Trigger warning: This article contains mention of suicide.
When Mariana Treviño (La Casa de las Flores) started her acting career in Mexico around 15 years ago, she never imagined sharing the screen with a two-time Academy Award winner like Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) but hoped it would happen one day.
“It was unimaginable,” Treviño told Remezcla during a recent interview to promote her new film A Man Called Otto. “I mean, part of me projected that, and I threw it into the universe. It came back, and it was a wonderful gift.”
In Otto, Treviño plays Marisol, a pregnant mother and wife in a Latine family who has moved into the neighborhood of a grumpy older man named Otto (Hanks) living in Pittsburgh. Marisol and her family, which includes her husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and their two young daughters, become a bright light in Otto’s life that he never knew he needed.
“It’s a blessing to work with someone [like Tom] who we admire and love so much and who has touched so many lives for so many years,” Treviño said, adding that the 1993 drama Philadelphia is her favorite Hanks movie. “It’s a real honor as an actor and as a person to take something away from that experience.”
A remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove, Otto introduces audiences to the title character as someone who projects a temperamental and tough exterior but is going through some things emotionally. As a recent widow, he has been grieving over the loss of his wife, which leads him to attempt suicide more than once in the movie. The comedy and tragedy mix well, Treviño said, because that’s how life really is.
“I think life itself is always intertwining the comedic aspects and the dramatic parts,” she told us. “We’re always going through that spectrum. I think this movie shows that in a beautiful way.”
Much of that beauty comes from the way Marisol, who is Mexican/Salvadorian, decides that although Otto continually seems to reject her friendship, she will never give up. At one point, she brings him food in Tupperware dishes like chicken mole and Salvadorian cookies called salpores. Otto eats the mole, which he finds tasty, before attempting suicide.
“The comedy comes from the nuances of being a person and how awkward connections can sometimes be when we come from different backgrounds,” Treviño said. “But that makes it endearing.”
“It was great to have all these voices and identities coming together and connecting.”
Garcia-Rulfo, who has worked with Treviño before on projects in Mexico like the 2016 film Tales of an Immoral Couple, said what makes his co-star so special is her innate ability to always be in the moment.
“That’s what all actors are trying to do when they say, ‘Action!’” Garcia-Rulfo said. “Mariana does it so naturally. She jumps in and starts improvising. It’s very easy to work with her because she makes you be present.”
For Treviño, Garcia-Rulfo felt like “home” to her. It’s that theme of familiarity in the film that she feels is vital to Otto becoming less guarded as the film progresses and allows Mariana and her family to know him as a person.
“[Manuel] represented the comfort of our culture,” she said. “It was great to have such a wonderful partner who is so close to my heart. It was great to have all these voices and identities coming together and connecting.”
A Man Called Otto expands at theaters nationwide on January 13, 2023.