Actor, Director, Author
Interview by Keith Veira Written by Vanessa Campbell
and Nicole Colozza
Part 1 of 2
Taz Garcia is a Former Manchester United Jr. squad player, corporate executive, and school teacher turned 22x International Award Winning Actor-Director. He initially made his big-screen debut in “The Briefcase” in 2011, as the director, writer, and star of the film. The Canadian-based actor recently wrapped a mobile game with Sylvester Stallone and a supporting role as "Paddock's Mercenary", the muscle of Pilou Asbek "Paddock" (Euron - Game of Thrones) in Project Xtraction, starring Jackie Chan and John Cena. He is also the co-founder of The Movie Expo, an avid multi-charity supporter, and a published author.
1. Work and Adjusting During Pandemic.
Keith Veira -How are you adjusting to COVID?
Tazito Garcia- It was a little bit of an adjustment, but nothing too crazy. Coming from a childhood where I went through war, to be asked to stay at home in order to be safe was a lot easier than staying home and not being guaranteed that you may or may not be the next target, whether intentional or accidental.
It’s just about minor readjustments, recalculations and revaluations, as well as relearning to be flexible and adjust to the current situation. It’s also good to go outside your comfort zone and pop that comfort bubble by upgrading your zone, yourself or your business to a 2.0 or a 3.0 version.
I viewed the pandemic as an obstacle and in the path of an athlete, and in the path of a performer or a creator, you just see it as another thing you have to carry, learn to adjust with or adapt to. It doesn’t really derail you that badly as long as you evolve and adapt quick.
When you encounter something like a pandemic, it gets you to refocus and re- evaluate what it is you are really doing. Is it something you are passionate about? Are you with the right people? Are you with people you cherish, value and love? It was a very good time for me to revisit a lot of stuff I was always too busy for or stuff that I always pushed to the back burner somewhere, and for me to have no excuses to not bring those things up to the front and take care of them. I was able to show them the love and attention that they needed at this time.
KV- Can you explain three things that kept you motivated and two that surprisingly didn’t?
TG- Two things that kept me motivated were that I always wanted to challenge myself and I always wanted to better myself. The third thing that motivated me is the fact that as a mentor or as someone in the spotlight a lot of people look up to you for a number of reasons. They may look up to you for resolutions, for inspiration, or they look to see if you’re staying healthy, fit, sane and creative when a lot of the outlets and platforms are temporarily at halt. It keeps you sharp, it keeps you going, and it keeps you on your toes because you know people are looking up to and they are going to ask you, ‘How are you doing?’ and, ‘How are you still moving forward?’ when it feels like everything has came to a complete stop. That was a huge motivational factor.
It was also of course the fact that I know what it’s like not to have certain things and I know what it is like not to have the opportunity. When you have one door close, you just have to look at it and say, ‘Well, what’s the way around this?’ Do I barge right through that door? Do I climb over it? Do I go under it? Do I go around? Do I climb through a window?
So it was just another one of those things where it could have potentially been a huge challenge or it could be humbling and about remembering the early beginnings when I didn’t have this opportunity.
I remember how hungry I was and what I was ready to do to keep pushing forward no matter what was thrown at me. I accepted that I was at home, but that doesn’t mean I’m not the same person that can still create, still write, and that can still practice, by myself or run scenes. At the end of the day, we do it for ourselves before we do it for anyone else or for anyone else’s approval. That was one of the biggest inspirations for me.
Now for the negatives, it’s pretty tough. I am an optimistic person and I’m very positive as I’ve learned to see the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long or dark that tunnel is. But I think one of the things I’ve felt the most is the fact that what I do is very people-oriented, it’s a very people-oriented industry.
I love being around creative people because you want to feed off of each other’s energy and you want to feel like a team or a family that is all creating together, all at the same time. Obviously with all of the restrictions that came through, it wasn’t so much of a negative thing, but it forced you to reassess and do things similar but in a different way. You could still hop on a FaceTime or a Zoom call or even email or text each other to just go back and forth with ideas. You could ask about what they had in mind or we could run our lines and practice.
