Acting Out The Recession with Jacob Vargas

Actor Jacob Vargas may not be a household name but this familiar face has been a working actor with steady roles on television (Moonlight, ER, CSI:NY) and in major Hollywood films, starring alongside Jason Statham (Death Race), Jake Gyllenhaal and Jacob Vargas / credit: Fernando EsovarJamie Foxx (Jarhead), and Jennifer Lopez (Selena) for over 20 years. 

With his latest indie science fiction thriller SLEEP DEALER arriving on DVD, the actor tells CineMovie his secrets to staying in the Hollywood game and tips for aspiring actors. 

Q:  Is it a struggle to get roles?

Jacob: It’s always a challenge.  Unfortunately there are more actors than are roles.  You just have to go in and do something different.  You have to be on top of your game.

Q: Besides having an agent and manager constantly looking for new projects, how are you active in searching for projects as well?

Jacob: I’ve been fortunate to have a group of friends who are also actors and we all plug each other into other projects.  If I hear of a project, I’ll let my friends know and vice versa. On set, you make good relationships with other people on crews and you find that most cinematographers want to be directors and so forth.  And everybody’s got a project.  So as soon as you open up that door, then you find out there are all these projects.   Eventually you become part of that project early on. 

Q: How has the writer’s strike early last year and the recession affected you?

Jacob: I do feel that there are less projects out there.  And the studios know that and know actors want to work.  That’s been an issue.  Honestly I’ve been taking this slow time to spend with my family.  I’m bonding with my daughter which I haven’t been able to do in the last five years.  So I’m just sitting it out and waiting out this recession.

Vargas’ SLEEP DEALER, now on DVD, has a lot in common with DISTRICT 9 the low-budget sci-fi film out of Science Fiction MovieSouth Africa which was a surprise summer hit.  Both independent films were shot in a foreign country with a limited budget and both share a message about immigration issues.  SLEEP DEALER, a critical hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, however, was made for a lot less than District 9. 

VIDEO INTERVIEW: SLEEP DEALER director and Leonore Varela (Blade II)

Q:  How was the experience shooting the film?

Jacob: It was a challenge in itself.  I loved the subject matter and the political messages behind it. I had never seen a film set in a border town in Tijuana which is something you’ve never seen before.  With the success of District 9, you might see it more often now.  But I hadn’t seen anything like that before.  So I thought it would be something interesting.  But really the challenge on shooting the film was the budget or lack of.   You had to beresourceful when you were doing things on green screen. There are a lot of unknowns but you have to commit and give yourself to the project and trust the director or visual director that everything will turn out okay.

Q:  Do you have an acting method?

Jacob: I’m a big people watcher.  I love going to a crowded place – sitting there for hours watching people interact.  In my mind, I kind of create little scenarios in each conversation.  You wonder what they’re talking about, what their history is, what they have just gone through.  I don’t know if that’s an acting technique or just voyeurism?  We’re all actors.  I believe that human beings are always acting for one reason or another.  Either to impress somebody, to make somebody laugh.  We’re always in some shape or form performing.

Q: Have you tried method acting for any roles?

Jacob: I have in the past.  I tried but for some reason it’s always back-fired for me.  That doesn’t work for me.

Q:  Is there one role that you’re dying to play?

Actor Jacob Vargas in Sleep Dealer / credit: Fernando Esovar


Jacob: I would love to do the bio pic on Cesar Chavez the organizer and another great story is the Joaquin Murrieta story.  It would be like the Charles Bronson revenge film set in early California. 

Q:  What would be your best advice for those starting out?

Jacob: Find another profession. (Kidding)  Patience, resilience and just learn as much as possible.  Read as many books on acting and take lots of classes.  But not just on acting.  Now it’s not enough to be an actor.  You have to understand the business and technical side of it – lenses, camera angles, lighting, etc. in order to be a good actor.  You have to understand all of that. 

And we can understand why this young actor will be have a long Hollywood career.  Currently, Jacob Vargas can be seen in his latest film SLEEP DEALER on DVD and next up for the Latino actor, Kerosene Cowboys, a Mario Van Peebles film set for a 2009 release. 

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