Today on the show, we have award-winning screenwriter, actor, director, producer, and sketch comedian Rick Najera. Rick is also an author, playwright, coach and national speaker with an expansive portfolio of credits in all forms of entertainment.
From starring in films with Sidney Poitier, George Clooney, and most recently Mario Lopez to writing sketch comedy for Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, Najera is best known for starring on Broadway in his award-winning, self-penned stage play, Latinologues, directed by comedy legend Cheech Marin. Najera is only one of three Latinos to ever write and star in their own play on Broadway.
As a screenwriter, Najera has written dozens of scripts for TV, film, and the stage, starting out in the industry as a staff writer on the groundbreaking urban comedy series, In Living Color, for which he wrote more than 30 episodes. Najera went on to write for Townsend TV (10 episodes), MAD TV (47 episodes), East Los High – a Hulu original (21 episodes), and more.
He penned the feature film Nothing Like the Holidays starring Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, John Leguizamo, and Luis Guzman, which won him an ALMA Award. Najera learned from great writers like Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Scorsese to “write what you know and has been a pioneer in Hollywood telling his American experience from a Latino perspective.
Rick and I discuss the raw truth about working in Hollywood, writing comedy, working with greats like Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, and much more. This is an entertaining and informative episode. Get ready to take notes.
Enjoy my conversation with Rick Najera.
Alex Ferrari 0:09
I like to welcome to the show, Rick Najera, man, how are you doing, Rick?
Rick Najera 3:28
Good, Alex, how you doing?
Alex Ferrari 3:30
As good as we can be in this crazy mix up the world we live in today, sir.
Rick Najera 3:34
It is a crazy mixed up world. Yeah, it's so much going on. But you know, different stuff. I'm sure that everyone's tired of hearing about COVID interactions and things like that. Let's talk about film.
Alex Ferrari 3:44
Absolutely. Absolutely. So first and foremost, sir, how did you get into this ridiculous business?
Rick Najera 3:51
You know, it's very simple. Um, I thought of the, the one thing that would just totally destroy my life and make my life really horrible. And I went, let's go for that job. And it had to be writer, because that is the probably one of the worst jobs you can get in Hollywood. It's just, you know, really horrible.
Alex Ferrari 4:08
Now, why not? Why, sir? Why? Well, I
Rick Najera 4:11
Well, I mean, I have to tell you, first of all, it's a lonely business. So it's not like, you know, it's lonely. No one, you know how many times they go, Oh, my God, there's, that's the writer of that film. You know, it's even you could name off Star Wars. They'd go, Oh, my guts. Oh, wait a minute, is that James Earl Jones Oh, my God, not for you. Because people are are attracted to the to the man or woman in the podium. You know, and that's, that's the person I mean, we've had years of now, you know, the the cult of the director like Orson Welles and people like that, or, you know, Quentin Tarantino, but say Quentin Tarantino, Orson Welles, were also actors, they're performers. So they were hybrids. And I think that's kind of what's coming to the world now is more hybrid. I mean, yes. writer you know, I'm a proud member of the WTA I've you know written a lot of things but now I love my union are great. And my favorite things are screeners I used to get but we don't they don't really send at the screeners like they used to
Alex Ferrari 5:14
know that as much anymore now yes like you go online
Rick Najera 5:17
to see something like one thing I don't want to be online is a freakin pandemic. I don't want to be in five a screen.
Alex Ferrari 5:25
Yeah. I want to go to a theater and watch it theater. I
Rick Najera 5:27
want popcorn. I can't watch a movie without popcorn in my hand. There's so it's, it's it is the it is more of what I think I am in a lot of certain performers are and writers and people like that. We tend to be Heifetz. And the old world of Hollywood actually was the Model T Ford world. Right? Like, the the writer does eight hour, you know, he does the eight o'clock hour family sitcom, that's the guy and this person's the single camera guy. And that person's this no, this is a writer, but he's really comedy. And this is this. So they approach writers that way. It's being Latino. I had to always create my own job. You know, there wasn't, you know, we talked earlier on the show that there isn't a lot of Latino writers. And there's there's a reason for that. But they're just we're just few or a few and far between. I was on a plane I think was hosted in Lopez and one of the writers were going to some event, and there's like three Latino writers on the plane, I say, this plane goes down. We've lost half the writers in Hollywood. And at that time, it was kind of the truth. It was like it was like, we've lost half the writers the display goes down. I mean, and I hope I mentioned along with Josephina in the other writer, for sure it was it would go you know, but it was true. It was like What a tragedy is sad because, you know, no one wants to be the first in Hollywood. Or like, you know, people have called me a pioneer in some ways. You know, Pioneer I got I've never wanted to be a pioneer pioneer really is a bad job. Because pioneer gets killed by the bear gets cholera syphilis some mercury poison and a silver mine and some
Alex Ferrari 7:15
What's that? What's that? So it's like game Oregon Trail Oregon Trail trail. Yeah,
Rick Najera 7:19
just the worst things you can imagine Eagle the eagle takes your baby yeah your feet you have no fingers or hands you've got no personal hygiene fair enough fair to add and you're you're just hoping to syphilis kills you instead of a Native American and well that's it's just bad it's so I want to be the guy that shows up in the train you know what the you know the nice mustache and Joe show up with a train and and all that kind of world that's the kind of guy I want to be I don't want to be a better yet. The guy shows in a jet just right to New York even better. You know, it's great. But pioneers a bad thing to be you don't want to be a pioneer. It's just the danger level of Pioneer is really up there. I went to Australia to film something. And that place was dangerous already. I could imagine someone going that place and being a pioneer. They have everything there will kill you. spiders, snakes, every the people I mean, kangaroos box. I mean, it's crazy. Oh, kangaroos aren't even cute animals, like I saw King like seven foot high. And they will gut you with their feet. You know, so you go walk up with a carrot your mouth and what to feed it gently, you know, with a gill kill you. And so it's that's to me, Pioneer. So I do not want to be a Latino pioneer. Because first of all, they don't no one cares. And
Alex Ferrari 8:37
no one do. So by me. So when you when you started out? I mean, you started out? How did you like start getting work because I look, I'll tell you what, you know, I came up as a commercial director and in post production as a Latino in Miami. And, you know, I started off in editing Latino, you know, commercials and doing other stuff or South America and things like that. But it was a little it was hard to break through to the American market for and that was This is the mid 90s where things are a bit different now in regards to accessibility, like I mean before, get more and and then that whole crew
Rick Najera 9:14
and those guys aren't even doing what you say particularly Latino stories.
Alex Ferrari 9:18
No, they're no they're they're not there but they're still but they're still you know, Latino, you know, let's call it Latino directors and and Robert Rodriguez and and you know, and all that kind of stuff. It was it was a different world so I could only imagine what it was like for you as a writer coming up in the 90s
Rick Najera 9:36
Well first of all, they were surprised I could write in English what's the bigger surprise what could I do you understand the words it was very hard you know it's it's I got in this business because I believe you can be anything you want to be you know that was drilled in my head you can be able to ever you want to be and and I believed it So I said I'll be an actor because being an actor you can be any character want to be and then this business spends their entire energy telling you can't do that. And now those exceptions are starting to happen. I'm watching with Shonda Rhimes. I'm a big fan of, you know, people like that. But on the whole, for the 90s, just the 92, like when I first started out was, it was a 92 it was I got an in living color. And I got that after being an actor. I was, I was working a lot, you know, as I got into acting, I did you know, I mean that did shows every show from Colombo to whatever to you know, China beach and all these pilots and you know, West Wing, and I just didn't like the roles. I finally it was one day I was doing a film called Read surf with George Clooney. And we both were leads. And he had 1020 Auditions afterwards, I had zero. And we both release. And I said, Well, why what he's going on 20 shows why, why can I? They said, Well, he's going out for white roles. You only play Latinos. So it was ingrained. It agents, managers, everyone, you play Latinos now which led to can you play? At that time, it was like you're either gonna be drug lords, which hasn't changed terribly much because look at Narcos and shows like that, or you're the gardener or your you know, whatever it is, it wasn't like, you know, Dr. Sanchez, we need to We're losing him. Dr. Sanchez. We're losing. You know, it was always you know, you know, quick cut, you know, Pan left. And Dr. Sanchez is I'm just working here as a gardener, but part time I am also a doctor to help with this situation. So that
Alex Ferrari 11:46
I want to watch that I want to watch that medical drama. That's Dr.
