Efren Ramirez On His Hard Boiled Detective & The Endearing Cult Of Pedro

Summary

  • Efren Ramirez stars alongside Kellan Lutz and Jeff Fahey in Due Justice, a vigilante action thriller with standout performances.
  • Ramirez plays Detective Santiago, a burned-out cop conflicted between following the law or joining the violent methods of the anti-hero Max.
  • Ramirez gained fame from his breakthrough role in Napoleon Dynamite and continues to pursue his passion as an international DJ alongside his acting career.


Efren Ramirez stars alongside Kellan Lutz and Jeff Fahey in Due Justice, written and directed by Javier Reyna. The outline of a vigilante action thriller is familiar, but the movie gets a boost from its trio of lead performances. Kellan Lutz stars as Max, a vigilante on the warpath after his family is attacked by an organ trafficking ring led by Jeff Fahey’s character, Ellis. Ramirez plays Detective Santiago, the burned-out cop following the trail of bodies. Ultimately, Santiago will have to decide if he’s loyal to the badge and the by-the-book justice it represents, or the more righteous, violent, methods favored by Max, the brutal anti-hero.

After making his cinema debut in the cult classic horror comedy Tammy and the T-Rex, Efren Ramirez ultimately came to fame due to his breakthrough role in the indie comedy, Napoleon Dynamite. Released in 2004, Napoleon Dynamite became a cultural milestone, grossing over $46 million on a budget of just $400,000. Ramirez would reprise his role of Pedro in the short-lived animated adaptation on the FOX network, and Napoleon Dynamite remains a legendary piece of mid 00’s nostalgia.

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Screen Rant interviewed Efren Ramirez about his work on Due Justice and his career at large. He spoke about his life as an international DJ, and his ambitions for the next stage of his career. He also explained how he ended up reuniting with co-star Kellan Lutz on an episode of FBI: Most Wanted shortly after wrapping on Due Justice.


Efren Ramirez Talks Due Justice, Vibing as a DJ, and Napoleon Dynamite

Screen Rant: Due Justice! I’m so glad to see a Latino as a hard-boiled tough guy cop, as opposed to running away from them like we usually are. In the past, you worked with Kellan Lutz on an episode of FBI. Are you two buddies, or was this one of those Hollywood coincidences?

Efren Ramirez: As a matter of fact, it just so happened to turn out that way. I know he was working on FBI: Most Wanted, so… What happened was, I ended up finishing the film, up in Seattle, Due Justice. Then, on my last day, I got a phone call from my agent, saying, “They want you to do this TV show called FBI: Most Wanted.” And I’m like, “What? What is this?” And it turns out that Kellan Lutz was on that show! It just so happened to fall in between.

In that case, I had to play a really dark character, which was interesting enough. In Due Justice, I play Detective Santiago. My job is to study criminals and study criminal behavior. So, to jump from spectrum into the other, I had an understanding. The idea for the actor is the allowance to be able to open yourself up into these worlds and into these characters’ lives, to go through it. And when you’re working with a really good director, it sort of makes things easier. So the fact I was part of that, I went, “I can do this.”

Screen Rant: In Due Justice, you play this tough, hard-boiled, detective character, but there’s a sense of humor about you and your actions. Lutz has to play it straight, because he’s got the insane tragedy in his life, but I feel like you and Jeff Fahey get to have some fun with it here and there. Did you incorporate that into your character, or was he always written that way?

Efren Ramirez: What’s interesting about the film itself is that it has to do with identity. Someone like Lutz, he plays everything by the book. Unlike my character, and Jeff Fahey’s character. We’ve learned things by the book, but we’ve broke things out of order. Sometimes you have to go beyond in order to really discover whatever direction you’re going. That’s where everything goes awry. Things don’t pan out the way they are supposed to be. Mind you, Lutz is playing a character who is an ex-marine, well-trained, well-skilled. When he’s tested on having to do the right thing, especially with the loss of what happens to his family, that’s where my character begins to discover the darkness of what truly is in crime and solving places.