That is the only thing I can look at and say was different. In a sense it’s just missing the real vibe, the real environment, and being around people that are creative because it is such a people-oriented environment. If it’s a healthy environment and a creative space, you just want to keep giving more and more, and you want to keep going that extra distance. But when you are sitting there by yourself in a chair, within four walls, sometimes it pushes you back and tells you, ‘What are you doing? Why don’t you get a job you can do from behind a computer?
A regular job that you can do behind the screen; a day job, an office job, something that you can do remotely.’ That was the one thing that was a missing sensation or feeling that we, as creators and people that perform, feed off of. It’s the action and reaction. You want to be there to feel the vibe and feel the energy, so you can just feed off of the audience. Now things are being done differently, but you just got to adjust. That’s the only thing I would say was temporarily a change, not necessarily a negative thing. It was just different. Let's just call it that, something to adapt to.
If you wanted to work with a team, let’s say usually you like being with 20, 50, or a hundred people that all play essential parts in making the film or show complete. Now all of a sudden, you are only with five people or ten people. You miss all of the other people around you that had an input and that had their own creative vibe. It was a change.
KV- Did the onset of COVID change how you work and in what way?
TG- It’s a yes and no. COVID made us realize how comfortable we could be with a lot of things we have done in the past. Even something as simple as casting, where we were so fixated on having people come in. You were hiring people to be behind the camera, renting out a studio, finding the parking spots, and you’re rushing through traffic and dealing with transportation. Now there’s efficiency, where you could be at home, at a hotel or anywhere around the world.
You’ve got a phone so you film it yourself and then submit it via email so it saves so much time, so much money, and it’s just a lot more efficient in many, many ways. I feel that really helped us be more efficient and question if it was always efficient or if were we just comfortable in our ways. We knew there could be a change. We knew there could be an evolution as with anything else, but were we really just comfortable? I think something like the pandemic really forces everyone into second or perhaps third gear and that is where we’re all at now. So in terms of, did it change how I work? I don’t think so. It made it perhaps more efficient and maybe less personable because a lot of it is done artificially behind a screen instead of shaking hands - and I’m very old school that way- but overall no. Not so much.
2. Jackie Chan and John Cena Film.
KV- How did the role come to your attention?
TG- It’s really funny actually. I was on Facebook one night talking to a friend of mine about manifesting and about how the last time I worked with Jackie Chan was in 2001 in Toronto but not directly in the same scene. He was working on the Tuxedo here and we talked about how it would be very cool to work with one of my idols, Jackie Chan.
The next thing I know, I log into my Facebook and I see a casting call that says, “Huge movie filming in China. DM for details.” I believe it mentioned that it was also going to be a Jackie Chan film. Now the way Asia works in terms of casting calls is very different than North America and the western world.
I’ve worked there many, many times so I said, ‘Ok, it’s not a problem. There are no flags. Let me reach out to this casting director and see what’s up’. So I did and it kind of rolled out from there. They asked me for my materials - it was an acting reel and an action reel - and they wanted to see how I sounded, how I acted, and any action or fighting chops that I had.
They got back to me and told me the director was Scott Waugh, who directed Need for Speed the movie, and that he was going to be directing the film. They said it was shooting in China and Inner Mongolia, and that he liked me. He wanted to cast me as the rebel leader. I said, ‘Ok, cool, great’.
Everything was set. I was going to be a villain opposing Jackie Chan as the hero, and I was completely open to that. Twenty-four hours later, maybe less, before I flew out, I got a message from them saying, ‘Taz, we’ve got a problem.’
They got back to me and told me the director was Scott Waugh, who directed Need for Speed the movie, and that he was going to be directing the film.
They said, ‘The director loves you and he still wants to use you, but he thinks you look a little too young to play the rebel leader’. So I said, ‘Ok, so what’s going to happen now? You have the tickets booked for me. I’ve blocked off these many days on my schedule, so what’s going to happen?’ He got back to me within an hour and said it was possibly going to be a smaller role, but I would get to play the muscle of Game of Thrones actor Pilou Asbaek, who plays Euron.
