This is the second part of Word of the Nerd‘s press coverage of the El Rey show From Dusk Till Dawn. For part one, which includes a show summary and interviews with Robert Rodriguez, Zane Holtz, and Eiza Gonzalez, click here. If you’re looking for interviews with Jesse Garcia, DJ Cotrona, Madison Davenport, and Brandon Soo Hoo, then read on! You’re in the right place.
Jesse Garcia and DJ Cotrona
It’s been one hell of a season for Ranger Freddie Gonzales (Garcia) and Seth Gecko (Cotrona.) And hell should be taken in the most literal sense. When we left Freddie in episode 8, he’d just been buried alive. This, naturally, follows the loss of his family and the rapid unraveling of his own sense of self and sanity. And speaking of of unraveling, there’s Seth, who’s season started with a heroin addiction and seems to be ending with him on something like a warpath.
So a fun ride for all involved, really.
“I think we cut [Seth] in half,” Cotrona said. “You know Seth, in the first season was very well-defined. He was the mouthpiece of this unit. He was the guy that had everything in control, he was the confident, cocksure, PT Barnum of this kind of duo. And in the second season we rip away the only thing he has. His brother’s half of him. They’re codependent. And when that gets ripped away from him, we wanted to see: What does this guy look like when he’s broken? What does he look like when he’s given up? So we went deep. He completely gave up. And it was great! It was always by design and the goal to get to this point in the second season where we can do things like that.”
He added that Ranger Gonzales was an original character from the get-go, which gave the writers a lot more freedom to work with. Seth, while he was certainly reworked from the film, still had a path he needed to follow up until the end of season one. “We had to get these guys past what everybody already knew to explore new ground. So it was really satisfying.” Cotrona added.
“[Freddie’s] discovered this whole new world he never knew existed,” Garcia said. “That he’s destined to be a part of. I don’t think he necessarily wants to be a part of it. For one, it’s ruining his family, and two, it’s scary as sh*t.”
“I feel the same way!” Cotrona said.
“I get to kick a lot of ass this year,” Garcia continued. “It’s a lot of fun. I think he’s evolved a lot from last year. His innocence is gone. And it’s affected him and his family, obviously, because his family has taken off and he has to deal with this world until his family comes back. And who knows when that’s going to be?”
And what about common threads between the two characters? This season, both Ranger Gonzales and Seth have worked with Kate Fuller (Madison Davenport) in separate but very telling ways. What did that spell for their characters? “There’s no good guys on this show. There’s bad guys, there’s worse guys. And I think Kate, in her case, is the one shred of innocence.” Cotrona said. “And I know for Seth, there’s still a human being there. He operates very much like a lone wolf, machine criminal. But for me, Maddie’s character always represented his last shred of innocence. And you see it in moments where he tries to protect her, tries to make sure that she’s okay, tries to make sure that Richie doesn’t do anything weird to her. She was like the last shred of humanity that Seth had left. He wasn’t a total degenerate because any time she was around you’d always see a spark in that.”
“For Freddie, I think he has a natural role of a protector anyway,” Garcia said. “He’s a dad, he’s a husband, and he’s the law. So he has a natural instinct to want to protect. And she called him for help. So he’s already developed his own weapons and he’s discovering more things about this work from a different perspective than Kate. But it’s interesting, the turn that they have.”
To top off the emotional performances, there’s quite a bit of physical work going on as well. “One of the great things about getting to work a troublemaker in with Robert is that they champion old school.” Cotrona said. “Old school action, old school practical effects. They try to keep those alive. So what it means is that it looks cool, but what it also means is that it f*cking hurts.”
There’s a lot of bruises that goes into making the show.
“You just get banged up, you know?” Garcia said. “Sometimes we actually hit each other by accident. And it’s a lot of jumping around and getting thrown across the room. It’s a lot of fun. I don’t think any of it is particularly grueling or difficult, but it can be very physical.”
Madison Davenport and Brandon Soo Hoo
Davenport and Soo Hoo are the youngest cast members, at 18 and 19 respectively. They play the Fuller siblings, and their sibling relationship has been both a primary focus and a major Gecko brothers foil for the entirety of season two.
“I think it’s such an honor to be able to take on the role of Kate,” Davenport said.
