The Austin Chronicle

Always Darkest Before the 'Dusk'

By Richard Whittaker, May 20, 2014, 9:00am, Picture in Picture

Vampire. Cartel boss. Revolutionary. Wilmer Valderrama relishes playing Carlos, the undead wild card of From Dusk Till Dawn. "When you see Carlos, it's so unpredictable," he said. "You watch him carry on his operation, but when you see what he really is, it gets dark and weird and twisted."

When Carlos first appeared in the El Rey Network's signature TV show, he was a strangely suave Mexican gang lord, one with a secret. Now viewers know that secret. He's a 500 year old conquistador, turned into a snake vampire by Satanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez.) But now his adoration of his dark mistress is at a turning point, and he may face. "I've had a great fun with Carlos so far," said Valderrama. "He has a lot of fun being bad, but there's a lot of purpose."

That sounds a lot like series creator and producer Robert Rodriguez. "Robert has the most fun of any film maker I've ever seen," Valderrama said. "He's one of my heroes, so to work with him was exciting." he signed on without knowing what character he was going to play, and in fact read for the part of Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (which finally went to Jesse Garcia.) Rodriguez had other ideas. "He called me a couple of weeks later, and told me, I have this other character, and I think it would be fun for you.'… When I arrived in Austin, Texas, the only thing that was explained to me was that Carlos was a 500 year old conquistador, who runs this gang, and he's tied to something larger and more visionary."

In typical Rodrguez fashion, the shoot defined the story. Valderama said, "We found a groove in the character through the performance. … I couldn't have predicted that he was going to become as powerful and influential as he is."

What he did know was that he would get to hang out at one of the most iconic sets of the 1990s: Border dive bar the Titty Twister, under which lurks an ancient evil. For the cast, the murder machine was more like a carnival ride. "When we first showed up to the Twister, every single one of us popped our phones out and started taking pictures." It was, he said, a strange experience, visiting the rebuilt version of the classic location, "and now Satanico and me are the owners."

Part of the unpredictability came from one character beat. It's an early moment, when Carlos is on the phone with escaped bank robber Seth Gekko (D.J. Cotrona.) The venomous gang lord makes a snapping sound with his teeth. It's predatory. Valderrama actually developed the tic when he was shooting a different scene, intercepting the ill-fated Kyle (Collin Fish.) "I remember that day, It was really hot and it was really humid, and I'm wearing all these layers," he said. The leather and wool and heavy hat of Carlos' sunproofing was like armor for the killer, and it let the actor consider the monster's Mezoamerican roots. "I didn't want people to think that this is a vampire show. Understanding that they were snakes allowed me to think about the mannerisms and the characteristics."

That's where that serpentine motion came from, like an apex predator stretching its muscles before striking. And, with the season finale tonight, and season two confirmed, there's a lot more killing to be done around the Titty Twister. Valderrama said, "Some people are going to have to stay and some people are going to have to go, and some people are barely going to make it out.

The season one finale of From Dusk Till Dawn episode 1.10, The Take, debuts tonight, May 20, on the El Rey Network at 8pm Central. For more on the show, read our set visit report with Zane Holtz and Robert Rodriguez, and our interviews with episode director Eduardo Sanchez, cast member Jake Busey, and visual effects boss Greg Nicotero.

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