During our interview with the talented actor Aimee Garcia, she described herself as “scrappy” and we couldn’t agree more. Her “scrappiness” combined with her talent and compassion makes her one of the most talented and loved actors in the business.
The Chicago native has already built an impressive list of credits in film and television. Many of you will know her as LAPD forensic scientist Ella Lopez for several seasons on the much loved series Lucifer, but there’s more. She’s had recurring roles in series such as Dexter, Woke, Rush Hour, George Lopez and All About the Andersons.
If that wasn’t enough, Aimee joined forces with former WWE wrestler A.J. Mendez and formed the company Scrappy Heart Productions. She currently is starring in the western Murder at Yellowstone City with Gabriel Byrne and Richard Dreyfuss. She currently is starring in the western Murder at Yellowstone City with Gabriel Byrne and Richard Dreyfuss. It was released on June 24th via On Demand, VOD and Apple TV.
We sat down with Aimee to talk about her current film Murder at Yellowstone City, why she formed Scrappy Heart Productions and the importance of her role in the series Lucifer.
Aimee Garcia – She is the one who brought me on to this project. We did a show a while ago called Trauma and she texted me and said that she was doing a western with Richard Dreyfuss and Gabriel Byrne and I told her I was in! I just loved seeing an American Western from a diverse perspective that we don’t see that often. So, I was just really happy to be a part of this film.
Pop Culture Principle – What can you tell us about your character Isabel Santos and how she fits in the world of Murder at Yellowstone City?
Aimee Garcia – Isabel is a saloon madame and she runs the finances of and is essentially the CEO of this saloon. She manages the school, and she manages the other girls. She is the daughter of a Mexican general, so she can handle her way with weapons. What I really like about her is that she is a woman of her word. I really loved her integrity, and I really admired the fact that even back in the 1800s, she was a woman that essentially ran a business. So, I loved just embodying this character.
Pop Culture Principle – The film was written by Eric Belgau. Did he give you a backstory for this character or did you come up with your character’s backstory?
Aimee Garcia – Eric told me that she was a daughter of a Mexican general and that she was a survivor and that she was very scrappy. My addition to the character was more in doing the research of women back at that time and how a woman of color could elevate herself so quickly as not only the madame but being in charge of receiving money and making sure everything ran smoothly.
I thought that she would be a good entertainer and obviously, there were no streamers back then, so their form of entertainment was instrumental and singing and dancing. I asked if she could sing, preferably in Spanish, and they were totally down for that. I thought that would make sense that her rise was not only because she was good at her job, but also because she was able to entertain the patrons and they kept coming back. She basically became in charge of the hub of the town.
Pop Culture Principle – The film was directed by Richard Gray. Can you talk about what it was like working with him as a director and was her very collaborative on set?
Aimee Garcia – He’s Australian, so he’s never without a smile or a sense of humor. He was so lovely despite long hours and frigid temperatures; he was so professional and so collaborative. I remember myself and Nat Wolff were going to shoot a scene, we pitched him an idea if we could do the scene a little differently from what was in the script, and he said absolutely, and we did the scene in three takes.
At the same time, he is the captain of the ship and had a good command of the set. I think he was the beautiful blend of a great sense of humor for long hours, but he still was a great leader and was in charge, but also extremely collaborative. So, as an artist and an actor, you really felt heard and inspired.
Pop Culture Principle – The cast for this film is exceptional with Gabriel Byrne, Anna Camp, Isaiah Mustafa, and Thomas Jane to name a few. Can you talk about what it was like working with these incredible actors?
Aimee Garcia – Richard Dreyfuss is a living legend and on set, he was telling us stories about Jaws and Steven Spielberg, and it was such a joy. Gabriel Byrne is an award-winning actor and just so generous. It’s very rare to find an award-winning actor who is that generous where they cared about their relationship with an actor that they have just one scene with, so he was just great.
Obviously, Anna Camp who can sing her little heart out and do comedy and drama. Also, Isaiah Mustafa is so subtle and so moving with just his eyes. He communicates so much with so little, and he has this silent strength which makes him the perfect headliner for this film. He has this silent strength, and you are rooting for him even though he’s not convincing you to root for him, you just root for him because he has that integrity inside that you just believe him.
Pop Culture Principle – This film takes the western genre, but really turns it around with its diversity including a gay couple, strong female characters, and a Black leading character. How important is it for viewers to see this type of diversity in a genre that you normally don’t?
Aimee Garcia – I think it’s so important. The American western is so embedded in our culture right? I think, it was one of the first hit franchises and it was a cinematic portrayal of our history in a lot of ways, but I really think that most, if not all diverse characters were just completely invisible. So, it’s really nice to see the women that ran the town and how people of color were treated one hundred plus years ago. Tanaya Beatty, who plays a native, is just phenomenal. She is instrumental in providing a clue that ends up leading to the resolution.
