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Interview Ricardo Mamood
A gweilo in Hong Kong 1/1 - Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 20/1/2005
Type(s) : Interview
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Gillian Chung Yun Tung
Bruce Lee
Bey Logan
Ricardo Mamood
Dave Wong Kit
Wong Kar Wai
Corey Yuen Kwai
Movies :
Gen Y Cops
The Medallion
So Close
Summer Breeze Of Love
 
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Ricardo Mamood. The name may not be familiar yet for many of you but in the small world of foreign actors working in HK, Ricardo has already earned a solid reputation. During a trip in Hong Kong where the dominant theme was interviews, I managed to contact Ricardo on the phone thanks to the help of Bey Logan. We arranged a meeting so that he could talk more about him and his life as a western actor in the capital of Chinese cinema. We met at the Fringe Club, a renowned café club in the Lan Kwai Fong area, in Central. Ricardo immediately appeared warm and relaxed.

Happy to be able to share his impressions on his career, the local working conditions and cinema in general, he talked without restraint.

leaving to work in hong kong
HKCinemagic.com : Can you tell us what brought you to Hong Kong and how did you get involved in HK cinema ?

Ricardo Mamood : I didn't come to HK for acting reasons. A corporate job did. HK was an unusual destination so I said yes, why not? It was a great opportunity.

 

HKCM : What was corporate job about and how did you end up getting acting work?

I was director of supply chain management for Paccess, a strategic partner of Nike, Inc. It wasn't great for me in Argentina back then so I said, great. I didn't do much in HK for a while, except the corporate job, till I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to go back to what I always wanted to do, acting and being able to perform. I put my things together, went out to a photographer again, put my resume together and starting going around to the agencies dropping my materials, reading for them, doing the circuit, stuff like that. The way HK goes about the business is very unusual, you don't work like with one agent in particular, nobody takes you “home” because you're a foreigner, not Chinese; you work basically on a freelance basis.

I learned that the hard way but they started calling me and I went to castings here and there. Then I booked plenty of commercials here. Some of them very well paid, some of them so so. There is no union here so basically how much you get paid is how much you fight for what you think you should get. Then I did some theatre and started to go to audition for movies. The first role I landed was a FBI agent, Quincy in Gen Y Cops. Then I did a couple of short films, as the lead in all of them: Ferry Man, Room To Let and Happy Birthday. Then the second role I got, I think it was So Close

 

his work : on stage and movies

HKCM : You were also in Let's Love Hong Kong before this one.

Ricardo Mamood : Yeah. My character was bigger in the original script. I had a long, long scene, like an 8 or 10 minute of monologue - too long - basically where I tell a story. But it was all cut out from the movie. There is like a blink of me in a bar scene and that was it. In the end the movie didn't really worked. And then I did So Close with Corey Yuen Kwai and after that Highbinders [The Medallion] . The movie is not out yet, it will be in August. I have a fighting and dialogue scene with Jackie Chan but I don't know if the whole thing will end up in the movie. Columbia bought it and asked to cut a lot of scenes out and to re-shoot others, so we'll see. And then the next part was Ethan, a vampire, the right hand of the Duke in The Twins Effect, out in June. [NDRL : june 2003 in Hong Kong]

 

HKCM : You were also in Summer Breeze of Love if I'm correct. Seems like the Twins like you.

Ricardo Mamood : I met them once actually, met them at a make up session, I don't think they even knew I was in their movie though. My character in Summer Breeze of Love is an actor in a movie inside the movie. The protagonist, Dave Wong, is watching the movie with Gillian Chung. It's an old black and white old movie, a fictional suspense German film called “Der Lift” (The Elevator). And then the latest job I did, which that I produced, was the play Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, which was a huge success in Hong Kong .

 

HKCM : Is it still playing in HK ?

Ricardo Mamood : No, it ended mid March. I play Richard Roma, one of the salesmen, which is the character played by Al Pacino in the movie, and Joe Mantegna in the play in 1984. It was great, a great success and a great accomplishment for me as a producer and as an actor. I produced only because I had a vision about the show and I wanted to make sure it was done according to that vision. So I had to basically take charge. It was very satisfying as an actor, very challenging. Mamet is not easy to play.

 

HKCM : How many shows you had on ?

Ricardo Mamood : Usually in HK you get to do 5 or 6 shows tops. We had 10 shows programmed and it was all sold out before opening night, which is very unusual so we had to add another show due to popular demand.

 

HKCM : Do you think you will continue in the production area?

Ricardo Mamood : Actually I have few things planned right now. We want to produce a prison drama in HK, we're not sure what yet. We'll decide between Short Eyes which is a play by Miguel Piñero. There was a movie about him made only a year ago with Benjamin Bratt. The other play is, So, I killed a few people . It's about this serial killer on death row and his last request before his execution is to have a one-man show. It's a very hard-hitting play but also very funny, very challenging. And I'm also writing right now, a play that I started writing a while ago about the Gulf war and I abandoned because I felt it was not relevant. Obviously wrong, so I went back to it.

 

HKCM : You want to continue working both for cinema and theater ?

Ricardo Mamood : Yeah, my plan is to keep up working on films, which is something I like very, very much and at the same time not to stop my work on stage. I think as an actor it keeps you sharp, keeps you on edge. Film is great, I love it and I'd like to do more but I'd like to keep it balanced.

 

action movies
HKCM : You were mostly into big budget action movies. Would you like to widen your possibilities working in drama or comedy?

