keep me and other actors that didn’t have that much experience, and give them roles in such a great film like this.
TBB : I’m sure you’ve heard many stories of how people try to get one big break for years and get nothing. So to hear your story is very different. You got a great role without having to do much for it, except show up as told and have the right look and talk. There’s nothing wrong with that.
SW : Exactly. Yeah. You know, hard work is good. At the same time when it’s yours, it’s yours.
TBB : You being a newer actor and this being your first big project you were involved in, was it hard to get comfortable or get into it at first?
SW : It wasn’t hard to get into. I was in awe. I was in shock which was a good thing. Looking back at it, it was like, “Oh my God!” It was a huge Hollywood set, and I had this great role. Then I was working on this major production. It was surreal but I was taking it one day at a time. I remember the first thing that I shot was that first scene with me popping out onto the balcony with Panchito coming down the street. I had to wear dental implants because back then William Forsythe had a big gap in his teeth, so they had to match my teeth with his. So I had this dental implant that was custom made for me. I was supposed to put that denture glue on it, but they fit snug and I thought I could handle it without the glue. I had to learn to smoke and drink with them on because it was like they were your own teeth. Anyway, I go out there and the crew was under me down on the street because the shot was looking at me. The street was full of people from the crew but hidden so you can’t see them. And my first line was like, “Orale. Que tienes de huevos?” But when I said it, I blew the dental implants out of my mouth which was like a four thousand dollar piece because it was made for my teeth. Well it flew down there and Eddie Olmos caught it right in his hand. They ended up gluing it to my teeth so it wouldn’t happen again. That was my first shot I remember, and I almost broke the most expensive prop.
TBB : Because of the subject matter and nature of this film, did you ever feel a danger for agreeing or being a part of this film? Or were you “in” on it right from the start?
SW : I was “In” since the beginning when I first read the script. I was kind of fearless. Some people might call it foolhardy, but I wasn’t really afraid of anything happening to me. I know there was some danger and people were getting killed, but I always felt very welcomed in the neighborhood. The neighborhood was very proud of this project so I just remember people coming up to me from wherever we were shooting and just welcoming us. There’s only been a few films that I’ve worked on that you actually feel like it was like family. That was definitely the first one, and one of the strongest.
TBB : How old were you when you filmed “American Me”?
SW : I was in my early twenties so I was older than the character was supposed to be which is kind of what I’m still doing. But yes, I was in my early twenties.
TBB : In the part of the movie where Santana, J.D., and Mundo were all young, there was some pretty intense parts. You guys initiate Mundo in the gang, you get chased by rival gangs, young J.D. gets shot, and you all go to jail at a young age. What scene stood out the most to you, that you participated in?
SW : The one that stood out the most was the handball scene because it was a lot of fun to do. I think it was one of the last scenes that I shot. I didn’t really understand the concept of what they were going to do with it but it was just a lot of fun. I remember me playing handball with Panchito against the wall, and every now and then Eddie would say something like, “Now try this.” I had this piece of plastic over my leg and inside my pants, and what happened while playing handball is that I tripped. In any other circumstance they would stop if they thought the actor had got hurt, but they kept it rolling. So all that was improvised. Mundo comes and starts messin’ with me which was his character’s M.O. and I push him away. It was like a happy accident. I didn’t think anything of it at the moment. I assumed that we were never going to see that scene again, but Eddie kept it because it was so natural. Then when I saw the finished product I had no idea that they were going to choreograph it so that when we hit the handball, and when it came back we were going to be the adults played by the other guys. So it was a nice way for us to finish. It was our exit, and their entrance in the film. That’s exactly what it was, and it was so beautiful to see on the big screen.
