FROM DUSK TILL DAWN | © 2015 El Ray

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN | © 2015 El Ray

Zane Holtz plays Richie Gecko in El Rey’s series FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, which returns for its second season on Tuesday, August 25. DUSK is based on the 1995 film, directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino from a story by Robert Kurtzman, in which Richie (played by Tarantino in the movie) and his brother Seth (D.J. Cotrona in the series, George Clooney on the big screen), both bank robbers and on the run from the law after killing a Texas Ranger, kidnap a family and wind up taking shelter at the T***y Twister bar – which turns out to be full of vampires.

The TV version, created by Rodriguez for the network he founded, hewed close to the film for much of the first season, but then diverged and expanded. The mythology now explicitly goes back to Aztec times, with the snakelike Culebra clans working and dueling with human crime lords. In both versions, Richie is bitten and turned, but in a big change from the movie, where Seth killed him in an act of mercy, the erstwhile criminal survives as a Culebra and is taken under the wing of ancient but beautiful Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez in the series, Salma Hayek in the feature).

Holtz, who hails from British Columbia, was a regular in MAKE IT OR BREAK IT and has film credits including VAMPIRES SUCK, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, 7 MINUTES and the upcoming WIND WALKERS and THE CURSE OF DOWNERS GROVE. Holtz sits down for a chat about all things Richie Gecko during El Rey’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour.

AX: When you started on FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, did you expect Richie to survive the end of the first season?

ZANE HOLTZ: I was hoping. I was like, “I guess I just have to bide my time and see when the scripts for Episode Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten roll out and make sure that I make it out of the Twister alive.” So I was happy to survive the first season.

AX: Did you feel any pressure playing a character who’d been played by Quentin Tarantino?

HOLTZ: I had to ignore it, because if I went in there with that weighing on my mind, I wouldn’t be able to do the character justice. If I went in worried about that, it would hinder my abilities as an actor, so I just put that aside and did the best that I could.

AX: Did you do any research into the role at all, either into bank robbers –

HOLTZ: Demons or bank robbers or psychopaths? I didn’t. I worked with the material that I had from the page, as well as my instincts, and saw what made sense for me. I think if I were to research real bank robbers, it might not have played as much, because this is a heightened role and so much of what we’re playing is the relationship between the brothers, me and D.J., so that’s what I put most of my efforts into.

AX: Do you study snakes at all for the way Richie might move when he’s in full Culebra mode?

HOLTZ: I haven’t really. I’ve tried so hard not to let the demon stuff overwhelm the character. I think the coolest thing about Richie for Season 2 is, even though he’s a Culebra, when he is in human form, he’s still the same guy, he still has the same interests, the little quips and quirks and things that people liked or didn’t like from Season 1. I just thought it was important that, going into Season 2, just because he’s gotten bit, his personality doesn’t change. He’s still the same man, he just has these abilities.

I had pet reptiles when I was a kid. I had a couple of snakes, I had a Pacman [Ceratophrys] frog, one of the big frogs, so I’ve never been bothered by snakes. I’m still not bothered by it. If you see the poster for the second season, there’s an image of me and Santanico and snakes around us. That’s not CG – we shot that snake on the day. I’m comfortable around them.

AX: How do you deal with the Culebra makeup?

HOLTZ: The makeup didn’t really come into play for me until toward the end of the [first season], and I had already been used to doing long hours and working so much. It takes about two hours for me to do it, but the contacts are worse than the actual makeup.

AX: Is any of that done CG, or is that all makeup appliances?

HOLTZ: It’s all practical. The one bit that they will do CG is sometimes [when] the fangs that pop out. Usually, when you do the scene and the fangs are in, they’re in. But sometimes when they do the reveal, that’s done CG, but everything else is practical. We have to go sit in the makeup chair for two hours to have our demon Culebra faces put on. Luckily, we use it sparingly. You get to see us be our human versions of ourselves pretty often. The Culebra stuff comes out in a big fight, usually in a Culebra-on-Culebra fight or when we’re feeding, so it’s fun. It doesn’t bother me – it’s frequent enough that it’s cool for the audience, but for us as actors, it doesn’t happen so often that we’re sitting in the chair every day.

AX: Are you one of the people who like to sleep through the makeup application process?

HOLTZ: No, I sit and talk. I think I’ve maybe fallen asleep once when it happened, just from working crazy long hours, over and over and over again. But I usually just sit through it.

AX: Does being in the makeup help inform Richie being in his Culebra phase?

HOLTZ: Yeah, it kind of helps playing a demon when you look in the mirror and you look like one [laughs]. At acting school, usually they don’t have Demon Day, where you roar and do weird stuff like that. So you have to make that up as you go, and it’s a learning process, because really, in those moments, you’re trying to do what looks frightening or what looks scary. Some people are better at it than others. I’m still working on doing my demon-mode faces. Luckily, the makeup does a lot of it.

AX: How is playing the brother relationship opposite D.J. Cotrona as Seth?

HOLTZ: Great. I have three younger brothers, so for me, that kind of stuff is natural and plays easy. And me and D.J. had the opportunity to hang out with each other in Austin [Texas, where DUSK is shot] for about a week before we actually put anything on its feet for the camera, so we had a lot of time to get in that groove before we had to shoot it. Those male relationships are great and fun to play and me and D.J. get along really well in real life as well as on screen, so I think that’s something that we’ll continue to explore throughout the series.

AX: When Season 2 starts, where is Richie at with his Culebra-hood and with his brother?

