UNPLUGGING Interview: Al Madrigal Talks Hilarious New Comedy, MORBIUS, And Whether He Goes Method (Exclusive)

UNPLUGGING Interview: Al Madrigal Talks Hilarious New Comedy, MORBIUS, And Whether He Goes Method (Exclusive) UNPLUGGING Interview: Al Madrigal Talks Hilarious New Comedy, MORBIUS, And Whether He Goes

Think a rustic getaway with no cell service, internet or social media is a romantic way to revive your marriage? Think again. In Unplugging, when Jeanine (Eva Longoria) and Dan (Matt Walsh) head off on a relaxing weekend free of technology, but when their getaway spirals out of control with unearthly encounters, strong edibles, cranky locals, and a pesky one-eyed dog, events take an unexpected turn.

Al Madrigal also stars in this hilarious new comedy from veteran editor and first-time feature director Debra Neil-Fisher (The Hangover, Sonic the Hedgehog), and we caught up with him earlier this week to discuss his small, but pivotal role. We don't want to give too much away for fear of spoilers, but the actor and comedian is on top form and talks in detail about his experiences here.

He also reflects on being part of Sony Pictures' Marvel movie Morbius, revealing an alternate ending for the blockbuster and admitting much of his work ended up on the cutting room floor. We also hear from Al on his new comic book series Primos and his big plans for that on the page and screen.

After rising to fame on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Madrigal is making a huge splash in Hollywood, and his standout role in this movie is well worth checking out. The question is, did he go method to play this affable UPS driver? Check out the video below to hear from him on that and more!

Unplugging arrived in theaters on April 22 and is available on Digital and On Demand on April 29.
 


What sort of experience did you have working on Unplugging, and how did you come to be involved with the movie?

Oh, I love all the people so much. I’m friends with the producer Deborah Liebling, and I’m friends with Eva Longoria, Matt Walsh, and Brad Morris. He’s one of the writers and one of the coolest dudes ever. It’s one of those things where you get an offer to be in a smaller movie like this, and you love all the people, so it’s an easy thing for me to do. The trickiest part was getting there during COVID. A connecting flight from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Tulsa, Oklahoma isn’t the coolest flight to be on [Laughs]. Other than that, it was a fun time working with great people. A small part, but a great time.

It being a small part takes nothing away from the fantastic work you did in the film and how important your character is. He’s such a huge part of the story, and it must be pretty gratifying as an actor when you watch a film like this and see you had this ripple effect throughout the entire story?

They mentioned that going in. When you’re working with somebody like Matt Walsh who is an amazing improviser and no one is precious with any of the words even though you want to get the scene down, it’s just really fun to act with such talented, friendly people. I still pinch myself that this is an actual job that I get to do. Small part, big part, lots of money, no money…it’s sort of all the same if everyone’s nice and fun. It doesn’t matter.

I feel like there could be a version of this movie where Dan and Juan are best friends and we spent the first 20 or 30 minutes exploring that. Do you think what comes next was made more impactful by us saying goodbye to you as quickly as we say hello?

I have that relationship with so many people that come over here. I live in Southern California and there are so many people who are service people at my house, the Madrigal Compound [Laughs]. The termite inspector and I are friendly. Without spoiling too much for this movie, it’s that guy you see once a month, in my case with the termite guy or the gardeners [who] I’m fist bumping [because] I have such a great relationship with [them]. These folks do have an impact on your life. I speak horrible Spanish, but the gardener here, I have a Juan situation with. Marvin is from Guatemala and in very, very broken English - I had to have someone come in and translate - but he tells me that his sons are crossing the border and they’re stuck in Frontera, Mexico, and would I help go get them if I needed to and claim them. I’m in Southern California and we’re talking about going to Texas if that’s where the border crossing is for them, and I said, ‘Yes! Let me know what I need to do.’ So, there’s a movie [Laughs]. It’s the same type of thing because you’re impacted by these people that you develop relationships with, so the short answer is it’s cool and it’s a fun little part. 