Rick Najera 11:48
Sanchez. He's a gardener by day. But ER doctor at night. I learned this during the war, you know, salads. Teach people back up. And also
Alex Ferrari 12:02
gardening. Because I do like the gardening. It's steady when
Rick Najera 12:07
it calms me down. One night, er, gametime gardening. And I also have him. I bring the truck around. And I also make lunch for the people.
Alex Ferrari 12:19
Oh, of course, of course. Great. That's a funny
Rick Najera 12:23
dimensional character. I didn't know that. You know, so I just I just said, listen, these roles aren't, you know, they're dumb. I was very insulted by them. And I was I started off as a classical actor as an actual actor at the Globe Theatre in San Diego was as it lawyer playoffs, I did Time magazine 10 Best Production years American Conservatory Theater, all the best theaters in the nation. And the minute they found out I was Latino, there's like this. And it wasn't a secret was it wasn't walking around going. My name is Rick Nash. It sounds like an Arabic word cried. You know, nothing is exotic. And obviously not Anglo American is when I got very, you know, stuck in playing the Latino. So I said, um, if I'm gonna play a stereotype, I better written it. So I just started writing the roles. And I've turned the stereotypes upside down. I would I play a drug lord, but he was a news fanatic. You know, I talked about the news. I was I was watching the news last night, you know, talking about
Alex Ferrari 13:25
these Scarface who watches CNN?
Rick Najera 13:28
Yeah, I heard about a man. His name. He he was executed in Texas by lethal injection is ironic, no. Lethal objection. He was a drug lord. So I'm thinking to myself, for his last meal. He asked for steak, french fries and a Diet Coke. Why would you order a diet? Are you worried about the calories we're talking about? I would do that I would take care of and really create, you know, flip and flip them out and change them around. And it was it was a tough fight because you're you're in a battle with Latinos themselves. And that you you know, because it's because you're going to you every every time you're performing Latinos looking at you going, No, he's not that good. Or I don't like him or for 1000 reasons. Mostly. We're Vidya you know, Andy, of looking at someone. And so, you either people assume you're full of yourself, I gotta get that people assume I'm full of myself. You've done all these shows. You must think you're the most incredible person in the world. And I go, No, not at all. And I'm the most insecure person in the world. Those shows make you insecure. Okay, Hollywood is geared to make you insecure. It's actually geared when you walk in the door and they look at you and they said they're just not good looking. Or walk in the door. You're not sexy. Hey, you know, old, but it's like the words they used. I was like, vibrant, wonderful.
Alex Ferrari 14:55
No, it's not. It's not it's not a ton that builds you up. It's not it's not look like Brad Pitt and George Clooney were having problems getting roles when they were young. I mean, I mean, yeah, it took it took a minute. It's a George Clooney took a while before he actually hit.
Rick Najera 15:11
George Clooney. I'll tell you a story. I worked with George years ago, and we did that read serve together. And he invited me to his house to have two
Alex Ferrari 15:20
is this free? Is this pre or post? Er?
Rick Najera 15:23
Oh, this is this is I believe, pre er, like, like, so he's, he's still hustling at this point. Still hustling, still hustling? And he's hustling and I go to his house. And he has a pet pig. Pig? Like, yeah, so we're in his house, you know, doing tequila shots, and we're talking is a few of his friends over. And he says, you know, we do the movie, we'll get a bad guy, and I'm the good guy. And so we're gonna cut or not hang out together to keep that kind of denture. I said, understandable. No problem at all. And I look at his house with George. It's a great house goes out. Thank you. I go. So what do your parents do? What are your parents? So did
Alex Ferrari 16:08
he test himself?
Rick Najera 16:09
He looks at me and he just goes, it's my house. I go, I go, Well, what do you do? I'm an actor. I go. I'm an actor, but don't have a house like this. Because he really what he done pilots and stuff like that, but so he's making money, but he wasn't, you know, so I didn't know. And I said, Well, I'm an actor. How come I don't have a house? Like the house? Like there's so many because you just have to ask for more money. It's nice that Okay, last remember money? The truth is, it was just math. If you audition for 20 different roles, you're going to get one. And when you came to the Latino actors, there wasn't many roles. We didn't have many Latinos writing those roles. And even now, half the time when there is a Latino show, I almost assume I'll never get on there. Because Latinos, a lot of times they don't want to hire you themselves. Because they're looking at going no, I want to have this cast filled with all these white writers behind the screens and stains. And I am talking major Latinos who have told me no, I want to have some, you know, white writers around me. Because to them, that's success. So that's changing but but it's it is a very tough business. And it's sad because the least thing, the reason all of us go into art, and you know, I'm sure it's the same with you too, is it? You want to comment and explore the world you're living in and talk about it and show people look at this. This is such a unique way to see those I was just watching you know, Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad and I love that writer. And I was looking at I what I love about his writing is and in Shonda Rhimes to what I love about the writing is they'll take it anywhere. And a lot of times when you're dealing with Latino stories, particularly you have Anglos, you know, white Hollywood telling you what a Latino story is. There's the difference was
Alex Ferrari 18:09
like they did it with black, what's a blood? What's a black story? What's a gay story? What's with any whatever, whatever minority it is, I'll tell you what kind of story it is.
Rick Najera 18:17
Exactly. And that that is the problem. And so that's been the issue. And a lot. That's why I became so independent is why I produced my own shows and stuff like that, because I had to.
Alex Ferrari 18:29
So there's a you, you got started with a living color, because for people not for people who aren't aware and living color when it came out. I mean, Kenan was kind of like an 800 pound gorilla that could really do whatever he wanted, especially after the first season because it was such a runaway hit. And if you haven't if you don't know what a living colorize it was basically just you know, a Saturday Night Live sketch comedy,
Rick Najera 18:51
which is Chappelle Show. Yes, Chappelle Show before the Chappelle Show,
Alex Ferrari 18:55
right. And it was Yeah, and before that, it was like really, Saturday Night Live was the only thing on Yeah, honestly. But in living color just hit the mainstream in a way that I mean, it really hit the zeitgeist. So I could only imagine what was it like working with you know, was Were you there when Jim was there? Jim Carrey worked
Rick Najera 19:13
with Jim till four in the morning. I mean, this is this is my day. Okay. I'm working with Jim to like four to write a sketch called you know, the juice man. She's a fan sketches like juice, juice juice, his character Gray, and about 10 o'clock I go, Hey, what if he so crazy with his juice that he thinks he can fly or something and jumps out the window? That's a horrible idea. For the morning, Jim. Hey, what are you with the juice guy so hyped up the juicy things you can find jumps out the window and dies? Gets a great idea. Oh my god. Brilliant.
Alex Ferrari 19:51
You're gonna go far. Jim. I borrowed my words.
Rick Najera 19:55
And I say Jim's a very you know, and it's like Jamie Foxx was hiding in my office because He was in some fight with so and so. And you know Katie was upset about something and and Jennifer Lopez and walking and going Rick and I be an actress. Do you think it could be an actress? Right? I told her yes, you can. So it's like Rosie. Oh, you know, Rosie Perez, Perez and and, you know, Rosie, and I would and Jennifer would have lunches together because we'd be only Latinos there. Right? You know, the one of my favorite times in living color. I wrote a sketch because they wouldn't let me act. They're like, Dude, you really can't act you gotta write. No, no, just do it. Because most of the acting staff are the writers were actors and performers, some of the great performers. Some of the best performers were not on stage. They were actually you know, guys like Robert Schimmel are great stand up comedians, you're like, these were the staff. I mean, you know, the people you just it just goes on who's who's in fact, I'm the bliss famous person in that room. Like, one time has an event and Jennifer Lopez there and say, Hello, Jennifer, say hello to Jennifer my ad, spend some years you probably will remember me. I don't want to go up there and get amazed by her security detail. And I just would like to avoid that for my ego. She's gonna say something, and I'm not gonna say anything. So she's walking up was Marc Anthony, and I get to meet Mark entity years later. But she walks up, he recognizes. And she runs up and gives me a hug. That was such a beautiful moment. And she goes, Rick, we've done so well, haven't we? And I just looked at I was like, Well, I'm at the party, too. But I
Alex Ferrari 21:34
really well. But my security detail hasn't gotten here yet know,
Rick Najera 21:38
my security detail. Still getting the press pass and trying to get past there. My main security guys on the floor being arrested right now. priors. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 21:49
And this is a rented suit. This is a red.
