Interview: Clifton Collins, Jr. of TRIPLE 9

By Liz Lopez

Triple 9 opens nationwide in theaters February 26th and has an extensive list of actors that have many credits to their name, either film or television. Among the stars in Triple 9 is Clifton Collins, Jr. who portrays a law enforcement official, Franco Rodriguez, alongside Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, and many others.

Through the theatrical release of Triple 9, I was able to interview Clifton Collins Jr. today.

I read a biography about him where he is described as “an acting chameleon” and judge for yourself if this term is accurate once you see the diverse characters he has portrayed in the films, Pacific Rim,  Brothers, Extract, Dirty, Capote and Traffic, to name a few. Currently on television, he stars in Westworld, and last year was on Evil Men and Ballers. His previous credits include CSI: NY and Resurrection Blvd. among others.

Although his roles are diverse now, there was a time in his career when the roles became limited. Clifton Collins, Jr. shared many stories about the life and experiences of his late Texas born grandfather, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, a well-known character actor under contract with John Wayne’s production company in the1950s and early 1960s. The elder actor portrayed a hotel keeper in Rio Bravo (1959).

Clifton Collins, Jr. stated there was a “demonization of characters” in the era when his grandfather was in the industry, but added, “I experienced it different. I consider myself a consummate artist, first and foremost.”  Collins used the name “Clifton Gonzalez-Gonzalez” in tribute to his grandfather for a number of years early in his career. “When I changed to Gonzalez-Gonzalez, the roles became limited. You would think that an actor is to be cast due to talent.” Aside from his talent, Collins Jr. speaks Spanish fluently and I view that as an asset. When it came to casting or auditions, there came a point in time when he felt “they don’t want to believe I can play a non-white role.”

Despite some challenges and after making some changes in agent/management, he received validation of his work. He stated, “You have to fight for it – you have to work for it. Judge me on talent.”

We discussed how he became involved with the film Triple 9 and he stated it was during a conversation with someone he had worked with in a prior film. This led to a conversation with John (the director) that yielded a very positive outcome. He added, “Matt Cook wrote a great script.”

As for his participation in the film with the great cast, there was excitement in the sound of his voice. “I am a fan of everybody in the movie. It was hard not to be a Fanboy.”

I asked about his preparation for the role in Triple 9 and he said, “I am a former Marine and I started with this.” He viewed military funerals and talked with veterans with PTSD, among other things. “I anchored it with this.” He also spoke to many friends and family that are in law enforcement. “There is a sense of being part of a brotherhood.”

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