AIDS activist Pedro Zamora struck a chord with a young generation that had missed the first wave of the pandemic when he came to America's attention via MTV's Real World reality-TV show in 1994. Shockingly, Zamora succumbed to the disease the day after the last episode of the series aired. In April of this year MTV broadcast Pedro, a biopic scripted by Milk Oscar winner and gay activist Dustin Lance Black. The film, which has just been released on DVD and includes the movie's introduction by President Bill Clinton, stars Alex Loynaz in his feature debut. From his home in California the young, upcoming, handsome actor who gives a passionate performance in the film spoke with Windy City Times.
Windy City Times: How did the part come to you?
Alex Loynaz: It was pretty much a standard audition process. I went in a total of three times and that was pretty much it.
WCT: Any hesitation about playing a gay character?
AL: Not at all. I was attracted to the story and as an actor these are the kinds of roles that you want to take on. It was a challenge that came along with a big responsibility but a fun one as well.
WCT: Yes, because you're playing a hero to not just the gay community but to a lot of communities. Did you feel the weight of that responsibility?
AL: I felt that more at the beginning of filming but it wasn't until afterwards when I met Pedro's family that I really felt it. That was [ laughs ] really nerve wracking for meseeing what they thought and how they felt about it. But it all worked out. It was a very quick shootwe shot it in 18 days in Puerto Rico and a few days in San Francisco and I was very lucky to work with a great group of people who were a lot of fun and very positive.
WCT: Tell me about meeting Pedro's family. That must have been very emotional.
AL: I met them in Toronto when we premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was very emotional. At that point I hadn't seen the movie yet and I was going to meet them at the screening. They were staying at the same hotel and I didn't think I was going to meet them until I got to the theatre. I got ready and went down to the lobby. I was really nervous and sure enough, they showed up in the lobby. The first person I met was Milly, Pedro's sister and we didn't even say anythingwe just hugged. It was very emotional for both of us but it felt great. They had seen the movie earlier that day and we spoke about it a little bit. Pedro's dad was there as well and they were very happy with it and that was a huge weight off my shoulders. They're amazing people and we got along really well. I've seen them a couple of times since then.
WCT: What kind of feedback did you get on the film?
AL: The film was very well received. I got to travel around a bit with it and that was one of the highpointsyou don't necessarily have to know who Pedro is to enjoy or understand it. A lot of people who never knew about Pedro cried at the film and wanted to get involved and there were a lot of people who knew about Pedro that were so happy that the film was made. Not only as a tribute to him but we're still dealing with the issues he fought for and the movie highlights that. It's important because so many of these issues have been ignored because of advanced medications. People are living healthy lives although they are positive and it seems like people have forgotten that there isn't a cure for HIV or AIDS. It's still an issue to fight for. There's still a lot that needs to be done. The movie is entertainment but it's also educational. You can get a lot from it.
WCT: How has the movie changed your life, Alex?
AL: Career-wise, it changed my life tremendously. This was my first substantial role. I learned so much from the experience. Going into it I wasn't very knowledgeable about HIV or AIDS and I learned a lot more. I educated myself which was great. It changed from life to see how a movie like this can touch people's lives. It feels good. It feels like I was part of something that could change somebody's life for the better.
WCT: Is there another Latino hero that should have a movie made about them?
AL: Good question. There are many. [ Laughs ] Several people mentioned Sal Mineo to me while I was on tour with the film.
WCT: Good call!
AL: The sad thing is I know who Sal Mineo is but I haven't seen a lot of his work.
WCT: Oh, Alex, you have to immediately go watch Rebel Without a Cause.
AL: [ Laughs ] Okay, I promise I will.