Rick Najera 21:53
So a lot of times, you know, that was, you know, that's really what the day was like, you just had tons of people around. It was a very exciting time, especially for people of color. To me. Just amazing. And it was Fox and Fox would let you get away with stuff even though Fox now seems to be against people of color. Good. All right. There's a time,
Alex Ferrari 22:14
though not the time, but they let that when Fox first showed up, as far as the network was concerned, they had nothing to lose. So they just they just like we got married with children. Sure. The anti Cosby Show. Great. So why not? It was
Rick Najera 22:29
basically this kind of you had to be, it was the bad boys. Yeah, we were the true not ready for primetime players. And it was it was such a unique time in Hollywood, and it I'd still have my Living Colour jacket that they gave me. So give me a jacket. And I didn't know as a hit show until I work one day at an airport. Because remember, we're there all day long and a night to four in the morning or some amazing, you know, ridiculous amount, the price so many sketches do so much work. That meant none of us had a personal life. Right? You know, no one had a personal life. So I didn't, you know, you'd work till Friday, but you'd be done about four, whatever it was, you go to sleep the next day takes you one day to get yourself together, you feel like you just beat like a pinata. And then Sunday, you're like, oh, I should get my laundry done. Or I should get to pay some bills or do whatever. And then oh my god, what happened this time? I gotta be there. 10 in the morning to pitch. And one time the pressure pitching was so hard because you're in a room with Robert Schimmel. The greatest writers ears, you know, Larry Wilmore, all these people that are, you know, are in the room with you. And everyone's got to get something on the air. Everything's got a because if you don't you pitch and they say, Oh, I love that idea. It's great. Okay, well go with that idea. That idea that you're had to work. And this wasn't nice. This wasn't Oh, we're so wonderful idea. This is great. Let's go for with this. It was like, Alright, you got to 12 gets done. It's pretty
Alex Ferrari 23:59
brutal. Those rooms for my worst part,
Rick Najera 24:02
they'd walk in and say you got nothing. They don't want any of your pitches, you bet. You're going to pitch again in a few hours, some ideas. So you'd have to come back when you've worked all amount of time on this, to come back with a story. And if they didn't like it, for whatever reason, it just, you know, science was not gonna play that. Well. That's like work Nana, you had to come up with new ideas. So you're constantly coming up with I had one writer as you know, well known writer worked on tons of shows. He gets in there. And it was intimidating me because he walks up. So yeah, I've got 108 I kept a list sketches. These are 180 sketches that will just you know, no one will stop these ideas. This is the best pitch. I've worked for a year coming up with ideas for this show. He's telling me and stuff. I'm like, Wow, I'm intimidated. And I got my big list of sketches. I got about 200 of those. That means you know, not for you know, not guaranteed kill it's still good. Could you to my car at 300 those, you know, they're good premises, maybe Need some work? Maybe they do it to be, you know, BS or and maybe five days. And he's like this whole math Wow in a humble within a week, he comes to the office and goes, I got nothing man.
Alex Ferrari 25:12
They destroyed me mad they destroyed
Rick Najera 25:15
nothing. And he's like thinking ideas. So So I would see grown men cry. Wow. And I was people needed ideas bears like crack because like cracked in the 90s or 80s It's like, you know, it was it was sad so they would go through so much material and you would have to come up with ideas and you know like to work on other shows later years later, like mad tv. Or
Alex Ferrari 25:41
how has it worked because matte TV was like the kind of almost the, the sequel to live in color in some ways. In
Rick Najera 25:47
some ways. It was a sequel, but living color had more of the stand up comic sensibility. Jamie Foxx, that's the Mad TV had the Groundlings sensibility, yeah, more like sketch comedy from the Groundlings. There's a very particular Groundlings is a very particular style, they use a lot of wigs, they use a lot of different stuff. They're you know, they look at Pee Wee Herman and will Pharaoh as they're saints, you know, they pray to them. And so there you have a different style. But to me, it was kind of cultish in some ways, because you had to have that school. I like the stand up comedy schools, the chapels those guys like that, because they in stand up comedy of the Comedy Store. But then you've got the improv, then you've got the Laugh Factory, but each one has their own style and schools. So as much more varied. Groundlings was a very definite style. Then came UCB and all these other others.
Alex Ferrari 26:41
And What years were you at Mad TV?
Rick Najera 26:44
Gosh, I gotta think maybe like around 2005 or something like that.
Alex Ferrari 26:53
Starting starting around? 2005
Rick Najera 26:54
I think I think I remember. I mean, I wrote a lot of those things. And it's in my IMDb and i i read this stuff. And I'm like, What I didn't remember so
Alex Ferrari 27:02
you miss you miss the time that Julie was there. Julie Michelle Jones. Oh, yeah.
Rick Najera 27:07
What is a Julie Julie I worked with later on Julia and I work together and Latino locks either showed up on Broadway. Well,
Alex Ferrari 27:14
she's wonderful. She was my she was the star of my first feature. Wow. Which one was that? This is Meg. She and I directed her comedy special. And I've been friends with Jill for about a decade. Jeff. Tonto stages. Wait,
Rick Najera 27:30
this is a very close friend. I really like her like because because I interviewed her for my, my podcast now in America, you know? Sure. I don't want to siphon your million man. Audience.
Alex Ferrari 27:44
I'll put a link i'll put a link in the show notes. So
Rick Najera 27:46
yeah, put a link to the show. Because you know, Listen, guys like me don't have the audience to you do. So, but I'm here in America to hedge Julia and she's just a great person. You know? She did. She didn't, you know, I think it was Reno 9110. Yeah, she's like that. So it's it. The comedy school in Hollywood is very small.
Alex Ferrari 28:08
Yeah, that's one thing I've made since I got here. almost a dozen years ago, I met Julie three months in, by the way. Three months after I got here. I met Julian she started in a short film that I shot like, I was hired to do within within three months of getting here. It was like, and I when I got here, like this is Hollywood. Great. This is the way it's always gonna be. I'm just gonna like in that whole project turned into a shit show. And you know, but she was wonderful. We always stayed in touch.
Rick Najera 28:33
We say this is Hollywood. This is Holly. Now this is all I know.
Alex Ferrari 28:37
This is Hollywood. Yeah. But it's very small town. And everybody knows everybody. It's so weird. Because and the more I do these show, like when I do this show in my, my other podcasts. I'll talk to a guest and I'm like, Oh, I know. Do you know this person? Yeah, I know that person. Like, and it's just like, everyone knows everybody. So if you and this is something for the audience listening. Don't Don't be an ass. Because you will get back to you people will talk.
Rick Najera 29:06
I know, it's with me. It's like, you know, I go through through Mum, you know, normally for me, it's it's I've run into more just I don't think people understand. I don't think they've ever stood because I don't fit anything. You know, it's not like you go you're not in a box. I'm not a box. I write a director, actor, you know, I've done everything, you know, VP and network and, you know, do all this stuff. Not a big network, but it's still a network. And so I've seen the world very differently. And, and I come up like, I'm gonna do a T, a web show in February on a web show. A masterclass right, in February. So, so people go like, Hey, he's actually teaching are doing some like that. Because I came from school, you had to do everything. And that's very Latino. Like, oh, I know. I've never met a Latino that you You go to front of Home Depot. Can you do tile? Oh yeah, I can do can you do plumbing? For sure I got my tools. Can you do surgery surgery? Can you? Oh yeah, I can do quite crack open the heart. I need a donor. But then I got my tools. I guess you got a donor I got my tools. So it just, that's where people have been.
Alex Ferrari 30:24
I mean, look, I have a hat on this says hustle. I mean there's there's there's I mean, it's it's it's on brand for me, sir. I
Rick Najera 30:29
understand woke up this morning. Every day. I'm hustling Everyday everyday I'm hustling. Because, like, even even before Yeah, every day. That's our mantra. Everyone hustle.
