Richard Cabral knows what you were thinking after last Sunday’s episode of American Crime: “‘Please don’t tell me that you hurt the little white boy.’ That’s what a couple people were saying on social media,” he says. But, of course, Cabral’s character, farm crew chief Isaac, did hurt Connor Jessup’s Coy. Badly.
In this Sunday’s episode of the ABC drama, viewers see the aftermath of that beating — and of Luis (Benito Martinez) learning the fate of his son, Teo, who went missing while working on the farm.
Cabral, who received an Emmy nomination for Season 1 of the John Ridley anthology series, spoke to Yahoo TV about the dynamic between Isaac and Coy, and about his next high-profile gig — playing Johnny “El Coco” Cruz in FX’s much-anticipated Sons of Anarchy spinoff pilot, Mayans MC, which he begins filming Monday.
In your mind, why did Isaac beat Coy so brutally? What all was going through his mind?
Coy put me in a position. Once you see in Episodes 2 and 3 my relationship with my brother [farm boss Diego, played by Clayton Cardenas], you get it. Even though I have my own free will, I’m still under my brother. I really had no way out. I’m trying to help out the kid, but I still have to pay respect to my brother and pay respect to the farm. I really had no other choice but to do that. There were no words, but my hope is that the audience understood through that look that that was it. That was it.
— American Crime (@AmericanCrimeTV) March 27, 2017
Fans have different theories about the relationship that Isaac wants with Coy. How do you view it?
How I saw it in the beginning, and I continue to see it: I was missing something in my life. My story is that, yeah, I have my brother and I have this farm, but there’s a void. There’s a hole that I was trying to fill through true friendship, and as you see in the second and maybe in the beginning of the third episode, there’s a friendship that Coy and I are establishing. It’s really that. Obviously he’s missing something because he talks about his brother. In the first episode, he’s like, “I have a brother, but he’s not like yours.” That’s how I see it: We’re both missing something and we’re trying to fill it in. But due to the situation that we’re living in, stuff kinda hits the fan and it goes another route.
Obviously you’ve been a part of American Crime each season. But what was it about Isaac that made you want to play him?
Regardless of what John Ridley and [fellow executive producer] Michael McDonald did, I was gonna do it. I’ve never worked with filmmakers and writers like this. So I knew once the pen hit the paper that we’re going in for an emotional ride, telling some deep stories. But what attracted me to Isaac was that relationship between the brothers. Seeing that with Latino eyes, as an audience, I’ve never really seen a relationship like that. There’s a beautiful relationship between Isaac and his brother. It’s in this messed-up world, but they’re striving for that. I didn’t grow up with any brothers, but I have my cousins and I had my good friends, so I know what it is to have that bro relationship. Sometimes it’s messed up, but that’s a brother relationship. That was really exciting to me, and then as we get deeper into it…
— Sharni Quittenton (@missquittenton) March 27, 2017
Let’s switch gears and talk Mayans MC. Cameras haven’t even rolled on that pilot, and there’s already fan art because SOA fans are so ready for this to become a series. What’s it like to have that huge fanbase for a pilot?
It’s surreal. What a beautiful thing to have that energy — I believe in energy — and our fans just believing in us. And all that is getting extended to [co-creators] Kurt Sutter and Elgin James. They’re feeling it. To be with your leadership, just excited and with that energy — that’s the type of set you want to work on. You want to work where everybody is on that level. I’ve been working on it going on three weeks with training on the Harleys and working on rehearsals. We haven’t even started [shooting], and it’s good! I’ve never worked on a set like this.
— Richard Cabral (@CabralRichy) March 27, 2017
How did the role come your way? [Coco is a full patch member of Mayans MC, Santo Padre, and a former Army sharpshooter and weapons specialist.]
It was kinda weird, because I was on a panel. A couple people from the Obama administration did a panel with Hollywood artists — actors, directors, and writers — that had formerly been incarcerated, and with a few people that are actively involved in the community and media. It was on how media affects our society and how people like us — that came from broken communities and with a past like us, that came from prison — how we’re involved. Elgin James was on that panel, ’cause he had formerly been incarcerated. He has a similar story to me: He was in prison, in a gang, but in Boston. So he was on that panel, and this was like two or three months ago. That was the first time we met. So he reached out. I was already a fan of his work, he was a fan of my work. We had a conversation, and he started talking about the Mayans, and that’s how it all started.
You’ve posted video of you working on your sharpshooter skills. What’s been the most fun and/or challenging stuff you’ve been doing to prep for the role?
Definitely the sharpshooting, because I’m working with active LAPD SWAT and active-duty Marines and former Marines. So they walk different, they talk different. It’s a whole different ballgame over there. Really that’s been the most challenging. But I absolutely love it, for me to really be getting into my character, Coco, and to be really bringing this military aspect to the role and to the world.
The big question is, did you ride before you got the role?
I used to ride. I’m a native of Los Angeles, so I used to ride out here. I went down, I crashed twice, and I had the kid, so I kinda hung it up for a couple of years. Getting back on it, it was right on. I was in it. Before I used to ride the fast ones, the race bikes. So it’s a whole different thing riding the Harleys. I got the itch. I think I might get a Harley now.
Have you already tried on the Mayans cut? I imagine that’s a big moment for the cast.
Yeah! Oh my God. Oh my God. It’s been amazing. All the guys, we had a photo shoot like two days ago, and there was like seven of the Mayans — Emilio [Rivera, who plays Marcus Alvarez] was right there, and all the new guys are right there. The caliber of actors on the show — it’s just spot-on. Being with John Ortiz, I’m such a fan of his. But yeah, we were all rocking the cut, and it’s badass. I mean, the Harleys, Mayans, an all-Latino cast. Kurt Sutter. I don’t know if the world is ready for this.
I know you probably can’t say too much about the plot, but one last question: One of the things Sons fans always loved about that show was the dark humor mixed in with the action and the drama. Reading the description of your character — “Johnny earned a Section 8 for shooting a cigar out of his CO’s mouth from a half-mile away … while he was stoned” — it feels like you might get a chance to do a bit of comedy as well. We’ll see that humor in the mix of Mayans MC?
Oh, for sure. Kurt is kind of a sick man. Kurt’s a wild man. He’s excited. He’s just like a little kid. And I already know, once we’re going to series, it’s game on. We’re gonna see things that we didn’t see on Sons. There is gonna be that humor, but it’s gonna be a sick type of humor.
American Crime airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC.
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