Wilmer Valderrama is never seen in public looking anything less than impeccable; his business sense has helped him found and direct a powerful production company, he’s behind several new upcoming television shows, and has even found time to devote to empowering young people through engagement organizations like Voto Latino. And yet, the star isn’t afraid to plunge himself into unchartered territory with the release of his newest film, “The Girl is in Trouble,” which premieres this week at the 13th annual New York International Latino Film Festival. In the indie flick, Valderrama plays Angel, a cagey, dark character who couldn’t be any more different from Fez, the goofy charmer he played on the Fox sitcom, “That ’70s Show.” We caught up with the star, who revealed why the challenge of acting in this independent film – a murder mystery from executive producer Spike Lee – was absolutely irresistible.
You’re really doing it all, from television to music to movies. That being said, this film is a serious departure from the roles we’ve seen you in lately. What drew you to this project?
“I was really excited to tackle it because movies are something that really fulfills me. That is, I take my time finding roles that I truly find meaningful. When I look at my resume, I want to reflect that all the movies and other projects I’ve done, I’ve done 100% because I believed in it. With this movie, I found the script really organic, relatable, compelling, fun and dark. And while reading it, I knew I wanted to sign on. So I called Columbus Short, a really great friend and amazing actor, to see if we could both go in and make sure that this film was done well with great performances. The characters, the dynamics, the direction that we wanted to take the emotions; that was all so much fun for me and I am so blessed to have been able to do this. People will be so surprised to see what we’ve accomplished.”
What made the role of Angel such a challenge for you?
“As an actor, I’ve done so much comedy. And with so much development and producing for MTV and Disney, as an actor I wanted to lose myself in a character that would be exciting to watch but that I could lose myself in. I wanted to be in a role that people wouldn’t assume was played by me. I think it’s really important to challenge yourself – I like to think beyond a character and I think it’s important for my career that I stretch myself. Nowadays many actors find a niche character and play it until it’s exhausted. I think if you trust your talent, you’ll take chances. I definitely don’t fear acting at all, because it’s when I feel the most alive and the most passionate. This is as real as it gets and what I love what I do.’
How important is it for you to create your own opportunities and be the boss?
“There are choices in this industry: you can either be the actor that just sits there, waiting for agents and managers to send you scripts or you can package yourself into a good movie. Then there’s the actor who says they’re going to sit tight until they get that perfect role. I don’t fit into any of those categories, because I truly feel, in the most humble terms, there is no one out there like me right now. I can do a little bit of everything and I understand how to be proactive and create the right dynamic with my team. It’s not about waiting for the right opportunity; it’s about generating businesses that I want to be a part of and developing roles that really pay tribute to my journey and compliment my personal agenda. I feel the more hands on I can be, the more fulfilled I can be.”
Speaking of creating your own projects, America truly got a kick out of your hilarious musical alter ego, “Eduardo Fresco.” All kidding aside, what’s the sound you’re going for and where do you hope to go with your music?
“Everyone loves him! I’m getting jealous. I’ve been singing, dancing and acting since I was six and for some reason, acting just took off sooner for me. But it’s been really fun to come full circle after everything I’ve done in my career and company with various platforms and tackle what I love. Music is definitely one of my first loves. So people know I have a fun outlook on things and I’ve definitely applied that to music. Eduardo Fresco has inspired me to pursue a personal music project and so fans can expect to see music soon as Wilmer Valderrama. I’m going to release a bunch of music as myself, a bilingual project that will be forward thinking and really unexpected. I’m in the studio every night, recording, writing and having fun. And once I launch my music as Wilmer, Eduardo will probably come back from his world tour and have a beef with me! Joking aside, I’m going to release a single at the end of summer and an album will probably come out in the early fall.”
What’s something that fans would be surprised to know about you?
“I hate work talk after 8pm. It’s all about hanging out with my buddies, going to dinner and watching TV. And If I don’t have to work on the weekends, I literally become a vegetable. I stay on the couch, chill in pool and try to be as consistent with my normality as possible. And then I eat. My mom lives down the street so I get to eat a lot of her cooking. So that’s it; I like to veg out and eat arepas.”