HOLTZ: He’s a little conflicted by it. He chose to become a Culebra out of necessity. [In] the first season, he was gut-shot, he was dying. His only choice was die there on the floor as a man or transform into this Culebra and see what that life was going to be like. He’s separated from his brother, he’s living with Santanico in Houston in the second season. He’s accepting his Culebra powers, but is conflicted about the morality of what that means. You’ll see that he really only eats or kills people in the fringes of the world, the criminals, underworld sort of people, people that they’re going to take out anyways on any of their criminal endeavors. It’s interesting, because Richie’s always kind of been living in the shadow of his brother Seth, and now he’s out on his own with Santanico, but he’s also immortal, he also has all these new tricks up his sleeve, and how he uses those to his advantage and tries to become this Culebra criminal kingpin is my arc for the second season.

AX: Is Richie trying to reach out towards Seth, or are both of them not talking?

HOLTZ: You know what? I think the way that they ended things in the first season, more so than not wanting to reach out to Seth, or not needing to reach out to Seth, Richie probably feels like he shouldn’t reach out to Seth and – he’s not ashamed, but he knows he basically chose this woman instead of his brother. So I feel like if and when they end up back together, it won’t be either one of them reaching out to the other one, it will be a necessity.

AX: How much is Richie supporting Santanico in her quest for vengeance and how much is he there charting his own course?

HOLTZ: I think he loves her and he wants to help her and have her have some closure for whatever she had in the past. You’ll see that her driving force for the second season is to have revenge against this new character called Navarro, played by Esai Morales. Her goal is to take him and kill him. And my goal is, “Well, let’s see where this can take us. He has something that maybe we want to take over and run, instead of burning it all to the ground.” So you’ll see a clash between our two goals. We’re on the same path with potentially two different outcomes, so you’ll see that rift and conflict between Richie and Santanico.

AX: Danny Trejo is joining the cast for Season 2 as the Regulator. How is working with him?

HOLTZ: Great. You’ll see our characters don’t interact that much until – he’s there to find us, so a lot of that is him on the hunt and us being chased, and then when we meet, it’s a big showdown. So we didn’t get to work together on set that often, but I got to see him around set and talk to him and he’s a great guy and he’s been doing this a really long time, he’s been working with Robert for a really long time. He’s the veteran on set when it comes to working with Robert and Troublemaker [Studios], so that was great to have him come and support the show and continue his legacy with being part of the FROM DUSK TILL DAWN franchise.

AX: Does Richie still have his big guns?

HOLTZ: Still shooting. That’s one of the things that I said to [show runner Juan] Carlos [Coto] that I was really hoping for. I said, “Now that I’m a Culebra, every time I fight, I don’t want to be scratching people and biting them and fighting that way. I still think Richie likes to use a gun. That’s what he’s used to.” So you’ll still see me in a lot of gun battles, and shooting is still my preferred method.

AX: How much of your own physical stuff do they let you do?

HOLTZ: All fight scenes, some driving stuff. Basically, anything that wouldn’t potentially put us out for the rest of the season. We usually run the fight scenes in a wide [shot] with the stunt doubles to just get an idea of what it’s going to look like and to block it out. We’ll shoot that. We’ll shoot it again with the real actors, and then do all the close-ups. So we get to do a lot of it. We have an amazing stunt team. J.J. Dashnaw is our stunt coordinator – he works for Brand X, his dad [Jeffrey J. Dashnaw] was the stunt coordinator on the first season, and he was D.J.’s double, and now he’s the main stunt coordinator for Season 2, super-talented guy, blocks out really cool fight scenes, great car stuff. We get the best of the best on DUSK.

AX: Have you had any input into Richie as the show has gone on?

HOLTZ: We had a meeting with the writers’ room, with Carlos and the rest of the writers, leading up to them writing the second season and just gave our input on where we think the characters’ heads are at and what our fears, what our ambitions are – character-wise, not how we want to look or whatever [laughs] – what we think, how we feel about things that could potentially happen in the show. And they went with that. And then obviously, you have input every day as an actor, because ultimately, you’re the one who’s performing the scene. So they can reel you in one way or the other, but you are the person who’s bringing the words to life. So we have choices, we have the ability to make choices in the performance, and sometimes it ends up in the edit and sometimes it doesn’t.

AX: And can you contrast the tones or the themes of Season 1 and Season 2?

HOLTZ: Sure. for me, for Richie, it’s about finding out my true identity. In Season 1, you kind of see he didn’t really know who he was or what was going on around him, and so he’s attracted to Santanico, because maybe she’s going to give him those answers. Now, in Season 2, he’s finding out who he really has wanted to be all along, but also troubled with, “Well, is this version better? Or am I better off with my brother, was I better off as a human, or am I better off, am I more powerful as a Culebra, or has this affected me and made me more weak as a person?” The themes, the partnerships, the pairings the characters have this season and seeing how they interact with each other, ambitions whose goals are different from each other. My goals are different from Seth’s. That set us on a different path. I’m with Santanico. Our goals are a little bit different; that could cause some issues between us. There are a lot of dynamics in our show. You get different tones as far as the acting goes. Sometimes we’re playing scenes straight and sometimes we’re going for the camp and the humor. We get to play with guns, we get to play in the horror world, we get to play in some serious drama. As an actor, it’s just a dream job.

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ArticleFROM DUSK TILL DAWN: Zane Holtz gives the scoop on Season 2 – exclusive interview

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