My character is kind of the heart of the town with providing education for the children and also Izzy having her moment. You see a gay couple that was virtually accepted in this town during a very testosterone heavy and masculine time. Besides Brokeback Mountain, I can’t think of another western that highlights such a beautiful love story. I thought they did such a good job with two people who are in love who happen to be men at that time. This film is a western that just changes the lens from the entry point of an American centric kind of cinematic storytelling.
Pop Culture Principle – You started Scrappy Heart Productions with AJ Mendez. Can you talk a little bit about the genesis of you two coming together and forming this company?
Aimee Garcia – She is such a rockstar. I am really so lucky to have such an incredible teammate. Our getting together was actually very organic. For the readers who aren’t familiar with AJ Mendez, she is a New York Times best-selling author. She wrote a book called Crazy Is My Superpower. Despite growing up homeless, AJ became one of the top female wrestlers in the world. She is completely self-made and completely scrappy. I started in this business long before shows like Euphoria and Dora the Explorer. I didn’t have shows like that when I was growing up.
We started attending all these comic cons all over the world and fans would really cling on to our peripheral characters and we started talking about how we would love to make those characters less peripheral and put the spotlight on them. I can’t believe that girls and guys all over the world are cosplaying my character. I don’t stop planes; I don’t stop time and I don’t have any superpowers. I am literally a Latina in STEM and a Latina in science and they are cosplaying a Latina scientist because they love that representation, and they feel seen and AJ felt the same way.
So, we thought, why don’t we create the change that we want to see. So, we rolled up our sleeves and we started with the GLOW comics where we were able to feature women of color and different sexual orientations. Then we started with Dungeons and Dragons and then we ended up writing the sequel to 47 Ronin – “Blade of the 47 Ronin” – which features a very heavy female cast. The two leads are female, and they are amazing at swinging Samurai swords. So, it happened just organically, and it started with the people that were supporting our careers asking what was next. I’m scrappy and she’s scrappy and we are both kind of all heart. I am more bright-eyed and bushy tailed optimist and she is self-described snarky. So, it’s a Ying and a Yang, but that is how Scrappy Heart Productions was born.
Pop Culture Principle – Lucifer ended its incredible run last September. Can you sum up your time on that series and what it meant to you personally and as an actor?
Aimee Garcia – I think the representation in Lucifer that was so cool where people from all over the world, different backgrounds and speak different languages connected to these characters. I felt really grateful to be a part of this all-star team.
Tom can do anything, comedy, drama, action, singing, dancing, and piano playing. He is just so talented like the rest of the team. Lauren will have you crying and on your fifth box of tissue. Kevin is so full of energy and an incredible director. D.B. is just all heart and he directed a couple of episodes. Lesley-Ann is so, so specific about her look and she cares about every detail about Maze. Scarlett is going to blow us out of the water and Rachel is such a veteran and has been doing this forever.
I was very lucky to join a team that was already going for a year. The most special thing about the show is that we were brought back by the fans. We were brought back by people that really connected to the show and that will always be special for me. I always call the Lucifer fans our real-life angels. We would not have come back after being cancelled if it weren’t’ for the people all over the world rallying and demanding more Lucifer stories. Our showrunners Ildy Modrovich and Joe Henderson wrote these characters that you wanted to follow for six years.
I think that a show like Lucifer comes around once in a lifetime and it’s really lighting in a bottle for a show to translate so globally like Lucifer did. What I take away is just total gratitude. I enjoyed every second on that show and was a kid in the candy store every day on set. I fell in love with this character who was full of joy and loved to hug and saw the best in people. I came home happy even during Ella’s crisis of faith and crisis of self. I am really going to miss that show.
Pop Culture Principle – You’ve made guest appearances in some great series such as Supernatural, Las Vegas, CSI, and Bones to name a few. But let’s go back in time to your first professional television job. You appeared on an episode of ER. Can you talk about what it was like as a new actor to step on a set for the first time?
Aimee Garcia – I remember I squealed when I found out that I got the job. I played a high school kid who had some sort of stomach injury. I just remember going into that audition and I screamed my butt off. I don’t even think they were specifically looking for a Latina, I think I just screamed louder than everyone else and I guess they believed I was really in agony, and I got the part. That was my very first job and you never forget your first gig!
A huge thank you to Aimee Garcia for taking time out of her very busy schedule to talk with us! Her film, Murder at Yellowstone City is available now via VOD, On Demand and Apple TV! If you would like to learn more about Scrappy Heart Productions and their upcoming projects, click here. And finally, for all of Aimee’s latest news, you can follow her on her official Instagram account here.
**Main photo (yellow top) courtesy of Leslie Alejandro**