In El Rey Network’s MATADOR, now in its first season Tuesday nights at 9 PM and already renewed for Season 2, DEA agent Tony Bravo (Gabriel Luna) is recruited by the CIA to pose as a soccer player so that he can spy on the operations of L.A. Riot team owner – and international criminal – Andres Galan, played by Alfred Molina.

London-born Molina will be familiar to most audiences the world over from his small but indelible role as Satipo, who gets the ball rolling (as it were) at the beginning of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Three decades later, the actor doesn’t look all that different, though he’s now got three Tony nominations under his belt and was nominated for a Supporting Actor Emmy for his work in HBO’s THE NORMAL HEART. Other major film roles have included SPECIES, BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, CHOCOLAT, THE DA VINCI CODE and the just-released drama LOVE IS STRANGE, in which Molina plays a man who marries his partner of thirty years, played by John Lithgow. He has also previously been a series regular on U.S. television in BRAM AND ALICE, LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES and MONDAY MORNINGS.

The actor is at a party thrown by El Rey on the roof of the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the Television Critics Associatio, where he talks about his new role – and his thoughts about soccer, known as “football” throughout the rest of the world.

ASSIGNMENT X: Your MATADOR character Andres Galan was born in Mexico, but you’re actually English …

ALFRED MOLINA: My father was Spanish, from Madrid; my mother was Italian, from Torino. My parents emigrated to England, obviously at different times. They met in London, they got married, they had children. I was born and raised in London, and then when I was in my late thirties, I emigrated to America. I am America, in a weird kind of way.

AX: Is it calling on anything new for you to play a Mexican national in either dialect or body language?

MOLINA: A little bit, but that’s my job, that’s my gig. I’ve played Mexicans before, I’ve played Latin Americans before, but I was described by one of my professors at drama school as being “ethnically ambiguous,” which has proved to be an asset, if anything. But ultimately, I think it’s all about the role and the character.

AX: Were you looking to do another series when MONDAY MORNINGS ended last year?

MOLINA: Yeah. I like TV; I like working in L.A. It ticked a lot of boxes, as they say, with the added advantage that it’s actually a very, very good script and a good project and I was very excited to be working with people like [El Rey president/MATADOR executive producer, who also directed two episodes] Robert Rodriguez, who I’m a big fan of, and this wonderful young cast, young actors, young directors, wonderful new writers, so there’s everything there to attract a man of my years.

When you get to my age, when you get into your sixties, it’s nice to start working with the youngsters. It keeps you on your toes. You reach a point when you kind of think, you’ve got a choice. You can either coast on your laurels and just take it easy and just sit back on what you’ve done – I could get work playing the same kind of roles over and over again – or as a good friend of mine once said, “You can push yourself to the place of at least knowing that you know you’re alive.”

AX: Are you patterning your character after any real person or persons?

MOLINA: Not anyone real, but I’m just conscious of the fact that there is a particular style of behavior when it comes to people who are incredibly rich, incredibly powerful, incredibly influential and can afford to own a sports franchise. If you can afford to own a sports franchise, you’ve probably got more money than sense [laughs], so I’m basing it on that, really. [Galan is] a very rich, very influential man, a man who pulled himself up from the street, a man with very little education. In the pilot, he talks about how he started out selling cigars to American tourists on the streets of Mexico City. He’s a self-made man, a man who didn’t have any benefits of an education or family connections, and he’s become incredibly rich and powerful, but he’s also, we discover, the front for a rather nefarious, conspiratorial group of people.

AX: What does Galan see his primary job as being? Does he see himself primarily as the owner of the sports team or as the front for this international criminal organization?

MOLINA: I think both. He’s passionate about his team. I think he serves his own ambition. He single-mindedly serves his ambition.

AX: Does he ever see himself as getting free from his bosses?

MOLINA: You’ll have to watch a few episodes.

AX: So that’s a plot point …

MOLINA: That’s a plot point. But if you follow the episodes, you won’t be disappointed.

AX: Are you a fan of soccer, which is what they call the sport in MATADOR, even thought it’s called “football” pretty much everywhere but the U.S.?

MOLINA: I’m a soccer fan. [joking] I’m also starting a campaign to change American football. American football shouldn’t be called “football,” because they only use their feet once or twice. It should be called “throw-ball” or “run-ball.” “American run-ball.”

AX: This year, the U.S. seemed very excited about the World Cup …

MOLINA: I don’t think it shows a distinct increase in an interest in soccer. What it shows is, America is obsessed with winning. But it’s also true that as long as America’s national team was in the World Cup, those airport bars were packed. As soon as they lost and fell out of the competition, they were empty. What I like about soccer is, it’s a game of elegance, it’s a game of tactics and it’s like chess. Whereas American sport, in my humble opinion, seems driven by results. So when you have a football game, a soccer game, nil-nil [neither team with any points], at ninety minutes, your average American fan is going to go, “Well, what’s the point of that?” When actually, it could be ninety minutes of fantastic skill.

The other problem with American sports is, you can’t stop a soccer game to sell hamburgers. You’ve got time-outs in every sport in America – football, baseball, basketball, you’ve got little quarters of time. You can sell the shit out of everything. But the beauty about soccer is, you’ve got two forty-five minute things, and you can’t interrupt it.

AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about MATADOR right now?

MOLINA: MATADOR is the future, and networks like El Rey are the future – in other words, networks that actually will reflect the real face of America.

Related: Exclusive Interview: Gabriel Luna on Season 1 of El Rey’s MATADOR TV series


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Article: Exclusive Interview: Alfred Molina on El Rey’s MATADOR TV series


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