Ricardo Mamood : Yeah, I'd love to. The problem in HK is that most of the films being produced here are action driven...

 

HKCM : It's no more really the case for a few years now...

Ricardo Mamood : Well at least those in which a foreign actor can a get part in. As foreign actor I don't get a chance to work on a dialogue driven drama or comedy, which is in Cantonese. I don't speak the language. And even if I spoke the language it wouldn't make any difference because I don't look Chinese. Perhaps that's something that is frustrating for an actor here, particularly for a foreign actor. This is a very cosmopolitan town I mean, you have a lot of different cultures and what you see in films...

 

HKCM :…doesn't reflect the reality.

Ricardo Mamood : Right, exactly. And if that reality would be reflected, foreign actors would have more work. My background is drama, not so much comedy although as an actor you got to do a bit of everything and I love comedy as well. I'd love to do some drama, some deep drama, a cop drama. Here what you see is cops, you know, shooting, kicking, this type of film. And like you said it doesn't reflect the reality.

I don't come from the martial arts background. I did boxing for many years, which is a martial art, but nobody does boxing here, everybody does kung fu. I'm trying to do something different, in town everybody tries to be Bruce Lee. I'd like to develop my own projects and bring cultures together. Not only from the casting standpoint but also from an audience standpoint because there are many intersections, intercultural and local storytelling doesn't reflect that.

 

HKCM : Seems like there are some progress in this way if you compare to the 70's or the 80's.

Ricardo Mamood : Yeah, I agree with you, I think there has been progress but there is still much to be done. It's been 30 years and if you look at the progress, from a “bringing the cultures together” standpoint there hasn't. I think there is a great potential, we have great talent here, not only from an on-camera standpoint but also behind the camera.

 

HKCM : You seem to be fitted to work with Wong Kar Wai

Ricardo Mamood : I'd love that. Actually I audition for 2046 . But I think the movie is being delayed for quite some time. It's being delayed for a couple of years actually. I don't know, we'll see what happens.

 

how do foreigners work in Hong Kong
HKCM : Did you suffer from racism here?

Ricardo Mamood : I don't know if I could actually I suffered, to use your term…

 

HKCM : Peut être que le terme n’était pas très bien choisi…

Ricardo Mamood : No, it's a good term. I don't think I could say it was right on your face discrimination what I experienced, but perhaps a little bit of it. I'll give you an example. Me as a foreign actor, now there is some people in the industry that knows me, but at the beginning when I started nobody knew me. And you walk on the set and nobody greets at you. You say good morning and everybody – cast and crew - look at you saying “who are you for us to greet you back?” Obviously those kind of things are annoying because it doesn't matter, you're a human being, you deserve that basic respect. It's different in other countries. It's a different culture, a different way of doing things.

However when they see you working and they see you're talented, you have the chops, that you respond and you get the job done, you save them time, you save them money then they start treating you differently. They look at you with different eyes. But you can't blame them completely because, you know, there are a lot of agencies here going around Chungking Mansion , recruiting people on the street. And these are not actors, but backpackers or travellers or whatever else. They do this as a “gig” for a few bucks or as a way of killing time. They are not trained. So the few good foreign actors have to pay the price for the image the “foreign actor” has.

People like me have been training all their life and it's obviously different when you have experience, you are trained. You need another actor in your film, and you bring someone that doesn't have the training and this is what you got. You got what you paid for. But on the other hand you can't really blame them to be a little apprehensive when a foreign face show up in the production because they are worried about ”oh, another one from Chungking mansion, this is gonna be a nightmare, we'll have to do this take 20 times”. But I can't call it discrimination. I think it comes with the trade here. It's a big-small industry here so the same people you've seen on this production, half of them you see them in the next one.

 

HKCM : Was the fact that you didn't speak Cantonese a problem ?

Ricardo Mamood : I'm sure it has limited my work. I guess it would have just opened my scope of work a little further but not a lot. Because even if I spoke the language those parts are written for the local Chinese. If you look foreign you're expected to speak in English, not Cantonese.

 

HKCM : Is there a movie you've worked on you prefer or you're still not satisfied by any?

Ricardo Mamood : I think for me it has been a great learning process to work on film, and to work on big productions, and to work in HK where things are done differently than in the US . As an actor I'm never satisfied. I want more, I want it all, I want it now! I wished I would have done more and earlier but that's the past, I need to look forward to see how I can reinvent myself to be marketable, on chart, and to get work.

I'd love to do more, I wish sometimes we get better scripts and like I said before the scripts that actually contemplate the idea of this cosmopolitan environment where we have characters of all ethnicities. Supporting characters for foreign actors here should be more developed in order to do more quality work. Because usually supporting roles here are very brief. You just get on screen, have a few lines and that's basically it.


Bad guys coming in So Close

 

HKCM : What was your longest scene?

Ricardo Mamood : I had a lot of dialogue on So Close but a good chunk of it was cut out. It was a long movie so they cut the weakest link as they said, the foreign face. And then in the Twins Effect my first scene is like... It's a long scene and I have a lot of dialogue. These are 2000-year vampires and they speak with certain flair, almost Shakespearian and it's really cool so I'm looking forward to see that. I think there is a need to find a balance between substance, story and action when you have these movies who are action driven. The Matrix is a good example, you have substance, a great story, precious dialogue, there is a need to have dialogue and drama and the action scenes.

 
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