Q&A with Ace Marrero Actor/Producer of “Madison County”

How did you become involved With Madison County what can you tell us about your character?

I met Eric England, writer & director of Madison County, when I was cast in his student thesis film, Clown Town. I stayed in touch with him after, because I was very impressed with the way he worked and how the short turned out I think I was the first person to read the first draft of Madison County. He was actually close to making the movie with two different sets of producers and after it fell through for the second time, he decided to write a new script for a smaller feature with me in mind to play the lead. That was Hostile Encounter. We ended up shooting about 5 days in Arkansas and about 2 days in Los Angeles. Eric brought on Daniel F. Dunn to be the Director of Photography of Hostile Encounter and after seeing what Eric was able to do with little/no money, he approached Eric about producing Madison County. His stipulation was that I had to be in it. Daniel asked me to read it and to choose a part. The script had changed some, and I ended up being really drawn to the part of Kyle the most. I became one of the producers on the film after quickly offering my services and resources in pre-production.

My character Kyle is the outsider of the 5 young leads. I’m the older brother of Brooke who brings along her boyfriend on the trip. They are hiding it from me, until it is revealed in a rather intense scene.

What sort of research did you do for the part and what challenges did it present?
In terms of research, I didn’t need to go outward a whole lot. I researched elements of the film in pre-production, but it was more when we were still developing and adding finishing touches to the script. I actually wrote down a journal of questions. Questions about things in the script and how they influenced what I was going to do. Just a lot of, “Why’s?” I took the weeks leading up to answer those and let them simmer. To me it tied into my character more to keep things internal, because I’m the more quiet and brooding person of the bunch. I also found a picture that represented me. It’s one of my favorite paintings by the artist, Vladimir Kush called “Current.” It’s very symbolic and related well to Kyle.

I’m also a physically grounded actor. I don’t believe there is ONE technique that works for everything as an actor, but this is something I need to get down. For my roles, I work from the ground up normally. I like to start with little things, like finding new shoes – just so you get a different feel of life. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and my best work tends to come when I’m physically feeling comfortable in my skin. Imagination is important, I just also feel like I need to be physically grounded. Eric told me early I was to stop lifting weights because he didn’t want me big, not that I am at all, for this. I actually decided to cut my hair to change up the look of our 5 leads and to also feel a little different going in.

What were some of the more memorable moments from filming and what are some of your fondest memories?

I’m a big prankster and love to play so any time I could joke with our cast was great. As a Producer, I felt like I was somewhat of an outsider from the cast, because when we were wrapped for the day, instead of hanging out and grabbing a drink, I had to go organize and game plan for the next day. So for me, I have to say any time that I felt like I was JUST an actor, was a good time! We had a guy by the name of Mike Hill come in to help assistant direct and the first thing he said was, “I will not let Ace worry about producing when I’m on set, he is an actor, he needs to be focused on that.” I quickly liked Mike. Mike didn’t stick around the whole time though, so I was back to double duty quickly. [laughs]

How did you attempt to infuse something new into the horror genre with this film?

We shot a promotional teaser that was used to raise additional funding for the film and immediately following that, we were receiving comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Once our official poster was released, we were immediately getting compared to Motel Hell even Saw because of the pig mask. There is definitely a fair amount of similarities, but our movie is also different and will surprise people. The people who have seen the movie have said they were caught by surprise at several moments. Eric actually has put together two separate blog entries that speak to the people who have seen the trailer and say its something that has been, “Done to death.” I think the viewers should check it out as it gives nice insight into his thoughts of the genre and what we felt confident in doing with the movie.

Are you a fan of Horror films and comics? What are some of your favorites?

I am an absolute fan of Horror. I watched so many horror films in pre-production and was constantly reminded of all these films I forgot I had seen. There were also a lot of films I was introduced to thanks to Eric. I’m nowhere near Eric’s level. He is through and through a film buff, and his Horror knowledge and passion is insane. It’s no surprise that we’ve attracted the attention we have, because he knew exactly how to target the fans since he is himself one of the genre’s biggest.

What can you tell the readers about your training in acting and about your big break in the film?

Like I said earlier, I come from a sports background and always wanted to be a “Movie Star” since I was a kid. That was all I knew. I played soccer in college my first year, but that was the game changing year. It was then, in 2000, that I decided I was going to fully focus my attention on an acting career and enrolled in a theatre program at my community college. I kind of have the Harrison Ford background, as I was an electrician coming out of a trade school and high-school and transitioned smoothly into the techinical side of theatre. That was some of my best training, I’m an awesome learner by observing. I watched what the actors were doing and it just clicked, I got it. It wasn’t long before I was auditioning and using my experience from being on a platform in front of audiences on the basketball court, baseball diamond or soccer field to take it to the stage. Three years later I had done theatre regionally and transferred to a women’s college on a scholarship as one of the only males that year to be accepted and I completed my BFA in Theatre two years later. Theatre is a big part of my life and I’ll always mix film and theatre in my career, much like Chris Pine does now. I actually perform regularly at Disneyland as Alladin in the musical at California Adventure. Yea…definitely what you’d expect from someone doing Horror right? [laughs] Theatre is just very important to me – you only have one “take.” You have to be ON and PERFECT with that one shot you have. It’s excellent training.

What future projects do you have coming up that the readers can look forward to?

Right now my biggest focus has been selling the movie and then post-production on our folllow up film, Roadside. We just returned from Virginia where we filmed for 3 weeks. We are firm believers with moving quickly and people have been baffled that we started production on a new feature so soon. It’s a killer film, great script written by Eric. Same team of producers behind Madison County were on this one too. Aside from that, I have a few projects I’m helping to develop, we’ll see where those go, I’m most excited about working on a documentary. I’ve been drawn to that world for the past couple of months and have two things that have popped into my life recently that may very well lead to me that first feature. As an actor, I’ve been auditioning like crazy and back on that hustle. At the end of 2010, I was selected by ABC to take part of their annual showcase and 12 actors out of over 7,000 were selected as the 12 to Watch for in 2011. Things have been great as a result, I recently filmed an episode of Law and Order: Los Angeles and other things are brewing!