TBB : You said earlier that this cast, crew, and the people around the neighborhood made you feel like family. Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
SW : Absolutely. To this day, especially through social media, I’ve kept in touch with a handful of the people, and we treat each other like old friends. Which indeed we are. I’ll run into someone who worked on American Me, whether it was cast or crew member, and you feel that family bond. I think it came from being on that set. Eddie was very, very adamant that if we were going to be walking into neighborhoods that were going to be welcoming us, that none of us could show disrespect while we’re there. He was very clear about that. We were in their neighborhood and in their houses, and we needed to treat it like family. Not that we wouldn’t have, but it was very nice that he was saying that out of respect. So you felt that in the air that we were very grateful and appreciative to be welcomed in their neighborhood, and they were happy to have us as guests. So it was definitely a family-like feeling all around.
TBB : From what I hear about Edward James Olmos, it seems like he brands a stamp into the hearts and minds of all the people he seems to work with. What is it exactly about him that draws you closer to him as an individual or makes you feel more attached to him?
SW : Well it’s the way he treats you to begin with. For example, the first thing he does, whether you like it or not, is that he changes your name. My name is Steve, but he calls me Stevie. He breaks down that wall literally by getting into your inner bubble so to speak. It’s actually amazing. He makes you feel like you are the only reason why the movie survived. Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel the jitters on the set because he made me feel like I was good enough to play with the big boys, and I was. He helped bring that out. You’re only as good as the people you’re working with are. To this day you see him talking to people and he listens and remembers everything. I love connecting the dots. Whenever I book a project I start thinking of how I got that job and who I should thank for it, because you never get anything on your own. The majority of the time when I connect the dots it’ll somehow go back to “American Me.” I have this little ritual that I always text Eddie and explain how this new project connects back to “American Me.” I know sooner or later he’s going to start blocking me. I’ve probably become “the stalker” to him … (laughs). I remember him telling me one time when he was talking to us and said, “The most important thing is to be grateful because nobody makes it on their own. Anybody that says that they made it on their own is someone that you should not trust immediately.” That’s like a mantra to me because from the very beginning I worked with someone that instilled that. Be gracious and be grateful.
TBB : Amen to that. Everybody probably figures if you speak Spanish you can play any Latino character regardless of what country the character may be from. That maybe true in Fantasyland. You being from Venezuela and growing up in Florida around many Cubans, was it hard for you playing a Chicano from East Los Angeles?
SW : It’s totally different. We’re all totally different. Latinos, just like every other race, we stereo-type. There’s different types of Latinos. There is a difference in personalities. Often there is a generalization. It was a trial by fire. I had Eddie Olmos and Pepe Serna helping me with the accent. I had Richard Coca showing me the Chicano pose, like how you stoop your shoulders and open your feet, and things like that. Then by just hanging around Coca, Pepe, and all those guys I just imitated them and it kind of became organic. It didn’t feel hard. I guess I was just in that zone. You’re not always in that zone, but I was for that movie. Also, part of my job was to make you believe that Forsythe and I were the same person. I basically had to learn to smoke with my left hand because Forsythe smoked with his left. He had certain mannerisms like the way he cocked his head back and talked. So I kind of had to shadow him and spend a lot of time trying to emulate him so I can be more like him so it would be a nice transition. I think it worked out well. I was in that zone. It was like a great acting class because I had some great teachers on the set.
TBB : Looking back at this film, how did you think it turned out overall?
SW : At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I felt like it was a masterpiece. I was so lucky to be in a Godfather-like movie. They had a 25th anniversary last year and it was hosted by Eddie Olmos. Several of my more recent friends came to see it. What’s amazing about it is that a lot of movies from the early 90’s don’t hold up. American Me is one of the exceptions, it totally holds up. So what do I think of American Me? It’s one of my proudest work. The film was great.
TBB : That’s true. Even though it has been over 25 years since its release, the film is still very relevant and current today. Not too long after, you had a role in the movie “White Man’s Burden” starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte. How was it that you got this role?
SW : Actually the guy who wrote it, Desmond Nakano, was one of the writers on “American Me.” He was like the script doctor. Eddie Olmos gave him the script to give it arches that it needed. If we met on American Me, I don’t remember but he obviously knew the film. So he basically reached out to me, and I had to meet him through the casting directors. They put me on tape, filmed me, and I got the part. Like I had said everything seems to go back to American Me, in one way or the other.
