Roberto Orci Reinvents the American Hero, Busts Stereotypes with 'Latin James Bond' in 'Matador' on Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network
Writer, producer and science-fiction guru Roberto Orci is the literary and cinematic mastermind behind some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, from "Mission Impossible 3," to "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," and "Star Trek."
He co-created and executive produced the hit TV shows "Fringe," "Hawaii Five-0" and "Alias" and has worked alongside some of the best in the industry, like the talented J.J. Abrams and renegade Mexican-American filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.
Born to a Cuban mother and a Mexican father (whose parents were Spanish and Italian) in Mexico City, Orci was a dreamer, drawn to the endless possibilities of what a creative and cultural mind can bring to TV and film. He's on a crusade to entertain audiences around the world and empower the creativity of the Latino spirit.
Orci also hopes to present a new face for the American hero with Tony "Matador" Bravo (portrayed by Gabriel Luna), who uses his cover as a professional soccer player to execute covert missions for the CIA in his latest 13-episode TV series, "Matador" on Rodriguez's new English-language network El Rey. "Matador" was just picked up for a second season ahead of its premiere.
On July 8, El Rey Network and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) teamed up to host an exclusive premiere screening of "Matador" the network's second original scripted series, which is set to debut Tuesday, July 15 at 9 pm ET/PT, at The Paley Center in New York City. Latin Post moderated an exclusive Q&A with Orci following the screening. Rodriguez's new cable channel is generating a lot of buzz and launched its first TV series, "From Dusk Till Dawn," which was picked up for a second season.
Throughout Orci's career, he's highlighted heroic roles in various forms. How does he define a great American hero, and how would he like to redefine the face of the American hero?
"You've seen the James Bond of London and sort of the Batman of New York — Bruce Wayne — and I thought that Los Angeles needed its own international man of mystery," he told Latin Post. "So that's where the idea for 'Matador' came from — the idea of the soccer player by day who is a spy by night."
Orci, who played soccer as a kid in Mexico and moved to the U.S. when he was 10 years old, recently rediscovered his passion for soccer a few years ago.
"I love my country and I love Mexico, but they are out [of the World Cup finals]..."I think the U.S. is following in the footsteps of the rest of the world where they are actually understanding the beauty of [soccer]," he said.
Out of all of his heroes he's help create onscreen, who does Orci see himself as offscreen?
"I have always identified with Spock from 'Star Trek.' Partly because I am a sci-fi fan, but partly also because he represents a little bit of my experience; he's a legal alien who came from another planet and teamed up with an American, the way that I've teamed up with my friend Alex Kurtzman — he and I have been partners for 24 years, writing together and creating shows together; he wrote 'Star Trek' with me," he said.
"So the idea of being sort of an immigrant to the planet the way that Spock is. He's one of the heroes that I relate to, but I am hoping that with 'Matador' that the idea of Tony 'Matador' Bravo might kind of be the new hero that I would want to be."
Orci is hoping to expand the concept of what that American hero can look like.
"In my mind an American hero is a hero who fights for everyone, not just America, number one. Redefining it? I don't know that I am out to redefine it. I think I am out to make it more definitive, in terms of an American hero can be anyone of us — that's what is great about this country," he said.
"It can be a Harrison Ford, or it can be a guy from Mexico or a guy from Cuba or a guy from Venezuela, or a guy from Colombia, it doesn't matter. That's what is great about America, anyone can be a hero," he added. "That would my hope for the show. He's a hero because he becomes this soccer athlete, this star, and he could be from anywhere. In this case he happens to be a countryman of mine, he happens to be a Mexican via Texas."
Orci calls his character Bravo in "Matador" a "Latin James Bond."
"I learned a lot of English watching television and watching movies. I was a little bit colorblind to what a hero looked like, so for me the idea of a Latin James Bond is something that I wanted to see just because it's something that represents me, but I think it also applies to a general market because it represents this country," he said.
"You can see probably from the show that we are both paying honor to the values that I grew up with ... unlike James Bond who is a loner, unlike Bruce Wayne who totally is a loner and an orphan. How do we define our Latin James Bond? Well, he's got a family, he cares about his brother, he cares about his sister, and he likes his mother, and his father is relevant in his life," Orci said. "On the other hand, we wanted everyone to like it; we also bust some clichés. He doesn't like tequila. Not every person who calls himself Mexican likes tequila. We don't all speak Spanish."
"One of the things I have talked to Robert [Rodriguez] about originally was that there is a lot of folk who were born in this country and have Latin orgins and they can't speak Spanish and don't know their culture, and they feel embarrassed about it, and that is a genuine representation of a real figure. I happen to have been born in Mexico. I happen to speak Spanish. But I know that not everyone can check themselves in a box that says 'Latin American,' can say that. The idea of making it accessible to the entire market in this country, and as such make it accessible. You don't have to speak Spanish or like to tequila to have a cultural history that you want to learn more about ... That's part of what's going to happen to Tony Bravo, he's going to learn about his parents and about where he came from."
After the screening, Orci flew to Austin, Texas to attend an event hosted by Robert Rodriguez to raise money for the Democratic National Committee's midterm election efforts. Reportedly, President Barack Obama Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Demi Lovato and Danny Trejo were in attendance.
Check out a Latin Post Exclusive with 'Matador' Co-Creator Roberto Orci who discusses his spin on the new American hero and growing up bicultural.