Alex Ferrari 30:42
It's just, it's just the way it is. It's just the way this
Rick Najera 30:45
is where it is. And I thought about my son started acting as commercials and doing quite well. And he was like, how do you want to do commercials right now I want to study school. And like, in part of me was like, if I worked, if I was in Tijuana, you would have a box at Chick place in your hand going to a chiclet you'd work that's the way our Latinos are, you know, it's like, some, you know, people go I have children, because I love them. And also it's like Latinos. Like, we need a crew, and a little bit to get there. But my family that's hilarious, even though I can't stand it.
Alex Ferrari 31:26
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You you, you were able to make a, you know, an anomaly in Hollywood, which was a movie called nothing like the holidays, which was a holiday Christmas movie, which I saw. And when I saw them, the cast is amazing. And it was a Latino basically a Latino Christmas movie with a with a real representation of what it's like. And you know, it's always, you know, it's always weird with with Latinos, because we're, we're not just one block, where we're 30 or 40 Different tribes, if you will, depending, you know, I'm Cuban, Mexican, and, you know, you know, everything from everywhere, you know, from Chile every so everyone has their all different kinds of traditions. We all kind of have similar traditions. Yeah, but so you know, nothing, nothing like the holidays. I saw I saw myself in it, but it still wasn't a Cuban Christmas, you know, but it was
Rick Najera 32:32
it still there are certain things you relate to like, like, you know, do Latina logs as long as I did. And, you know, getting that show on Broadway is the first successful Latino play on Broadway. Right? They called it a play. Right, which to me, it was more of a comedy special series of monologues, but they call it a play, which put me in direct competition with all the big multi-millions. I'm like, No, don't call me a play called theatrical event or something like that. I brought Latino logs back, I could actually get Tony for revival. But, you know, a lot of times when you would do work like, you know, Latino logs and that kind of stuff. People didn't know what to label it. You know, we're hard to label you know, nothing like dollars we use Ah, I'll tell you where you can relate your Caribbean. Yeah. And are Ricans are still Caribbean now. Sure. The joke is Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico would call Cubans to vase in two ways. And that means basically I used to have so it's like every every time you meet a Cuban in Puerto Rico, like I call where they me back, that's not an avocado back on Ah, the avocados would fall from a tree kill you. You know, it'd be like, everything was just hyper beautiful what Cuba was. And of course, that's a human aspect that we're looking back. Like, I thought my years in high school are wonderful. Now I'm like, now I luckily Don't Look Back in high school. That was the best time of my life. Because but if people do they look back and they go I was a football captain are always so
Alex Ferrari 34:07
I'll tell you I'll tell you a joke. If I may be so bold as to tell you a joke. If what's the difference between an Argentine and a Cuban like so the Argentinian thinks he knows everything but the Cuban knows. He knows everything.
Rick Najera 34:20
Yes. It was like, it was like, it was an Argentinian if they can. If they sell you what they're worth would they think they're worth paying millions.
Alex Ferrari 34:33
But that's good, but those are those kind of look subtleties. When you're writing when you're writing. You know, it's like I remember doing commercials for Latin America and I literally had to version out. Yeah, 30 different videos. Because if you if you have a Puerto Rican vo guy in Mexico, that's not gonna fly. No, you have to It's so it's you know, that was the first time I kind of really understood like, oh, okay, this is like that's everything. is a little different. So when you're writing for this kind of audience, it's not easy. You're trying to appease a bunch of different audiences.
Rick Najera 35:07
What I would write like what I would my writing I've, I've worked everywhere in the United States and outside the United States. So I've worked for Mexico with fertility sit down in Mexico. You know, I've worked a lot of like, all speaking horrible Spanish, which is, to me the most amazing thing because I grew up Chicano in California. We're, we're known for getting a C in Spanish. That's like our deal. If, if that's Chicago, you speak great Spanish, you're not a Chicano. It's like, hasn't disappeared to America. They're interviewing me in Spanish. I'm like, Ah, let's give me a headache. Oh my god, I gotta get this thing. And of course, understanding and doing this but, but a lot of words, I just don't know. You know, like this, this quick side story. I was in, in Mexico and in Chihuahua, Mexico, and I had a bodyguard and it goes, his car keeps driving by me. And he goes, we have to leave and I go why? Because to guide us and I go oh, there's a there's a mural around here. I'd love it. I love his work. So cannabis is wonderful. I thought he said see get us you know, it got it. So finally I go back to the hotel and I go where's that mural? You're gonna show me because what mural like go see cantos because Sicario sees like directly me. I go. Oh, what does that mean? He goes assassins. I go assassins like those guys driving by me were assassins. Like, how do you know? It goes because they kidnap me I call the kid have you? Because yeah, go well, what kind of bodyguard are you if you're getting kidnapped by the same people that doesn't protect me?
Alex Ferrari 36:41
I'm gonna have to let you go. I'm sorry.
Rick Najera 36:43
Because I go who normally do bodyguard this the the chief of police of Chihuahua. So bodyguard for the chief of police. This guy was a major guy. It took him 24 Narcos along with army guys to capture. And but it's you know, I didn't know. So when I started working for you know Mexico and places like that I had to have an education because it's it there's so much different flavors. So if I do if I go to Miami and perform, and I do one of my monologues then the truth is, if I do a monologue, take Cuba Libre, which is about a Cuban prostitute and Cuba, you know, very, you know, gut wrenching hard monologue to perform not by me an actor and actress in the company would do that. And I'd hear people crying in the audience, because it affected them so much. Yet, when I was doing night monologue button 11 in New York on Broadway, a whole nother cry and feel sure. So I can tell what cities are performing. And if I'm doing if I was doing, say, Miss East LA on the West Coast about a beauty pageant girl that doesn't want to give up a crown. I would take to New York I did as Miss Puerto Rican Pride Parade. You have to shift it a little bit, you shift it you adjusted and in Miami. I'm doing alien resorts and I'm saying, you know, I'm basically yelling screw Cuba. Screw Castro. Right, right. Every Cuban is applauding me and loves me forever. Sure. So you're playing to the audience? You have to you it's what committee the RT did. minidoll RT was, you know, was a form of theater throughout Italy. And around I think it was, you know, the Renaissance area around that. People go to each town and listen to the gossip, listen, and the taking. If you live a Saturday Night Live, any of these shows now in Sketch wise, that's what they are. They're comedians are listening to the gossip. They're putting it out there. You got the audience going, Oh, I can't believe they went there. And what comedy is that cathartic release of ideas and expressions that you shouldn't be able to say on stage. But since you're saying it, you'll get an applause and laughter.
Alex Ferrari 38:58
Now, you I mean, you have you're very unique in the sense that you you had a Broadway show, a hit Broadway show. Excuse me. A what? It's not a show. It's not play. It's a it's a special
Rick Najera 39:10
special. On Broadway,
Alex Ferrari 39:14
it was on Broadway, and you did. So how do you approach as a writer? How do you approach a Broadway show?
Rick Najera 39:21
You know, a, you approach the same way you do with all writing, which is basically the story. It's a big beginning, middle and end. You're on the way I learned writing with my father. We were very poor. And he would go to see a movie, and he couldn't afford to take me so he'd come back the movie. And he would explain the movie to me was such graphic detail and this and that. And then years later, I see the movie and I'd be really disappointed. I was like, oh, it's boring. My dad told me so much better, so much better until the story and the man what he felt. And I learned storytelling to him. And that's really what it is is telling a story now. You can take a story. And like say Mandela Are you? Okay? That's Yoda as a child, and ever seeing Yoda as an adult. And then when you look at a story, like Breaking Bad and you go, well, Breaking Bad, here's Saul, before Breaking Bad. You know, here's his the early part of his career, let me understand where we're coming up, coming up. So we're all going through stories that we just don't know the ending most of time. And that's also true in life. It's like, we could sit there and have this great, you know, wonderful conversation and this and then it's like, Did you hear what Oh, do you mean? The COVID? Oh, no, not Alex. So it's like, yeah, immediately afterwards, somehow, he went out, a plane up and a plane dropped from the sky, or anything. And that's the thing is we don't know the end of the story. And that that is what life is. So as storytellers we're making up how we think the story is, but there is no ending. Because the biggest lie a storyteller tells is, and this is what said, you remember, as a child, what we heard was, and they lived happily ever after. Well, that's a lie. Because I saw OJ Simpson one time as a kid. I remember seeing OJ Simpson go out. Wow, he's with this blonde woman and like, I was like, impressed. I think it was a was a I think it was a busboy or something.