TBB : It was going to star John Travolta who had just filmed “Pulp Fiction” prior to this film. Was that pretty exciting?
SW : Yeah, it was very exciting. I grew up watching “Saturday Night Fever.” Then he kind of took a dive and came back to do “Look Who’s Talking” which put him back on the map. Then he took another little dive and came back with “Pulp Fiction.” This was right after “Pulp Fiction.” First of all, he’s one of the nicest guys in the world. It was great that we got to work together. I remember we were on set and he seemed busy. He kept going into his trailer and was on a phone call. I guess the Golden Globes were going on and he wasn’t there. So he came out, and I guess I was the lucky one to be chosen at that moment since I was the first person there, but he came up to me and said, “I just won the Golden Globe award for “Pulp Fiction!” I told him, “Oh my God, Congratulations!” But I’m thinking to myself this is so weird that John Travolta is telling me that he just won this award before telling his family or anybody else. The beauty of it was that as big of a star that John Travolta was at that time, he still had this childlike excitement. He was really happy and excited. It was a wonderful moment to be able to witness.
TBB : Wow. What a moment to witness.
SW : I remember I had to shave my head for this part, and I had never shaved my head. I had agreed to do it, but I was still kind of worried about what I would look like. He was sitting next to me in the other make-up chair. I remember him saying, “I shaved my head once for a role.” And I jokingly said, “Yeah, but you’re John Travolta.” He said, “No, no, no. It was actually the very first thing that I did. They booked me on a commercial as a soldier just having enlisted.” So they shaved his head live. So it’s nice to hear these stories from people like John Travolta who had to auditions for things like commercials where they had to shave his head. It was like him saying that even he had to do it the old way, you know.
TBB : You had said earlier that you were supposed to get your head shaved for American Me. That obviously never happened.
SW : That’s what he had said. I think in the original script, we go to juvie hall and then maybe they were going to shave our heads but then they changed it. I went into it thinking my head was going to be shaved at one point, or at least a crew-cut. But it never happened.
TBB : Soon after that film, the movie “Gang Related” goes into production. How did you get that role?
SW : That was basically an audition. My manager submitted me. I went in for the casting director. I was brought back in for the director, and I booked it. Back then, I don’t think they had even seen any of my work. I go to the reading, but I didn’t know who was cast in it. The reading was at Disney, but it wasn’t a Disney movie. I think they just rented a space there. That’s when I realized it was Tupac, Jim Belushi, Lela Rochon, and all the others. It was quite a trip to be working with all these people that were all icons in their own way.
TBB : Tupac Shakur. What do you remember about him?
SW : A prince. I guess he had a double life because he also had his violent side, but I never saw it. He was a gentleman. Very nice, and very funny. What happened was that he and I were like the only cigarette smokers there. On a break he went to smoke out in the balcony at Disney, because you couldn’t smoke anywhere at Disney. I’m pretending that I wasn’t excited that it’s Tupac. I’m pretending it’s just another guy and all of a sudden he said, “Yo. Weren’t you in American Me? That’s my favorite movie!” He started telling me how he didn’t know I was going to be there, and how that was his favorite film. He said he wanted to contact me and Panchito (Gomez) because for some reason he felt that we stood out in American Me, and how he wanted to involve us in a script he had in mind. I was like, “Wow.” So we kind of bonded right away. He said, “I’m such a big fan that I sampled your voice from the movie on one of my tracks. He had told me it was on the album “Strictly For My Niggaz.” I had a buddy that worked at a record store and he actually got me the CD. I’m listening to it, and I can’t find anything like he had said on it. So the next time I saw him, I told him I couldn’t find that track. He asked, “Which one did I tell you?” I told him and he said, “No. I think it’s on ‘Me Against the World’. I’m gonna get it for you.” He was going to get it for me but we never saw each other again, because he got shot and then he died. I eventually got it through a friend, but when I listened to it I couldn’t believe that he sampled my voice. What’s amazing is that it’s like a duet, and then at the end of the track it has Robert De Niro from “The Untouchables.” So I can say I’m in a track with Tupac and Robert De Niro.