They said, ‘You will be basically the muscle that faces John Cena and Jackie Chan. Are you cool with that?’ I said, ‘Abso-damn-lutely, where do I sign?’ and that was it. I flew out and shot the movie. It was tons of fun working with people who are such legends and inspirations. I was just very happy to be part of that and to be part of the project.
KV- Please provide three things about the film that you can share with us?
TG- I can tell you Stallone was actually supposed to be Jackie Chan’s co-star, at the beginning. Due to the conflict of schedules, he had to go off to film Creed 2 and John Cena stepped in to become Jackie Chan’s co-star. We also filmed in Inner Mongolia, which was beautiful and we filmed parts of it in really far and remote places in China, which were also very beautiful.
The film has tons of fun and action from Jackie Chan, and I think it’s going to be a cool twist. You are going to see a lot more acting from Jackie Chan, which is something he has been doing a lot of in the last few years, in roles like The Foreigner and the new Police Story. He is really showcasing that he is an actor before he is a stunt performer or an action guy. He is an actor that can do action, not an action guy that can act.
KV- When will it be available?
TG- I have no idea because of the pandemic. Every scheduled date for premieres has pushed all of the dates back, so at this point, they mentioned mid- 2021? Originally they said February 2021, so I’m not sure exactly when it will be released. They’ll probably have a Chinese release first and then they’re going to have an American release, but we’re waiting for it.
3. Your Appearance in the Sylvester Stallone Video Game.
KV- What was it like working with the iconic Stallone
TG- I had the pleasure of working with Stallone in terms of doing some motion capture and voice-overs. It was very refreshing because it’s very cool when you see some of your idols getting into the world of video games. They always say that you see the age, in terms of the time they are shooting their movies and their TV series in, but when it comes to video games, it’s timeless. You could play it now or you could play it twenty years from now and it will still look the same. I had lots and lots of fun working on that.
You really get to see why certain people are still at the top, decades and decades later. It’s because they earn their position, and it brings you back to remembering why you started and how much you wanted it at the beginning. He is just that. You still see it. He is an international star and everyone knows him, young or old, man or woman. You still see him working like it’s day one. You still see that work ethic. You see that grind, you see that hustle, and he doesn’t have to.
He’s already made it. People already recognize him anywhere he goes and you still see that work ethic shining, like it’s day one. When you’re around someone like that, it doesn't necessarily come off as intimidating, but you see it as inspirational.
You tell yourself, ‘Holy smokes, at this point if I am starting off in my career and I’m still on the few early steps in my life on this massive stairway that I am trying to take, imagine him. He’s all the way at the top and he is still going like there is more to keep going at.’ He’s just phenomenal. He’s an inspiration to be around.
It’s very easy to have it and just sit on it.
Someone else that wants it will get it and pass you, but you still see why he is recognized and you still see why he is the star he is. It’s because he still remembers when he had to believe in himself, sell his dog, write his script, keep pushing at it, and basically grind to carve his own path. The greatness was earned and the respect was earned. Nothing was given and you see that.
KV- Please describe your character - and when the game will be released?
TG- The game has actually been released for a little over a year. It’s called Battle Strike Force. I’m going to leave it as a surprise. When you play the game, you’ll have to unlock my character and you’ll have to unlock his character as well. It’s a lot of fun. It’s one of those old school games where you have your characters, you unlock certain perks, and you can upgrade your character and your force. You can cause more damage as you upgrade more, and as you upgrade your inventory you start unlocking certain characters that may have more perks and more power than the default characters you start the game with. It’s lots of fun. It can get pretty addictive.
I don’t really know if there is a good guy or a bad guy, to be honest with you. You just put your team together and you have preferences for who is artillery and who is ground support, or who is air support and who's doing what. It’s all down to you deciding if it’s a good character, a bad character, a fishy character or not. Maybe you’ll want to upgrade them to the max, who knows? That is up to you to decide. Part 2 in the April DDM.
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