Honduran-American Actor Gabriel Chavarria Graduates from Indies to Blockbusters in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

'War for the Planet of the Apes' Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Slowly waking up from its white-dominated slumber, the entertainment industry is shifting towards more representation on bigger projects as it realizes that more inclusion means more profits. Even though we have yet to see a Latino superhero, the studios summer slates have begun to show signs of improvement featuring our talent more consistently.

Such is the case of Gabriel Chavarria, best known for his work as Jacob Aguilar on Hulu’s trailblazing show East Los High, and who appears as Preacher in the critically acclaimed War for the Planet of the Apes, the third installment in the sci-fi franchise. His character, the only human soldier with meaningful lines of dialogue and a significant dramatic arc, is torn between his duty protecting those that look like him and helping the oppressed and misrepresented apes. In a handful of sequences Preacher becomes the bridge between the two worlds, and in a film with undertones about the divisiveness that afflicts humanity today, having a person of color in a crucial position matters.

Chavarria was also recently seen in Ricardo de Montreuil’s Lowriders. The actor’s dream is to one day be part of the Marvel Universe or follow on Diego Luna and Oscar Isaac’s footsteps and join the Star Wars family. Luckily none of those aspirations are farfetched now. The Honduran-American actor spoke to Remezcla about getting to work with director Matt Reeves and starring opposite apes that were never really there.

War for the Planet of the Apes is currently playing in theaters.

On Nabbing the Role of Preacher

I went in, auditioned the first time, I felt good about the tape, and then they called me back, and said, “Matt Reeves, the director, is going to be in town for a day,” because he was already doing pre-production and all that stuff in Canada. “He’d like to see you and a couple of other guys they were interested in.” I went, and I read for him, and it was good, I felt great about it, and I think we hit it off right from that moment. And a few weeks later, we got the call and they offered me the role.

On the Importance of Having Opportunities Like These for Latinos

I feel like, for me as an actor, to be able to be part of something like this as Latino, to get this opportunity is super important. There’s plenty of Latino talent out there, and I’m just one of many. It was two years ago when I first read the script, and when I read it, I realized how important the role that I had in the film was, and I was excited, as far as the topic and everything else. A lot of it is relevant to what’s happening right now. At that time, it was crazy to put those two things together.

On How Things Have Changed for Latino Talent in Recent Years

I do feel like it has changed, and it’s great to be a part of that change, to be at the top of that wave. Not only as an actor, I feel like there’s a lot more Latino talent, as far as creators, writers, directors, producers. We’ve got to make it happen, and take it upon ourselves to make it happen, to be able to tell these stories, because there are a lot of stories to be told.

‘East Los High’ Courtesy of Hulu.
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On Working on a Film Involving CGI and Other Technology

It was a lot of fun experiencing that process. It’s a long process shooting a movie like this, because of how complicated it is with the CGI apes and stuff, but the cool thing about the technology now, with Weta and what those guys have been able to accomplish, is that we’re able to do the scenes with the actors who play the apes on location. Before, you would do in on a stage or with green screen, but now we’re actually able to bring the actors onto the locations. It’s mind blowing to see these guys and their process. The production, in terms of how many people were on set, it was crazy. It looked like a little city. So many people were working on the project, so it was insane to experience that, and it was a lot of fun.

On Understanding Preacher’s Emotional State

It’s credit to our director Matt Reeves. He made the process so smooth, getting into the character. He made it clear, and I understood from the beginning what Preacher’s role was, and how conflicted he was. He was taught that these apes are savages and killers, but Preacher sees firsthand that Caesar is not that, and they’re more than what they’ve been made out to be, so he lets him go. Matt Reeves made our jobs very easy, and we understood clearly what the story was and where it was going.

‘Lowriders’ Photo by Justin M Lubin. Courtesy of BH Tilt
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On Going from Lowriders to a Big Summer Blockbuster

It was entirely different. My character in Lowriders was an 18-year-old kid just trying to find himself in the world. He doesn’t connect with his father, he’s never being to Mexico, and he doesn’t speak Spanish. It was an entirely different world, but it was fun to play different roles in different worlds. Especially with Apes, it’s an action packed film, but the good thing is about Apes is that, it’s a big summer blockbuster but there’s a lot of emotion and feeling in the film. When you watch it, you go in expecting something, but you also experience something else too.

On How Groundbreaking East Los High Was for Latino Actors

When East Los happened at that time, about 5 or 6 years ago, there weren’t any roles for Latinos that were leads and stars, at that time. When I first got the breakdown for the show, I told my agents, “What the fuck is this? This is unreal. I need to be a part of this show. I have to be a part of East Los High, it doesn’t matter what it is. I need to be a part of it.” I was reading the breakdown, and I saw, Jacob – Lead, Maya – Lead, and I was like, “Wow, this is incredible, this has never happened before.” For me, it was really important to at least have an opportunity to be a part of this show, and I’ve been blessed to be able to be one of the stars of the show.

On Being an Hondureño in Hollywood

First of all, there are not a lot of us out here in LA, so to be able to represent my country, where my parents are from, and to be an actor and continue to do great things in Hollywood, it’s important. It means a lot to me.