TBB : That’s awesome. Tupac is my all-time favorite rapper, and yes that track is on “Me Against the World” which I can easily say is my favorite album of his. Ironically Steve the title of that track is “Death Around the Corner” which, unfortunately, was true for him because like you said shortly after your last meeting with him, he was shot and killed.
SW : Exactly. A lot of his songs were very ominous. To think that he was only twenty-five when he died, but yet he was like an old pro because he was so brilliant although he was just a kid. I remember on one of the days that I had to shoot, they were shooting in downtown so they closed off a bunch of streets. I parked kind of far and had to walk a bit. They were filming a scene where the camera is following Tupac in a car while he was having a conversation with Belushi. I wasn’t paying attention but I had to wait until they were done shooting, and then they guided me into the set so that I can see it. It was the Herald Tribune building. So I’m walking down the street waiting for a moment to cross, and all of a sudden this car pulls up and I hear somebody dissin’ me. He said something like “Hey motherf---er! What are you doing here? I’m gonna come out and f---in’ kill you, b---h!” I’m being dissed by this guy in a very ghetto way. Because of the stuff he was saying I was thinking “What the … What’s going on?” I look over and it’s Tupac in the car with Jim Belushi. He was messin’ with me obviously. So I start laughing and I go over and give him a hug. Later I thought if anybody saw that, where I’m walking down the street and then I’m being yelled at in a very aggressive way by Tupac (laughs) … I tell people that story and it’s surreal because he was here for such a short time, but I got to have all these weird but yet funny moments with him.
TBB : Wow to think he was with one other person in a car when he got shot, and who knows if he had a heated exchange like that on that night too. Like you said, pretty ominous. He didn’t get to see the finished film, but what did you think of “Gang Related”?
SW : I thought it was a good film. It reminded me a lot of Tarantino. I really thought it was going to be a lot more successful. I thought it had the charm of true romance. I don’t know if it was a little flat or the timing was off. They waited one year after Tupac’s death to premiere it. People didn’t buy into it. I don’t know if people didn’t want to see Tupac play a cop or what. I have no idea. Whenever I see the film I think, “It’s kind of cool.” It’s a B-movie but it has a Raymond Chandler feel to it. It’s a great script. Everybody is screwing everybody else, and it’s full of surprises. I thought it should have got a better rap.
TBB : What was it like doing that scene with both Tupac and Jim Belushi where they’re trying to pin their crime on you, and they’re questioning you at the police station?
SW : Amazing. I’ll tell you a funny story about that. Word on the street was that Tupac and Belushi didn’t like each other very much. So there was kind of a tension on the set. So I come along, and I’m like this guy that is going through this interrogation in that scene. Basically they just wanted to go ahead and just shoot it. We do. I picked up the gun, and just because it felt right, I kind of aim it at them kind of like I’m joking. They both reacted in character. I think Tupac threw his pencil at me, and Belushi put his hands up like, “Whoaw whoaw don’t do that.” We did the whole scene and it came out fine. Then the director said, “Ok that was very good, but Steve could we do it this time not pointing the gun at them?” I was like, “Yeah sure.” And Belushi kind of became like assistant director, which any actor will tell you is not cool, and jumped on board. He started saying something like, “Yeah man, because in real life if you pointed the gun at me I would beat you up and smack you.” He’s kind of like the 500-pound gorilla, but he’s the star and I’m not. So alright I don’t want to get fired. I was like, “Whatever.” Tupac jumped up and said, “You know what? His instincts are totally right because I’ve been there. I’ve been in jail, and that’s what I would do.” They were butting heads, and the director didn’t want to start a fight. So he decided to do it both ways. So we did it both ways, and when you see the finished movie, I end up pointing the gun at them. They obviously like that more. Tupac stepped up for me. A) because he didn’t like Belushi and B) because he saw how I was being bullied and I was the new guy on the set. It’s funny because I’ve handled guns before but I’m not a pro or anything. I think it was like a .44 magnum and I was looking at it. So one of my lines is, “The serial number is scratched off …” and I didn’t know where the serial number would be. So out of instinct and without thinking I said, “Tupac, where would it be?” And he just said, “Yeah, it would be right there.” But it was funny because I totally assumed because he had been in jail he would know. So he could have taken it like an insult, but he just answered my question as if it was nothing. I couldn’t believe I did that. He was a great guy!