Alex Ferrari 41:15
He did the Naked Gun movies. I mean, he writes to me, you're like, Oh, my
Rick Najera 41:19
God. Now cut two years later, he's in a white Bronco going down the freeway in a slow chase and then stop there. And they lived happily ever after. Yeah, is it happening? So it doesn't we don't live happily ever after. So storytelling is a continual evolution of a human life. From before and after. And so that's why you know, stories are so you can take a story like Breaking Bad and go to the prequels or go to the sequel or go this is still a story, but there are every story has a beginning, middle and end. But the end is there will be no end. It continues until somehow. I mean, you look at the greatest books are. Our stories are never ending. You know, in fact, there was a movie called The never ending story.
Alex Ferrari 42:05
There was three of them, apparently. Three of them. I only saw the first and second I didn't even know there was a third
Rick Najera 42:12
gear. Is this true Hollywood. It's a never ending story. There's always a different way to tell the story. It's like, how many it's like you started noticing your older when you go. Oh, that's the remake? What?
Alex Ferrari 42:23
Oh, tell me about it. Are you kidding me? Yeah, as you start looking at like, how many Batman like I remember when Batman 89 showed up. And it was the biggest event of the year. I mean, 89 was an amazing was an amazing year for movies. And now what is there been like? 15 Batman's?
Rick Najera 42:41
Like Batman online. It's it's there's a guy who plays Batman, which is the voice. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He's scares his wife.
Alex Ferrari 42:49
Oh, that meant that bad dad bad that.
Rick Najera 42:51
Yeah, yeah. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 42:52
he's so good. It's so good. So
Rick Najera 42:54
many versions of Batman and then you kind of look any go. There's only so many versions of stories, you know, me with basic structures beginning, middle and end. And then you go, whose eyes are we swatching the story through? Are we watching it from the Father, the Son, the daughter, who's who have worked my entrance in the story. So stories as complex as they are really are, are very simple. You know, we learned them as kids and we need that completion. We need to feel that completion, like yeah, you fought, you know, like Alfred Hitchcock, when he's doing vertigo, and the man is standing there, he's conquered. You know. Jimmy Stewart has conquered his fear to be on top of that ledge. And you go, wow, that moment, but you know, there's a story after that he has to go down the down, walk down the stairs, call his office tells us you know, this is what happened, explain it fill out paperwork, then he has to go home, got to serve himself a drink. And later on he dies but his son takes up the mantle v you know, so it is This is what life is we're a neverending story and as as writers and people are telling people's story that we recognize and we hope they recognize it too. And nothing like the holidays is a family story that just happens to be Latino.
Alex Ferrari 44:15
Right, exactly. Now, you've done a lot of acting and writing in your life. What do you enjoy doing more?
Rick Najera 44:23
I like acting more for one reason this difference here's here's a difference acting omission hair ready for you on the set. Now, here's writing. This is a piece of crap. What are you talking about? We made it das Dogen is dead. He's not available. Guys in rehab. You got to write it for this person. What is going on with you? I said you're talented.
Alex Ferrari 44:47
I mean, this is supposed to be a positive show about writing. So I'm not sure No, no, it's
Rick Najera 44:53
Alex Ferrari 44:54
And no, no. It's it's, it is I'm actually one of the more honest shows about the film industry that there is on on in podcasting. So I'm very real and raw about it. But what you just said is not wrong.
Rick Najera 45:10
No, no, it's not wrong. Because yeah, I remember being in living color. It was a very classy example. I was wearing sweats looking like, just the worst homeless person you could imagine. been writing for days. And I remember seeing this actor hidden under five, Michelle did one line. And he was like, there's all these women around me. He's talking and everybody's yeah, I've done this. I've done this. And, and me is like, a coffee. I need coffee. It's what are you doing in line? I just need food, you know, and they were totally different being treated. And so when I would act, it's it's just how well they treat actors is such difference, you know, a writer unless you're a major showrunner. You might be treated a certain way. But on the whole, they just, you know, the, the writers are the guys that were getting beat up in high school. You know, they were the ones who went to Comic Con and came back and told all their friends and things like that. I didn't sit that form of writer I tended to be much more street. I grew up with tough people and situations where and that's one thing about being a Latino is literally like, just in living color. Remember, Salma Hayek came to visit me one day and all the all the male writers who, you know, totally lost lost their mouth. Oh my God, look who's visiting you. You know, and she wasn't even famous this point. I took her Danny's actually. And we had lunch at Denny's and
Alex Ferrari 46:39
I came this is pretty this is pretty Desperado. Well,
Rick Najera 46:43
big time pre Desperado. She just flown into LA. She'd been maybe three months in LA.
Alex Ferrari 46:48
So the year a year a year away. Like that's probably like, she was like 9495 When she did that was like yeah, it was like 9392 I think it was sure she was Fresh Off the Boat Fresh Off the
Rick Najera 47:00
Boat. And here's an ironically, I'm talking to you know, Jennifer Lopez monitor lunch knob cool. Okay, I'm going to lunch. What are you gonna do? I'm gonna meet the guy. I just Latino called me up and she wants to meet me. Because some of Latino writers how rare we were. And she, I took her to Denny's gutter. You know, I got the Grand Slam, obviously.
Alex Ferrari 47:23
I mean, you want to treat them all right. So
Rick Najera 47:25
you're right. No, I just told her. I said, Look, I have one hour and Denny's is right next door to Denny's. Get guests on Denny's. Denny's. You know, a $2 biscuit too. And so I took her there. And we were talking she said, you know, you confuse me, you're a writer, you're an actor, you do everything. And I try to explain to her that she came from the world of Televisa, right? Where you were an actor, and you're a writer, and you're a director and all these different things. And I'm like, as a Latina, as a Latino in Hollywood, you have to do everything you just need to do because you, you always have to remain relevant. You always have to be doing something. And you always have to have something to say. And to do that to be fresh and be relevant. To talk you. You've got to be out. You got to be out and about. And I would luckily as a stand up or as a comic, when I'd go out and do stand up comedy. You're out normally. But once I got married, it was difficult to do that. I became a dad, I did a Showtime special called diary of the dad man, which was about becoming a dad. You know, it was a unique thing because I did not want to be a dad. You know, I've told my kids that many times. bargain with them. I did not want you I didn't even want you here didn't even want you. You are a mistake.
Alex Ferrari 48:46
On fact that one night of the kealan leuco came out you were
Rick Najera 48:51
right on your mother. No, it was you know, I I tell him joking. Of course the church did. I did not you know it, but men, you know, especially Latino men, we weren't necessarily taught, we were taught to work, you know, you're gonna work and you brought and never see your kids. But you better bring home money and you better do all these different things. That was your idea. You know, you don't see little boys playing with dolls going someday I'm gonna hold the doll like this in my hands and rockets asleep. And no, we're not. We're not trained that way. So, for me having spent so many years in the business and and it was it was um, you know, it's like, I can't believe I just got married, you know, and I am and she got pregnant right away. And literally right away. I mean, she told me she's like, it'll take me years to get pregnant. Of course, in vitro, most of my friends are doing in vitro. And I'm like, now here, I'm Mexican. There's one thing our people do extremely well. Pregnancy naturally,
Alex Ferrari 49:55
so you brush you brushed your shoulder against terrorism. That was I looked
Rick Najera 49:58
at her you know? look better and it was done. It was it was like, you know, I was ugly
Alex Ferrari 50:04
using the force and using the Force use the force. There you go. You're pregnant. You're pregnant at this point.
Rick Najera 50:11
So she got pregnant. And the kids right away. We have three. So you're still married? So, you know that's in Hollywood.
Alex Ferrari 50:21
That's a that's a that's a success in Hollywood.