It does a great job of putting the audience in Dan’s shoes, and in that scene with you two - it goes without saying you and Matt are two very funny guys - was there a lot of bouncing back and forth or was it a case of sticking close to the script?

No, we messed around with it. It’s the beauty of having the writers on set as Matt wrote this with Brad and he was around. There was a fun time to be had on this set. I’ve been on the shows where they’re married to every ‘uh’ and ‘the.’ You know, the smallest little things. They’ll be like, ‘You missed the ‘the.’ Can you go back in that 65-word monologue and hit that ‘the’?’ [Laughs] ‘Really? I feel like that was really good.’ I’ve been on those shows and it’s not fun, so this was great to be loosely doing the lines with a buddy. It’s fun. 

Debra Neil-Fisher has worked on a lot of great movies -

As an editor! That’s really cool. It was one of the first when I got to The Daily Show. John Oliver told me to live in the edit, so when you’re shooting something, just like this interview where you’re thinking ‘I’m going to cut the part with the Mexican gardener…’

I’m stealing that for a movie pitch!

There you go. But yeah, a lot of editors make great directors just like Debra has. 

With this being her first feature directing gig, I thought she did a fantastic job, but what was your take coming from a comedy world on the sort of comedic sensibilities she had as a filmmaker?

You could tell right away. She was awesome. Again, lovely. That’s all you want [Laughs]. I want lovely more than good and she had thoughts and gave me something to play with and work on. She was great. 

This is a film that definitely left me with a lot to think about in terms of technology and being more present, but what was your takeaway from seeing a story like this? Are you a big social media guy?

I really hate it. I hate it so much. I’ve got to really make an effort to post anything. I just don’t care. I need to promote this project, I know [Laughs], and I want to promote the stuff I’m in, but I don’t care to tell anyone what I had for breakfast or show a picture of my food or let anyone in on anything. I know that’s what it takes to make people popular, but I don’t know if I want it that bad. I’d like to be just known for my work. That’s it. Not an outfit or whatever I’m choosing to do with my personal life. I hate having it and I know I need to do it more, but I want to get off my phone completely. I want to unplug. My wife is on her phone non-stop and she’s like, ‘I’m looking at the news!’ We’re addicted to the news. We’re getting non-stop updates and it really is a problem. Have you ever watched a movie with someone under 20? I’m saying to my daughter, ‘Did you just see that?’ Or we’re watching live sports, and I’m having to rewind it because Steph Curry just shot the most amazing three-pointer and people are looking at their phone! You can always look at Twitter, but these live shots are unbelievable. I hate it. I want to unplug just like Matt and Eva’s characters. 
 


It’s a great message to take from this film, but on another note for a second, I know that, like myself, you’re a big comic book fan, and it was great to see you in Morbius this year, joining that Marvel Universe.

First of all, Morbius: not as bad as everybody is making it out to be. Sure, it had problems and they diced it up quite a bit. I had some hilarious lines that were cut out of that movie. I was very funny [Laughs]. In London, when you shoot they do a halfway party exactly midway through the film and there’s a big blowout. Editors came up to me. A gaggle of them came up and said, ‘Oh my God, we see everything you’re doing. All the subtle stuff. All of the jokes.’ I got to improvise through that freely. If they’d left in just 50% more of my stuff [Laughs]. I got butchered in that thing. I think that’s what they did. They just really…because of COVID, they just had so much time to mess with it. They really messed with it. 

On that note, I know in other interviews you’ve talked about working with Michael Keaton and, in the trailers, it looked like you and Tyrese Gibson had a big action scene in the forest. We didn’t see that in the film. Were there a lot of reshoots and big moments that were cut?

Yeah, quite a few. You saw a complete alternate ending to this entire thing. They made a good point. That scene you saw pictures from was shot during the day and the rationale was, ‘We have a vampire movie. We can’t have the big final fight scene happen during the day.’ At some point, me and Tyrese fought Matt Smith. I shot for six days and none of that was shown.