“And for me to take on the role of Scott,” Soo Hoo said. “And I’m super, double honored that they didn’t kill me. YET.”
“He outlived his character,” Davenport added.
The two discussed cast relationships, noting that there’s a really positive, “do it for the show” kind of mentality. “As long as the show itself prospers, I couldn’t give two poops [who has more screen time.]” Soo Hoo said.
“We have a really good cast in that sense,” Davenport continued. “Nobody is really worried about who has more lines or who has more this. We’re all kind of like, ‘If it makes the show better, then go for it.’ And we’re all such totally different characters. There’s not two people on the show that are fighting for the token white girl.”
“I actually wanted to be the token white girl,” Soo Hoo said. “But [Davenport] took it. And I have no problem with that, it’s the way the ball rolls.”
In terms of limits, Soo Hoo pointed out, “We’ve all been in pretty dark spots.” He added that he was in chains for a good portion of season two, and that at some point, Eiza Gonzalez was embarrassed in front of a crowd of nuns. The story behind that was not elaborated on.
We also brought up the Titty Twister set. It happened to be the first time either had been in a strip club.
“I lost my innocence,” Soo Hoo joked. “Both the character and the actor.”
“The show is about loss of innocence!” Davenport said.
At which point, we turned to a more serious note, where we discussed the actually loss of innocence that Kate and Scott experienced.
“It’s such a poignant moment,” Davenport said of Kate losing her innocence. “Because so often in television shows the token innocent Christian girl losing her innocence is in a sexual way. And what’s so cool about this show is that you have Kate, who’s so strong in her beliefs, and you really watch her throughout the second second holding on to her faith and holding on to this faith that she has to her brother, and losing it throughout the season. And watching the world take that from her.”
“In terms of innocence, as opposed to [Kate],” Soo Hoo said. “It’s something that from the get-go, my character’s been seeking out. He never wanted to be a part of this Christian family. He wanted to leave his public school. He didn’t get along with anyone in school. This is kind of something that he asked for. So his loss of innocence is like, he didn’t want to be innocent anymore.”
“I don’t know if Scott ever really was innocence. He always had that hate in his heart,” added Davenport.
Soo Hoo added Scott’s season one plan to bring a gun to school to scare his bullies. “He was a pretty dark kid,” Soo Hoo said.
“He had hatred in his heart because I think he felt the hate from our family,” Davenport continued. “You have that episode where [Kate] tells [Scott] that [she] hated him. That [she] hated that he was different. That he was this little Asian boy coming into our perfect, white Christian family. And I thought that was such a poignant moment in the show.”
“And my character probably felt that,” Soo Hoo said. “He probably never really felt like a part of the family. At the end of season one he said ‘I never really was a part of this family! Was I?’ Because he never really felt accepted.”
And is there a parallel there? Between Scott’s path and the Gecko brothers?
“I see Scott as being everything Seth doesn’t want him to turn out to be,” Davenport said. “He’s like, ‘This kid shouldn’t be like me. He’s in this perfect, Christian family.’ And so I think Seth sees a lot of what he doesn’t like about himself in Scott.”
“Early on, Scott super resents the brothers. Like, his bullies from his high school. He sees that in the brothers, and he brings that up constantly.” Soo Hoo said. “And I’m guessing that for my character, he’s dealt with racism as a child in school. Richie calls [Scott] ‘Bruce Lee’ and [he] gets really defensive. [He’s] like ‘Why, because I’m Chinese?’ And I’ve clearly been dealing with racism from childhood. But after a while, they kind of see this steel in my character and they grow to respect that.”
“What I love about the show is we’re not afraid to address racism,” Davenport said. “And my character tells Scott that she hated him. She hated him for being different. She hated for being a person of color. And she didn’t want to call him by his name, Jian Jun, because he was different. And she didn’t want her life to change. And we’re all afraid to be the bad guy, and we’re all afraid to admit that we have faults. And I felt really honored to do that scene. I thought it was very interesting to show a little girl innocently hating someone for coming in and ruining her idea of perfection.”
“And as much as my character resented her character for always being that goody-goody sister, always being in my ear, in my life, after that scene where she opened up to me, you can’t help but think that he respected her a little bit more.”
From Dusk Till Dawn airs at 9pm, Tuesdays on El Rey. All of season one is currently available on Netflix.