Rick Najera 50:23
Well, I it was our 18th year anniversary. But I
Alex Ferrari 50:27
mean, you're so let's, let's put, let's just clarify for everybody listening. What a miracle it is that you're still married. You're in Hollywood, and you're a stand up. Yeah. And, and a stand up and a performer and a writer. So I mean, you really are you are an anomaly, sir. Because I know I've known many a stand up in my life, and worked with many and it's, they are very interesting souls.
Rick Najera 50:51
Well, the thing was stand ups. You know, it is it's a rowdy world. There's there's not no two ways about it. It's just a very rowdy drink, talk hang out, world, you know, it's like and that's, that's a unique thing. You know, that was really kind of kind of straight, I think. But you know, women don't ever give you extra points for that. They don't go so amazing. You know, it's like he expected and that's, and I think it is so yeah, we've been married 18 years and being married in Hollywood is probably the real toughest job. Not only but you
Alex Ferrari 51:25
So you started off as you started off as a stand up. First.
Rick Najera 51:29
I did. Well, I started off as an actor. I was an actor. I did. You know, I mean, every cop drama, Hill Street Blues, I'm at my age myself. But I was like the last year of Hill Street Blues that
Alex Ferrari 51:41
wasn't that shot in black and white. And it was like that invite by Gunsmoke.
Rick Najera 51:44
He was next to Gunsmoke set. I remember that. And and they were talking about a show called Gilligan's Island. They didn't do it years later. And I it was I did the Spanish version, Gilberto silent where we would go back to you'll hear something that sounds funny shirts getting cross what's going on?
Alex Ferrari 52:08
You're just too soon. Too soon. Too soon. Too soon, too soon.
Rick Najera 52:12
Yeah, it was. You know, I mean, you it was a it was unique in Hollywood, that, you know, it's actually I mean, in a weird way. It's tragic. Yeah. All it is, you know, you go and you say, my father was in Vietnam, and World War Two. And how many world war two movies ever seen a Latino? And then you go and how many do you see in Vietnam? Vietnam. I think the platoon has, has a camera pan and have a guy with a Virgin of Guadalupe, you know, statue or something? I think that was it. Anyone? Oh, they represents every single Latino that that went through Vietnam and, and did that whereas my family actually did it. So I saw how Hollywood never told her stories. What Diaz became my, my passion was a teller stories.
Alex Ferrari 53:02
Did you ever see the movie Hollywood shuffle? Yeah, no, I
Rick Najera 53:06
worked with Robert Townsend. I looked at his TV show.
Alex Ferrari 53:09
Right. So Robert, I mean, I and I, and I've said this on the show multiple times. I think he's, he doesn't get the credit he deserves because he before he was like, before that whole I'm gonna go do my movie on a credit card thing of the 90s and clerks and, and then by the Archie and that whole thing. He did it first. He and he did it in 87. I remember because I was working at a video store at the time. So I remember it,
Rick Najera 53:34
where it was rare things you hear? Yes, I
Alex Ferrari 53:37
was. I was working on a video so that time,
Rick Najera 53:39
and I remember, he's gonna bring back video. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 53:43
And he made that movie specifically because he was exactly what you're talking about in the Latino experience he was talking about in the black experience, which was Hollywood wasn't telling him a story. They're gonna tell you you're gonna be the slave or you're going to be the gangster or are you going to be this? And he there's this great skit in Hollywood shuffle where he's, he's like a duly like a Juilliard trained actor. And he's talking with a British accent. And he has a whole bunch of African Americans who are speaking British. And then all of a sudden, you have, like, the whitest guy in the world going Nah, man. When you talk jive, you got to talk like this. And you see them trying to train the African Americans how to talk gangster and so it's just so it was such a spear into Hollywood. It's so wonderful. It was
Rick Najera 54:26
so true. I remember that. Yeah, I was in. I was doing general hospital as an actor on General Hospital. And I played one from the Biscayne islands. And this has been me years ago. I'll tell you how long ago was I was I was at you know, Latino Golan kind of character. Okay. Oh, Monica. Poor traveler helped me Monique. So I thought
Alex Ferrari 54:47
this is this Armando Bondi. So Ricardo Montalban stop.
Rick Najera 54:50
I wrote for the guy new Ricardo my
Alex Ferrari 54:51
work with all these beautiful you know, everybody, you know, do you know?
Rick Najera 54:55
I do and I don't want to.
Alex Ferrari 54:58
Have you worked with Robert did you ever work with Robert,
Rick Najera 55:00
I met Robert Robert came to live in color and I brought him to I toured around and live in color. And he invited me to his his movie. And I saw as I went to the screening of it it or yeah, oh, yeah, he didn't know anyone in Hollywood. And I was like, Hey, you're Mexican, Latino, I am doing live in color. Please come by, I'd love to show you around. And that's how you do it. You'd actually call people up and say, Hey, man, I hear you're Latino. I'm letting them do alright, cool man. Want to come by are? It was it was a very much a feeling of helping one another. I don't think that is just now. But the time it was, there was Paul Rodriguez. And
Alex Ferrari 55:41
there was there was not many men. I know George
Rick Najera 55:43
Lopez. I knew George you know, we all knew each other coming up. So, you know, it's very much a small world where you said, you know, every buddy, you just call people up. I mean, you just you just did. So Robert, and guys like that. And George and so we were very rare. But before us came, you know, Ricardo Montalban. I remember working for him and writing him a speech for some, you know, theatrical event, and, and I was like, I felt like a kid. I was at his house. Beautiful house. And he was like, Ricky, Ricky, no, no, no. Ricky. What about he called me Ricky. I mean, that's how that's but as a Latino, we understood he was the adult he was the the man. So we had a great deal of respect for him. I mean, Eddie almost is my neighbor. So
Alex Ferrari 56:33
I've met Eddie's, Eddie's wonderful man. And he's wonderful
Rick Najera 56:38
guy. Yes. The guy's like, he's like family, just saying. I mean, I love the guy.
Alex Ferrari 56:43
Yeah. I said, I sat down with him talking. I had lunch with him once and I was talking to him about Miami Vice. And he was like, Oh, let me tell you about my advice. And he'll just go into this whole, like, all the backstories. Like, yeah, the other guy when I replaced them after three episodes, and then Don Johnson came in, and I set him straight, like day one. And that was the end of that. And like, he just started talking to all this stuff. And he was, he is so cool. And Blade Runner and all that. I mean, he's just, he's at
Rick Najera 57:07
all of us. He season. He's a legend. And that's, that's the thing is like, that's the part of Hollywood, like, we're people that, you know, like, got to work with Cheech Moran, he directed me on Broadway. He's amazing. And my other show Latino thought makers, right? Interview these these celebrities, star. I think, for me, it fits my purpose in life, that I feel Latinos are the solution, never the problem. And if you get to know us, you'll realize that. So what Latino thought makers does, which I do that show is introduce people to Latinos in a different way to see us as the solution, not the problem. And what comedy does comedy opens door like, I worked on culture clash, which was at Fox, I was one of the writers on that show culture clash in living color, mad TV, I could go off comedy wise, it's pretty, it's a pretty good resume, you know, in terms of who I've worked with, and all that stuff. But those aren't the moments, the moments you remember, are the silliest moments in the world, just like when, at the end of the day, when you're in a studio, and everyone's putting away all the equipment, and now it's, it's getting to be sunset, and you feel you've been part of a dream factory. You've done something. Those are the moments I remember, I just go that's such a beautiful, they taught the Martini shot. No, no, those are moments where you go, yeah, it's worth it. All the pains worth it. Yeah. And it's it. I remember that because I saw I remember, as a kid, I saw movies, black and white film, and the guys is that he's an actor, and his whole life has been every time he's about to make it. It gets he gets drafted to the Korean War. So he cut to just 50,000 Koreans coming toward my Chinese. He said, machine gun, shooting it and all these, I mean, just everything. Finally he gets the big roll of his life. And he's about to walk on stage. And someone turns them goes, is it worth it? And he looks at me goes, yeah, it's worth it. And this is after 50,000, Chinese, all these things, all the stuff he's gone through. And he goes, it's worth it. And I think that's what it is, is that when you do it, and it's we share a love for something that is hard for other people understand it's tangible. We love the business of making up stories.