TBB : When you found out the bad news about his passing, what were your first thoughts?
SW : It was very sad. I’m not going to pretend that we were great friends, but we really liked each other. He wanted to work with me down the road so we could have become better friends. He got shot and he didn’t die for a week. He had been shot before, so I didn’t believe it was that bad. I think I even had an “American Me” t-shirt that I was going to give him in the hospital. But then he died. I couldn’t believe that the wounds were so fatal until he was dead. While filming Gang Related, I find out one day that I’m not working one day but that they were shooting something in Hollywood which is where I was living at the time. So I figured I’d stop by the set to say “Hi”. I stop by the set and the first person I see is the producer and he’s looking at his clipboard. The minute that he sees me, he starts flipping through the pages of the clipboard. In other words instead of welcoming me over, he was wondering what I was doing there. Or wondering if they had to pay me because I was there like it was all about money. Then I see Tupac turn the corner and comes over and gives me a big hug. He made me feel like family. I remember leaving the set and saying to myself, “My lesson learned is that not every set is going to be like family.” But Tupac was, he was a great guy.
TBB : I was looking at your highlight reel on IMDB.com, and I saw that you were on an episode of X-Files which was a big show back then. What was it like doing that show?
SW : It was very cool. It’s funny because I had seen a couple of episodes, but I wasn’t a big X-Files fan. It was the hot show to be in. That’s one I had to jump through hoops. I had to go to two auditions and then I had to go meet Chris Carter. They had built this whole set at Fox that was so cool. It was one of those sets that had everything. Also, it was the early beginnings of CGI where they could make your face turn into whatever form. They used a similar technology like they do in video games. Back then because it was still new, you couldn’t move at all. So they had to pretty much take a 3D picture of my head and I had to be very still. CGI was like taking its baby steps, but for that time it was state-of-the-art. It was great. The director was this cool Australian guy, Rod Hardy. I was only supposed to work for a couple of days and I think I got more work out of it because they ran out of time which is great for us actors. I got to meet Robert Patrick briefly because he was in that scene. I loved it.
TBB : You had a little role in the 2006 HBO movie “Walkout” in which you reunited with Edward James Olmos who directed it. What was that like?
SW : It was fun. Walkout didn’t really have anything for me, but I wanted to keep the lines open working with Eddie and also Bob Young. Bob Young is like Eddie’s mentor. Eddie found a place for me. He asked me if I wanted to play one of the cops which I did. Danny Haro played the other cop, so it was like a little American Me reunion. Bodie, Eddie’s son, played Moctezuma Esparza. When we did American Me, he was just a kid hanging around the set. All of a sudden he’s playing Moctezuma Esparza and I’m playing one of the cops. It was a lot of fun.
TBB : You also do voices for a lot of big time games. What is that like?
