Miguel Angel Garcia is an actor and 2020 alumnus of the USC School of Dramatic Arts. He starred in the Netflix film “Blue Miracle” alongside Dennis Quaid, which premiered May 27. The film is based on the true story of an orphanage in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico that won a 2014 fishing competition. He is also set to star in an upcoming pilot, “Promised Land” and an independent film, “Die Like A Man” written by USC alumnus Eric Nazarian.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Annenberg Media: How would you tell your personal story up until this moment?
Miguel Angel Garcia: I’m from Westchester, New York but my background is what really matters to me. I’m a Peruvian-Spanish actor — my mother’s from Peru [and] my dad’s from Spain. So even though I grew up in New York, I definitely grew up with those Latinx and Hispanic values. My family and I moved [to Spain] and that’s when I started to learn about theater and explore myself and get away from the troubles of everyday life. I moved back to New York and then I decided that I wanted to [perform] for real. So I got into USC after a long time and it’s pretty much where I am now.
AM: In “Blue Miracle,” Garcia plays Moco, a lone wolf who is the newest and oldest member of Omar’s orphanage. What was it like getting into character for the film?
MAG: When I first read the script, I did so much research. Finding all of that information really inspired the character just in my audition process. When I got the role, I dove even deeper. I really like to work with iconic images which is something that [professor] Stephanie Shroyer taught me at USC that I really love. I find images of real people and then I tried to use that as inspiration in body language, in costume, in attitude -- you can see so much from an actual real picture. Not a picture from a movie or anything like that, from an actual, real photographer who found somebody on the street just being themselves and experiencing life.
AM: “Blue Miracle” was filmed in the Dominican Republic. What was the experience like being on set?
MAG: It really was a dream being on set. It’s been something that I’ve been wanting to do my whole life and actually being there on set and thinking about how I was in that position just all felt like a dream that I was about to wake up from. The experience in the Dominican Republic was unmatchable. I got to experience a different country and I got to experience a different culture and people there are so kind and open and fun and energetic, and that was amazing to me.
AM: Did you have a favorite memory when filming?
MAG: When we all finished wrapping we were filming in this water tank...they didn’t really let us jump in the water tank because we were filming, but when we finished all of the boys and I and a bunch of the cast and crew just jumped into the water tank to have this little pool party. It was really nice to have a little bit of fun at the end of such a hard shoot.
AM: What does it mean to you for your film to be so widely distributed on Netflix?
MAG: I actually got the call that [”Blue Miracle”] was going to Netflix over the winter, and I was really excited by that because they wanted to push it for a feature on screen release. But I think that [streaming] reaches so many more people, especially across the world. [”Blue Miracle”] hit number one in Mexico, hit number one in Peru. I think it got to number two in Brazil and number three in the U.S., and all these other Latin American countries because it’s a Latinx story. It was doing really really well [internationally] so I don’t think we could have done those numbers, had it just been a U.S. and Mexico release.
AM: What does “Blue Miracle” mean to you?
MAG: I love this story because it shows me that through love, perseverance and hard work, you can really achieve your dreams. I think whether you’re a kid or you’re an adult, it’s always a great reminder to have a feel-good movie to tell you these things. For me, [it has] a very special place in my heart -- it’s my first movie, it’s an experience in a different country, it’s being with people that I felt became my family. And beyond that, it’s just a great story for kids and families. When I think about the next projects that I want to do and I think about what I want to say as not only an actor, but as a human, [as a] person who wants to be outspoken about the Latinx community, I value what I’m saying as a storyteller. I think this is a great step for me in terms of representing my community and I think about this movie as I move forward in my next [projects].
AM: What are your next projects?
MAG: I just filmed the pilot [”Promised Land”], it’s an all Latinx cast [and] we filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. And that was just absolutely incredible. I mean, the cast and crew...I became family instantly, it was like an adult summer vacation. And now I’m back, and fingers crossed, knock on wood, it gets picked up.
I am also filming an indie project that I have been working on for the past year and a half that I’m absolutely in love with...called “Die Like a Man.” It’s about a 17-year-old kid [who] decides to join gang life within Los Angeles and it’s his journey with toxic masculinity and what [it] does to a person. I love it because it’s not your average gang [movie]...it just has to do with the human experience. The director, Eric Nazarian, also went to USC. Eric’s like my older brother now. We’ve been talking for the past year and a half. [The film] is really gritty, it’s really grungy, it’s right in your face, it’s dark and it’s hardcore. And I’ve been really trying to work my ass off to get this one right. I’ve been talking to people who have been in and out of gang culture in and out of prison, going around Santa Monica and Venice and seeing the gentrified areas versus the non-gentrified areas, rehearsing, getting accents down and really diving deep and sinking my teeth into this role because it’s a passion project for me.
AM: What did you learn from the pandemic as an actor?
MAG: I personally love to meet people and understand their vibe. I’ve taken many virtual classes throughout COVID as well to understand what casting directors are looking for. Every single casting director is different, but I think the most important things are having a good lighting system, having a good backdrop, and if possible, having an actual reader in person with you. I think that really changes things for me.
AM: What advice would you give to aspiring actors at USC?
MAG: I think there’s a lot of value in really sticking to the work and paying attention to what your professors have to offer. You’re not going to love everybody that you work with...and you’re not always going to understand people’s direction. You’re going to be working with directors, producers and actors who sometimes can’t communicate their ideas. You have to learn how to navigate through those experiences.
I always tell people to make friends all across USC, especially [in] the School of Cinematic Arts, and try to get involved with people on their way coming up with you. You’ll find other collaborators that you really love and you’ll find other things that you’re good at. Personally, I don’t want to only do acting, I also want to be a producer, director and all of those things…[which] I can learn through other people. In terms of acting, [try] to make strong choices, whether they’re right or wrong, because being safe is not the way to go, especially when you’re trying to make a good first impression. And if you don’t make a first good impression, that’s okay, there’s so many other casting directors or projects.