Alex Ferrari 59:27
And but isn't it insane? But that's the insanity of this. This whole thing I've been saying for a long time that it's it's an illness. It's like once you get once you get bitten by this, it's in your bloodstream and it will never go away. It will flare up. It can be dormant for 20 years, but I'm talking I sometimes I talked to filmmakers who were like, Hey, I just turned 60 I'm retired. But what I really want to do is direct so what do I need to do and like and they were a doctor or something like that all their life? He's like, I really wish I would have gone down that road. But now I'm here and I want to do, it never goes away. Even I've, you know, I've been in this business 25 plus years now, and going in and out, and I've wanted to leave, because it got so difficult sometimes. And I literally just like, I can't take the pain anymore. And I would go for a minute and then I would come back, you know, and I'd always have one foot in or one foot. I never truly left it ever. You'd never
Rick Najera 1:00:29
truly retire. I always tell people because I every time I meet somebody, you know, they anyone who makes it announced that I'm retired. I'm not doing this anymore. They're always back the next year going okay, well, my God really bored. Alright. It's like just never say retired because it's not a, an occupation. It's a lifestyle. Yeah, when you sit down you say My lifestyle is being an artist, my lifestyle is creating my lifestyle is doing that. And I can do it through stage page or many different forms. And and this is just like us having this podcast and us talking. We're sharing a love for a craft or an industry. And you're not necessarily industry really for the craft for sure of it. And that's that's really what it is. We're sharing a love for something that we truly
Alex Ferrari 1:01:18
do love. Now what so what do you say to writers listening right now? And filmmakers for that matter? listening right now who are struggling to get their voice heard to get their thing out there to get their their work seen? Or? Or they're just going there? They're basically in the Korean War right now. And there's 50,000 Chinese coming at them. Or the enemy is coming at them? How, what kind of what's the words that you can say to them to keep them going? And to keep that dream going?
Rick Najera 1:01:51
Messy? It's actually it's, you know, I haven't thought about this for a while. So thank you for bringing this up. This is why I like talking about the industry with other people. You really kind of you think about Oh yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:02:00
you work it out. You work it out. Work it out. So
Rick Najera 1:02:02
the workout is this. Um, my father was a door to door salesman, man, he would go door to door and I when I do stand up, I give him an accent. The truth is he didn't have an accent but no, but it's funnier with an accent. When you're with an accent. I hate to say it, but it really was people. Because if I did with his regular voice we would like so your you said your dad's Mexican. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:23
Oh, hold on a second one I my friend. Yeah. Okay. Okay, now, I understand.
Rick Najera 1:02:30
So, but my father, you know, would tell me this story. And he was a member of Toastmasters and all Stephanie's book beautifully. He told me it, Rick, I really want you to speak beautifully. If you spoke beautifully, be very proud of you. So that's why I became a Shakespearean actor at the globe, my 17 I wanted to speak beautiful. So I studied Shakespeare and I memorized it and all that. So one day told me, you know, I was auditioning for something, I didn't get it. And he goes home. Okay, so that ain't good debt. And normally, I was, as I lived, grew up in San Diego. So I was working all the time. I mean, I was like, an actor that could work. And because the, the talent pool was less none. I mean, there's great people, but there was just more more. I didn't have to audition to get 50 people, the National Search and 2500 It'd be 15 people, 15 people, and I knew most of them not doing so I auditioned for a second city, improv Chicago. They're doing a special in San Diego. And they hired two unknown actors. You know, for the first callback, I didn't get it. They weren't sure when the second callback finally got it. I told my dad, I'm auditioning for this thing. And I didn't get it. Because what let me tell you story goes every day I go out and I knock on the door. And I say, I try to sell my things. He pots and pans he sold. Because then I go to another door. But around the 100 door. Finally someone says yes. You have to knock on a lot of doors. You hear no. Before you finally hear the one. Yes. And that was it. Knock on doors. So I went back to the audition. I got I got the role. And the other unknown actor in San Diego was Whoopi Goldberg. So why Whoopi Goldberg and I got a second city improv special together in San Diego. So that was a
Alex Ferrari 1:04:21
true story. So that's, that's pre Color Purple. So we talked 8483
Rick Najera 1:04:26
It was it was pre her one woman show. Oh, oh, wow. So it was there. I was a kid. I was like, What 17 or something? Yes. At the Old Globe, and then I had to audition. I think I just turned 18 And I felt she was speaking in a bars. You know, she's a full 72 The bad influence but she was but she told me what she taught me that improv is saying yes. And you know what acting is and writing and all this stuff is saying yes, to a dream. But you you know if you remember the star outriders hearing that it's remember, you have to hear a lot of nose before you hear. Yes. And once you get that mantra in your head, you will you know, and here's a second one. What you think is success may not be read your idea of successes. Oh, yes, absolutely. So that's a that's a lot of times, you know, cuz I, I, I struggle with it. You know, like, sometimes I'm like, I'm the biggest loser in the world on my Lord. You know? Sure I get to play on Broadway. But Lin Manuel Miranda.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:30
Wow. Well, it's always that there's always a bigger fish. There's always a bigger fish.
Rick Najera 1:05:34
Hamilton. Oh, I did 137 performance with an extension, the first one like that, while they were off Broadway, and they said, Hey, you could be Broadway. So it got people thinking that direction. But the man just nailed it. And so. So you start to get that comparison. You know, and I think about it. It's like, well, Whoopi Goldberg wired I Whoopi Goldberg,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:55
why did I win the Oscar for gold? Yeah,
Rick Najera 1:05:57
you know what I mean, to Jennifer's just a fly girl, what happened to me, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:02
but don't forget, look at what we've been where we are. Looking at some accomplished,
Rick Najera 1:06:09
you have to kind of look at it and go, you know, maybe success. To me, in the end, for my success in life has been my three children. That's it. If I looked and said, Look, if you go all your success in life that you've done, if your three children are your measure of success, then I'm a successful man. Now, if my measure of success was an Emmy, you know, I get a nomination. But if I got, once I get that me or if I got an Oscar or whatever. And you have to learn that your ideas, success is the process. It's the that's what life is life's a process, you wake up you, you try to find love, you try to keep love, once you find it, you try to you know, all these 1000 things of what our evolution isn't, you know, and I, I saw my relative Mike was much older now. And, and, you know, I gotta tell you, old age does not look pretty. It just looks like oh, man, this looks bad. But I've never heard them complain. I've heard them understand this is life, that they're happy when they wake up. And you know, and that's the word, their attitude is, you know, this is a good day. It's, it's if you stop comparing yourself to others, and compare yourself to you find and you find that happiness, then I think you're successful. Because in the end, the moments that truly make you a human being and can truly make you give back and what is our humanity is the love our kindness and how we you know, like you said earlier, don't be a jerk, because people remember, I constantly meet people every day that will walk up to me and they go, hey, you know, I work with you years ago, I always go was a jerk.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:57
That was that was a nice to you.
Rick Najera 1:07:59
And I've never heard anyone say I was bad. I've never heard that. You know, maybe because I'm asking him I look you're imposing and intimidating Batman, mask yourself. I'm simply, I add a simple rule was very much so of to judge a person by their character of how well they treat someone that can do absolutely nothing for them. Right? That's it. So if I walk on a set, or whatever it is, if I see a scar, someone else treating an intern or a PA or someone badly, that's my judgment of that person. But, but I gotta tell you, I've had so many actors and stars that I've met, that are truly nice people. Truly great people. You know, you know, I look at certain people and I go, they're a good person. And luckily, when I meet them, they tend to be I haven't been fooled that often. Where I go, Mother Teresa. Whoa, that was a surprise. She was rough man. Attitude.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:03
She still owes me 50 bucks.
Rick Najera 1:09:06
So close. I'm a miracle worker, watch this. Look, that's my leopard. Get away from the way I look at it, though.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:19
Yeah, that is wonderful. That's wonderful.
