If you’re looking to kill a few hours at the movie theater this weekend, Lowriders has everything you need. Packed with drama and cool cars, the film follows the story of Danny Alvarez (Gabriel Chavarria), a teen graffiti artist who’s torn between pleasing his traditional Latino father and becoming immersed in the lowriding car scene courtesy of his fresh-out-of-jail brother, Francisco “Ghost” Alvarez (Theo Rossi). Eva Longoria shines as the pair’s stepmother in the film, which offers a fresh look at the artistic underbelly of East L.A.’s Mexican-American car culture. And fans of Netflix’s hit Marvel Universe-set series Luke Cage are in for a special treat: not only does Lowriders star Rossi, who plays street-smart criminal Hernan “Shades” Alvarez on the show, but the film shares another major connection with the series.
“This film is actually super serendipitous,” Rossi recently told InStyle. “When we were filming, there was a writer on set who, in my mind, had written the film. But when I was back in New York and went in to discuss a role on Luke Cage, I found out that the series’ creator-showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, wrote the original Lowriders script for [producer] Brian Grazer back in 2010. So he’s the original and credited writer, and that’s just one of those things that plays into the beauty of the film.”
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Scroll down for our full chat with Rossi, in which he dishes on working with Longoria, relating to his character’s strained father-son dynamic, and prepping to film season two of Luke Cage.
What initially drew you to sign on for Lowriders?
This is, dare I say, the most meaningful project that I've ever done in my life. I’m a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. With this film, I was in the middle of doing the last season of Sons of Anarchy and that was an extremely taxing season for me, emotionally. I wanted to wait to talk about any other projects after this season ended, but when I got the Lowriders script, the father-son relationship really resonated with me. I had an extremely strange and strained relationship with my birth father, and there were many things that were said and that I still wanted to say. Ultimately, when I went to go find him again on the computer in 2010, I found out that he’d passed away. I've always been incredibly interested in father-son storytelling, and this hits every single one of those nails on the head.
How would you describe your character?
Francisco was very close with his mom, and he watched her struggle. His relationship with his father became worse and worse. And when we come to join him in the film, he’s just done eight years in prison—and he's coming out with a bag full of resentment and a truck full of anger at his father. He doesn’t want his younger brother to go through any of the things that he went through, and he has it out for his traditional father. He wants him to suffer, and there's zero communication between them. So even though this film is surrounded by all this glitz and glamour of cars and graffiti, there really is a family drama in the middle of it. Ghost just comes out as a force, and he wants to disrupt this world in every way.
Eva Longoria plays your stepmother. What was it like to work with her?
In the short time we get to do these things—which usually isn't that long—I try to keep the situations as close to what's going on on-screen as possible. At least just for a little while, so I can service the character. I wish I was better at separating the two. But with Eva, I've always had such a huge affinity for her—not just because of what she does for the community, but her tireless energy for her philanthropy and just how she is seemingly such a boss. She really is.
I'm a guy who was raised by women, and I just adore and look up to and respect women who are truly bosses in every way. When she came on set, we'd already been shooting for a little while. It was a pretty male-dominated set with a lot of guys with tattoos and cars. When she came on, she was at the head of the table. She just commands this amazing respect because she's so lovely, genuine, and down to earth. So she’s sitting at the lunch table, joking around and hanging out, and we're all hanging in the trailer telling stories and she's so interested in your life. We didn't have a ton of scenes together, but whenever my character arrives onscreen, it’s a relatively hostile situation. And Eva’s just very calming. I think she's going to surprise a lot of people because no one has really seen her like this. We’ve had some fun, and I have the utmost respect for her. I think she's tremendous.
The cars in the film are insane. Have you always been into car culture?
Yeah, my first car ever was a $500 ’68 Mustang. I've always been into old cars, and I used to rebuild them with my uncle who raised me when I was a kid. When we did Sons of Anarchy for 8 years, the motorcycle culture really brought parallels to the car culture. Even on that show, we had lowriders and old cars. In the time that I lived in East L.A., I was in the middle of the lowriding culture. They say, “You don't own the low rider, you are the low rider.” There are hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into these cars—the murals, the candy paint, the way they drop them low, the hydraulic systems, everything that's inside. They are living works of art, and they also represent heritage. We all have an idea of what lowriding is, but we really get to peek into a subculture here. The way that Brian Grazer taught us about rap battles with [his film] 8 Mile, I think he's doing that for the lowriding community with Lowriders.
You’re almost completely tatted up in this movie. How long did those take to put on every day?
Yeah, they’re pretty much almost everywhere. From start to finish, it probably took about two hours every morning. I have a bunch myself, and I was covered on Sons, but this was the most I've ever had. It was pretty intense because Mr. Cartoon—who, if you ask around the tattoo culture, is probably the most famous tattoo artist alive right now—is the rockstar of tattoos, and he's one of the catalysts for the story. The story basically exists because of him, and he sat down with Brian Grazer early on in the process. He’s the ultimate lowrider and tattoo artist, so he designed all the tattoos that you see on Ghost. So these are super authentic.
At this point, you’ve lived on both coasts and done projects that are so intricately associated with each. Would you say your style is more East Coast or West Coast?
I think I've always fancied myself in saying that I was East Coast through and through, but after spending 15 years in LA, I think I've become a bit of a hybrid in a way, style-wise. The New York thing, we're wearing all black at all times. We’ll pop some gold in there, and we're good to go. I'm a hip-hop kid, beginning to end—that's the music of my childhood and the soundtrack of my life. So that’s influenced my style greatly.
Everyone is pumped for season two of Luke Cage. Are you excited to get back to filming?
Yeah—we all are. We feel like season one was just scratching the surface and that we haven't even started the game yet. I think that this year is a whole different ballgame. As someone from New York, Cage is personally a game changer for me. I think we hit a certain audience of people who aren't used to being represented, and I'm super excited to go back to that when we start filming.