Edward James Olmos talks about playing Chicharrón in our interview for Disney•Pixar’s Coco
In the upcoming Disney•Pixar film Coco, Edward James Olmos plays the role of Chicharrón. Though he’s a small part of the film, his role is one that changes the direction of the story. In Coco, a young boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) travels to the land of the dead to find his distant relative Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). On the way, he meets an unlikely ally in Hector (Gael García Bernal) and meets his friend Chicharrón. We got a chance to chat with Olmos about Chicharrón, his role in the film and what Coco means to him. Check out our interview below.
ComingSoon.net: You’ve seen the finished film. Did it make you cry?
Edward James Olmos: I saw it on Monday. Yeah. Heaving sobs the first time. It was just really, incredibly emotional. It catches me. Thinking about it, it catches me, because it makes me reflect on my own grandparents and great-grandparents and my parents. It works really well and I hope that people take it upon themselves to give themselves a break and go see a fun family film.
CS: Your character isn’t in there for long, but everything hinges on what we learn from Chicharrón.
Edward James Olmos: Yeah, it becomes what the story’s about. You let somebody be forgotten and they disappear. They’re gone. Nobody will ever know about them. Nobody will ever know anything. They came and went and nobody remembers them. Intense. It’s so well done because basically, he asks one thing from Hector. Play me a song. And Hector says, “No, I don’t play anymore.” And he goes, you took my femur, [laughs] you took my fan, and you want my guitar? Play me a song. You have to earn it. So he plays him a song. His favorite song, and it’s about a woman, and who knows if it’s his first woman, his wife, his girlfriend — who knows what it was, but it was funny. It’s a funny song. If he sang it correctly, it was kind of an adult song. [laughs] But in essence, when he disappears, Miguel has to ask the question, what happened? He realizes, no one’s thinking about him anymore. It really makes you want to remember. You want to remember now, everyone that’s made you who you are right now, and how you got here. So, your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, uncles, people that really had an impact on you who are gone. You want to keep them with you and you want to keep them in that space where they’re alive in you, at least. And you want to tell story to your kids and your grandchildren, and that’s what this is all about.
CS: Did you do a backstory for him?
Edward James Olmos: No. I didn’t need to. There was no need to do a bible. This person was me. And I’m laying there and no one’s thinking about me. So I did it on my own life. And it was written, so I just had to know the words and what the intent was in the situation, and allow it to be. It was pretty easy and it worked. I mean, it really worked. We did it about two years ago. It took six years to make this thing. You don’t think about it until one day you go, oh, six years! You know the people who made this are ready to go on with the rest of their lives! [laughs] Next!
CS: What was it like when they approached you for this?
Edward James Olmos: It was interesting. I appreciated the way that they did it. They invited me up there to Pixar. They said, “Would you like to come up and visit our studio?” I said I’d love to. What an honor, because I know it’s pretty private, secretive. I said yeah, and I went up there. I knew a little bit about the story. I knew they were making a Day of the Dead [movie], and that there had been some discussions with different groups. So I knew that they wanted me to be a part of it. I didn’t know what. And that it was a cameo, almost, but it was a part that really needed the weight of what the story was about, so they asked me if I would help, and I said, of course. I was lucky that it turned out the way it did… I was very grateful and I’m very proud of it. I think this is going to be one that is going to be around for a long, long time. People will have it in their collection of DVDs or whatever we’re going to be holding onto our material [with]. But they’re going to have it and they will watch it at least once a year… I was asked last night what I’d like to see happen with this film. I said, “I’d like to have the President of the United States see it with his family, take his little boy and watch it. And then, you know, I think he’d enjoy it. I don’t think they’ll do it. I don’t think they’ll ever see it, and that’s their loss, big time. It would be good for him to see it.
CS: What was it like working with the two directors on this?
Edward James Olmos: It was good! It was really good. They work well together and they work hard. The whole crew — I met a lot of them because I went out and spoke, they invited my children — I run a non-profit called the Youth Cinema Project and all of the schools that are up north were invited to go to Pixar. So they go there and they watch the films there. They wanted me to speak, so I spoke to all of the people and all of the animators that were doing the movie – over a hundred people in the screening room. I spoke and they asked me questions, just interviewing me. So we had a great conversation. I was very grateful that they brought about a great understanding, bringing our kids there, because I bring them to Disney and we show films at the Academy… who knows what will happen them? They’re being exposed to something I was never exposed to. It really works.
Are you guys excited for Coco? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned to ComingSoon.net for more interviews from the film.