Rick Najera 1:09:23
If we fall in love with the process, and we enjoy it. That's the thing because, you know, you're constantly writing you're constantly doing stuff, you're constantly testing yourself and and it is a business that it's it's a beautiful art surrounded by a very ugly business. That's the reality. You know, that's, that's truly it. But then again, you know, some of the greatest stuff in our world can be bastardize or changed or you know, best intentions or whatever. You have to develop in yourself, your purpose. And once you find your purpose. And once you say this is my happiness is larger than you, then you giving it the best you can as long as you're grateful for little things, I mean, be grateful for you calling me up and putting me on your podcast and having a nice conversation. Being grateful for that, that's, I'm grateful for it. That's the thing to be grateful for you, you know that be grateful for the little things. And that way, when the big things come, you'll still use you haven't changed, you're still grateful.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:28
I'll tell you when I when I when I let go of that whole comparison thing. And, you know, it took me years before I got my first feature done. And I was capable of doing it 15 years ago, who could have shot I could have shot that was the dream is the dream is the feature the feature the feature. And but the thing was, I compared myself to Robert Quinton, because I came up in the 90s. So I was like, Oh, my first feature is got to be a mariachi, it's got to be reservoir die, it's got to be this big thing. And that pressure, the art can't handle that kind of pressure. Like it's not built to do that. So when I finally hit 40, and I was attached to another huge project, and that project fell through again. And I was just like, You know what, I can't do this anymore. I'm 40 I got it, I got to do it. And then within 30 days, I was shooting my feature with Julie. I called her up on my joke call your friends, we're gonna go make a movie. And we shot this kind of like improv, you know, Curb Your Enthusiasm, style, style, you know, you know, story about her loosely based on her life. Yeah. And we just did it. And but but I liked it. And I also never attached any outcome to it. And that's the other thing with art. Like, if you were like, I need to win the Oscar, you're never you're gonna you're setting yourself up to be miserable. It may
Rick Najera 1:11:37
not, you know, it may not be for you. You know, I mean, that's the thing is, is it. You know, if you if you as an artist, you believe there's a higher power because I think you have to as an artist, you have to me I know Ricky Gervais always talks about he's an atheist. But I think if you really broke it down, he would hope to believe there's a God and something great something, something, something that we all do. Because the truth is, we in the place of things in life, we need to have something we can look and go there's a reason we're here, there's some higher being that goes, there's a reason you're here. And we want to believe that because as artists, if you look at even the Bible, you know, I went to, I've read so many, you know, I went to seminary, very few people know that. So I it says, the beginning of Genesis says, Man, God created man in the image of God created, you know, basically, so you're creating the image of God, trust your creator was God. So God creates you, your wife, your children, wherever, in the image of this higher power. His act of creation, is what art is to create. And if we're in his reflection or her reflection, then we are creators itself. That is our natural thing to be as creative, be creative people. And so creation and be creativity is storytelling. And it may be done to a commercial, it may be done because I've cried over commercials when well done. Oh yeah. You know, you that to get haiku up in only 30 seconds or a minute. You're going to create this world that will will touch you, then that's beauty. I mean, think about it. So like I looked at and I remember you know I did want a character was Alejandra was a busboy that was a macho guy, all the women. He thought did a great character because I said I worked as a busboy. You know I was my only had three jobs in my lifetime there were not related to entertainment one was a busboy. It was so traumatic after three months that
Alex Ferrari 1:13:44
was a true a true artist. So
Rick Najera 1:13:48
that was my my my
Alex Ferrari 1:13:50
took dramas Iwo Jima.
Rick Najera 1:13:54
He asked me to bring water no ice out my foot. Remember that? Like it scarred me.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:59
It scarred me.
Rick Najera 1:14:02
Good. The waiters. And the busboys, were so confident. And I remember I'd see I saw a busboy in a 10 speed bike, drive up to a woman and start talking to her. And I'm thinking, you're on a 10 speed bike with no very little command to the language and you're going up to a woman go, Hey, how are you? Yeah, my name is Alejandra. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:14:23
how would you do? How do you do?
Rick Najera 1:14:27
It kind of attitude. And here, I'm like this educated, you know, there's been actor type, working as a busboy for three months, just scandalized by this. And I'm thinking that man's a happy man. Yep. He's honestly happy. And his whole life is happy and he's loves life and all stuff. Michael asked what you want to be. You want to be the person because every day, every you know, I nearly died a few years ago and I came back from a coal mine. I bought stuff and people are like, Oh my god, I wrote a book about it almost white And it was about a Hollywood but it really was about Saxon in my head. And so I came back. And I remember being in a coma and almost sort of voice of God going, you want to go back or you want to stay like a literal voice. I can't remember exactly what the accent sounded like, so I can't go. God was Puerto Rican.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:26
He sounded like, he sounded like Tony Montana. It's like, did you wanna go back? Or did you want to stay here?
Rick Najera 1:15:35
They don't like. But I remember hearing you want to go back and stay. And I said, I will I still have some things to do. And so I came back on my body. And I, you know, once you feel the pain in your body, like, oh, no, because I changed my mind, I'm going to have it. But I worked myself through and I just said, a simple mantra. This is about six years ago, I said, I will do no harm. And I will be kind. And that'll be compassion of is not not that I was a bad guy. I will do what I just said, I'll be grateful. I'll remember being grateful. And that's the thing. That's what you do so. So if you sit there you say, you know, because a lot of times, I'm sure I think I'm reading right? And me too, is it? We're in this business? And we're constantly going we've got to do this, you know, our ambition is always the ambition of Yeah, why should I get any more and more, or I want them to recognize me as the genius that I am. Well, I
Alex Ferrari 1:16:33
let that go while ago I the time. Now I'm just now. I mean, this is what he did he just become more liberal. Like, you know, I just look, I just want to be happy. I want to enjoy the process. Yeah, that's much more important to me than Bhaskar.
Rick Najera 1:16:50
I'm Harvey Feinstein, I just want to be loved. I look at and I go, I want to make the world a better place whenever I can. If not that, then thank God for the world that I've been given. You know, thank God for every little miracle. And you know, I think wasn't me says, Louis CK actually said this. And, you know, he said, you're 40 you're in a plane, 30,000 feet or whatever. It's a miracle. And you think about that, and I go, I mean, you right now on a podcast, I'm seeing you you're seeing me. It's a miracle. It is. We you know, as a kid, I'm watching three channels, three networks, you
Alex Ferrari 1:17:36
know, and when you hear that,
Rick Najera 1:17:39
yeah, or, or better yet, when I was grew up in San Diego, we heard the Mexican national anthem, because the the disc were over on the side of Mexico. So you sit there go, that was I Love Lucy, then that the Da da da, da, da da. Standing tall singing the Mexican national anthem. But I appreciate what you got. That's what I tell anyone that's listening about this business is that you appreciate every single moment. You appreciate everything. You guys the miracles all around you. If you think that way, then it doesn't matter whether you so called made or not. Yeah, you're making it. You're making it?
Alex Ferrari 1:18:20
Yeah, absolutely. Rick, I I appreciate you coming on the show. It's been it's been an absolute joy talking to you, sir. Where can people find you?
Rick Najera 1:18:29
Well, you can always check me out on on on Aaron America. It's on revolver podcasts on Apple and other stuff. And then check out Latino thought makers. I'm doing a show with Cornel West, Dr. Cornel West from Harvard law college, and that's going to happen January 28. And then I've got a if you check out my site, you'll I will have a class on writing that I'm doing with Sanjeev Chopra, Deepak Chopra's brother, and Jackie Ruiz who just quit publisher. So I'm constantly even with this COVID You know, you got to work and keep going, keep going. You got you got to work because if anything, I just look at and I go, I go. Newton, came up with his best theories during pandemic. Shakespeare wrote Lear during a pandemic. And even though we're in this time of pandemic, and I'm, like you, you know, said you watch the news, you go, Can it get any worse? I'm expecting Godzilla walking down any avenue and anything that happened,
Alex Ferrari 1:19:30
the Mole People should be taking over any moment. Yeah,
Rick Najera 1:19:33
you know, maybe I'm even thinking maybe that lizard people idea is true. I have no idea. I don't,
Alex Ferrari 1:19:38
I don't know. Hey, whatever, you never know.
Rick Najera 1:19:42
But if I can love my life, and be grateful, and and be kind to another person every day, and I said, that's, that's what we're gonna do. And if the greatest production of my kids then I'm fine with it.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
Rick, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for for what you're doing and continue continue making people laugh, man and making people think so I appreciate you, brother.
Rick Najera 1:20:05
Thank you. Great talking to me. Good. Consider your friend now for podcast brothers anytime.
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