I know this was one of your biggest blockbuster roles, so it must have been quite an experience to go into that and then see it on the other side as not necessarily the film you signed up for?

Whatever. It’s part of it [Laughs]. I really don’t care. I got to spend two and a half months in London living in Chelsea and riding a bike around. I went to Amsterdam on the weekends. I went to a Tulip festival. I had the time of my life. Even though you didn’t see my scenes with Michael Keaton and Jared Leto…I did weapons training. I went to the BFI almost every single day and hung out and had coffee and watched movies. It was the time of my life. I did a tonne of stand-up at Top Secret and went to the Bill Murray theatre and was hanging out there a little bit. So, again, one of the best times of my entire career. The end product of what you’re seeing…I can’t control that. I own a company. Primos, I can control, because it’s my comic book. My movies that we make I can control those to a certain extent, but there are so many people involved in these projects. Bringing it back to Unplugging, it really is like life. Nothing goes the way you planned it and you have to be cool with whatever the outcome is. When you have such a variety of people and opinions involved and decision-makers, it’s going to go on this path with twists and turns and you just have to let go and be cool with where it ends up. If it’s great, it’s great, if it’s not, it’s not. Whatever, man. 

Like you said, the movie did get a tough time from critics. Personally, I thought you and the entire cast was great regardless of how much changed. I hope we get to see you Tyrese down the line. It sounded like your characters knew about Venom and there are all these different films coming, so fingers crossed you can come back and take another shot.

Thanks, man. When I went out to London, they were like, ‘Congratulations, you’re the glue that holds everything together.’ We’ll see. I was hoping to be Agent Coulson, appearing in every single instalment of this Sony Marvel Universe. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. If it does, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. On to the next thing and on to Unplugging. 

Fingers crossed, but before we get back to this film, I’ve got to ask about your comic book series, Primos. Has there been any talk of taking that down the film or TV route and, if you do, how would you want to be involved? Are you hoping to be a writer or producer or are you happy to pass it on to someone?

I always look for people who know way more than I do to help me out with everything, so I’m happy to pass that off to experts. While I write a tremendous amount of TV, I have not written an action movie, so I would rather pass it off to the most qualified writers and producers as possible. I would just be happy if it got made because then we’d see more Latino characters on TV and on big screens. Right now, we’re seriously lacking in presence there, so I’d love for that to become a movie. There are quite a few people talking about doing that. I’m in the process of laying out the bigger picture with all of the other bad guys. I have four of these done and plans for three different series that fit into the entire world, so we’re really going to build an entire universe with a big, big threat coming. 

That’s awesome. It must be so exciting, regardless of film and television adaptations, to build your own comic book universe and put the spotlight on Latino characters who are also quite neglected on the page? 

I’d say this to any of your listeners and, in the back of this comic book, you can read the message I wrote in issue #1. We all have this little voice in our heads nagging at us to do something. It looks like you’ve done it, but if you’ve had something you’ve always wanted to do and you’re putting it off for whatever reason, just listen to that little voice and get it done. I wanted to do stand up comedy and now all these other worlds have opened up. I’m in movies, I’m in London riding a bike through a tulip festival [Laughs] and writing comic books. Listen to that little voice because everything starts to open up at that point.

Finally, method acting always seems to be in the headlines these days. You play Juan, a UPS driver, so were you going down the method route delivering packages or was the uniform enough? 

[Laughs] It was really funny because there was a UPS guy on set. They had a delivery guy who was a representative for UPS and he was saying, ‘You wouldn’t hold the boxes like that. So, if you want to hold them like this because we’re trained to do it like this.’ At one point, you’re just like, ‘Okay dude, we get it! [Laughs] There won’t be any delivery heads out there or a subreddit dedicated to my box technique, so simmer down.’ No, I didn’t do method UPS work. I trained in a UPS facility. I actually prefer FedEx. It’s not my style. 

Watch out not for those hashtags criticising your box handling…

Well, if you’re a delivery person, watch Unplugging so you can weigh in on the controversy. Did he hold the box right? Which side are you on? 
 

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