SW : First of all, I’m not a gamer. It’s fun using your voice but the thing is they are always top secret. Every time I would book something that was a video game, they always had a code name. So I never knew what I was doing. I’ve done several. I remember the first one, it was fun but very exhausting. Basically, they need to have you die like in 10 different ways, and they want all these grunts from you. So you’re doing all this vocal work in very little time. It’s very easy to blow your voice. I’ve walked out of an extensive voice over session feeling like I was getting a fever and need to relax. It’s very exhausting in spite of the fact that you’re sitting in the room talking, yelling, or whatever. When you’re in a video game, you’re going to die, and you’re going to die in all these creative ways. So I did this thing, and then they brought me back to do another project. I remember I asked, “By the way how did that other one go, that I did?” They said, “You mean you don’t know it?” I said, “No.” He said, “It’s Call of Duty : Black Ops 2.” I asked some gamer, “Have you ever heard of ‘Call of Duty : Black Ops 2’?” Back then he was like, “Yeah it’s the biggest game.” Then I did another called “Call of Duty : Ghosts.” I did one called Fallout 4, it’s really cool. It’s kind of like a ‘Walking Dead’ or Armageddon and I played one of the raiders. It’s a lot of fun. Then I worked on Uncharted 4 which I didn’t know what it was walking into it. A few years ago I was in England at the tube station and there’s this huge poster of Uncharted 4. I was like, “Oh my God. I worked on that thing.” It’s kind of fun not being a gamer because you don’t realize the magnitude of these things until you hear all the people talking about them.
TBB : You know, you’re right. Until last year when I bought a Playstation 4 for my little one, I was out of the loop in the video game world since the first Playstation I think. It’s atotally different world now. So I bought this thing and I set it up for him because he’s too small to do it on his own and it came with “Uncharted 4 : A Thief’s End.” So I start playing it a bit because I knew he would be asking me for my help and I wanted to be able to help him. Wow, I got hooked on it to a point that I got addicted to it. It became my favorite all-time game. So it was a trip to find out you did some work on it. What exactly was your role in that game?
SW : I played one of the Panamanian prison guards. I remember we had to sing a Mexican folk song all drunk. Usually when you do this you’re all alone, but because it was a song they called some other actors. One of the other actors and I were old friends, so we actually got to sing it together. I don’t know if that rings a bell, but that was my role.
TBB : It does. That’s at the beginning when Nathan and Sam had to break out of the Panamanian prison with their friend that betrays them. Wow that’s cools. Are you working on anything on the moment whether it be a game or something in the film industry?
SW : Yes. I just recently finished a mini-series in Bolivia which the executive producer just sent me a message that they are in talks with HBO Latino. It’ll be kind of like “Narcos” but about human-trafficking. It’s such an amazing script. The Netflix mini-series standard now is like a 10-episode script. It has to have a beginning and an end like a big soap opera. This was so beautifully written. The different stories kind of melt in and melt out. So I was just hooked and so excited to go to work in Bolivia which is a country that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s all in Spanish. I believe that either HBO Latino or Fox will pick it up and hopefully it will be that new series that everybody is talking about. It’s called, “La Entrega” which in English it translates to “The Delivery.” It’ll be one of the first projects from Bolivia that will hopefully get international attention. Other than that, next week I will be working on a project about what’s happening in Venezuela. It’s actually set to later be a feature film, but for right now they’re just doing a short film of it. It’s exciting in a sad way because of what’s happening right now in Venezuela and it’s starting to pop up in Hollywood scripts. It’s a story that deals with Venezuela, but not in the best way. It will be completely in English. Ironically enough I play the lead’s father who is American. So I play a white guy that is not happy about his daughter dating a Venezuelan guy.
TBB : Well I hope HBO Latino or Fox picks up the series and I hope to also see this short film you speak of so that we can see Mr. Steve Wilcox on the screen. For years I’ve loved all these projects that you’ve worked on and have talked about and shared with us in this chat. Before today you were an actor that was in some real cool movies that I’ve seen. Tomorrow when I hear the name John Travolta, or hear a Tupac song on the radio, play a video game, or watch one of the movies you are in I will think of you and have a bigger smile. My friend I thank you very much for coming onto TheBoxingBar.com to do this. And thank you for just being you!
SW : Thank you, brother. I appreciate it.