Screen Rant: It really goes to some unique and interesting places. I was like, “Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen next!” What more can I ask from a crime movie, right?

Efren Ramirez: And the comedy, there’s… Life has its own humor. Sometimes I find actors play drama for drama’s sake. It necessarily isn’t that way. There’s funny moments in life. When bad things happen, sometimes all you can do is laugh about it and move forward in life. When you see a film like this, there’s so much color to it. That’s one of the reasons I decided to work on this film. Without giving anything away, you really care for the characters and what they’re going through. I really like this film, myself.

Screen Rant: I imagine that you have come to terms with the fact that no matter what you do with your career, you’re always going to be Pedro to a generation. Is that something you’ve tried to shake, or do you welcome and accept it into your heart?

Efren Ramirez: For actors, it’s a challenge if you play a character that’s hated in a very popular film. In a film like Napoleon Dynamite, Pedro is loved and revered because he truly leads with hope. And I try to see if I can find that and drop a little bit of that with every character I play. Because it’s the ambition, and the drive, and the search for some form of finding a higher self, per se, or just solving some problem that stirs in your mind, that you hope you can come out of.

I played Pedro, and everywhere I go around the world, people really love the character, and they see him and want to embrace him. They’re like, “Hey, how’s it going? Hey, I’m that guy, too.” I’m utterly grateful for that. I wouldn’t have much of a career if it wasn’t for Napoleon Dynamite. My job is to prove to the studios that I can play in different worlds, and throughout the years, having to do auditions and screen tests and chemistry reads, to really develop these characters and these worlds, I always ask myself, what new character am I going to play next? And then take two weeks to rest in my house and go, “Who am I? Am I going crazy?” And then go back to a new world.

Efren Ramirez and Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite

Screen Rant: I guess it’s good to have that signature character being such a positive and uplifting one. And I imagine it’s great for selling yourself as a DJ and musician. You’re still spinning, right?

Efren Ramirez: I gotta tell you, working as an actor, you’re living in such a private world and you try to keep things to yourself. At some point, you’re so much in your head. Once I’m done with a project, I like doing things that are outside, whether it’s mountain biking or spelunking or DJ’ing. That’s a whole other world, because now you’re playing for the audience. It really is like stage, where the audience is going to feel whatever, as they call it, the new generation, “whatever the vibe is,” right? Whether you’re playing Electro, to Hip-Hop, to Trap music, to Indie Rock, to 80s.

In between auditioning, before Napoleon Dynamite, I used to DJ all over Los Angeles. Then I became a celebrity DJ and I DJ around the world. I think I’m DJ’ing on Wednesday with DJ Irene. So it’s going to be pretty amazing. For me, I love art, I love music, I love films, I love paintings. I’m driven by that. That’s what motivates me to pursue something further.

Screen Rant: You’ve done so much work over the years, so many movies, so many shows. Is there anything in particular that you feel was overlooked, maybe it kinda came and went and you were so proud of it, but it maybe didn’t get the attention it deserved? Something you want to shout-out for the Screen Rant audience?

Efren Ramirez: Screen Rant audience, I love you, I love you, stay true to your heart, stay true to your mind? And hopefully, as an artist, I tell great stories. 2030 hasn’t arrived yet. Between now and then, I’m hoping to tell great stories as much as I can, as a lead character.

About Due Justice

Due Justice Kellan Lutz

In the heart-pounding thriller, DUE JUSTICE, former marine Max (Kellan Lutz) experiences a devastating loss when his beloved wife is murdered and his daughter kidnapped in a cold-blooded act of violence. Consumed by grief and driven by revenge, Max embarks on a relentless mission to hunt down those responsible.

Check out our other interviews here:

Due Justice is currently available to buy or rent on digital platforms.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • Due Justice

    Release Date:
    2023-11-24

    Director:
    Javier Reyna

    Cast:
    Kellan Lutz, Jeff Fahey, Efren Ramirez, Cynthia Geary, Manu Intiraymi, Chelsea Lopez

    Runtime:
    97 Minutes

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