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WorldFest honoree Edward James Olmos reveals Blade Runner's big secret, true love for Filly Brown

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Edward James Olmos in Filly Brown movie
Edward James Olmos in a scene from Filly Brown ReleaseDonkey.com
Gina Rodriguez at mic in Filly Brown movie
Gina Rodriguez has received rave reviews for her role in Filly Brown, a hip hop-driven drama about a Mexican girl who rises to fame. Collider.com
Edward James Olmos portrait
Edward James Olmos will receive a special lifetime achievement award at the 46th annual WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival. Courtesy photo
Lou Diamond Phillips in Filly Brown movie
Lou Diamond Phillips in a scene from Filly Brown Collider.com
Edward James Olmos, Gina Rodriguez in Filly Brown movie
A scene from Filly Brown, with Gina Rodriguez, left, and Edward James Olmos SoundColourVibration.com
Edward James Olmos in Filly Brown movie
Gina Rodriguez at mic in Filly Brown movie
Edward James Olmos portrait
Filly Brown movie poster
Lou Diamond Phillips in Filly Brown movie
Edward James Olmos, Gina Rodriguez in Filly Brown movie
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Edwards James Olmos is on the line – because he’s on his way to Houston.

Specifically: Olmos is calling while en route to the airport because he’s bound for H-Town to receive a special lifetime achievement award Friday at the 46th annual WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival.

And while he’s here, he’ll be presenting WorldFest’s opening night attraction: Filly Brown, a streetwise indie drama co-directed (with Youssef Delara) by Olmos’ son, Michael D. Olmos.

 He’s happy to chat briefly about his signature TV roles, but Filly Brown is what he’s most eager to discuss.

 Michael’s dad has a supporting role in the film as an attorney who aids the title character. But the real star of the piece is newcomer Gina Rodriguez, who gives what The Hollywood Reporter describes as “an empowered performance” as Majo Tonorio — a.k.a. Filly Brown — a Latina hip-hop artist who’s eager to land a record contract so she can help her hard-working father (Lou Diamond Philips) and substance-abusing mother (Jenni Rivera, the Mexican-American entertainer who died tragically last December in a plane crash).

Time is short, and Edward James Olmos wants to make every minute count. He’s happy to chat briefly about his signature TV roles – Admiral William Adama in Battlestar Galactica, Lt. Martin Castillo in Miami Vice – and joke a bit about his small but memorable part as the enigmatic Gaff in the sci-fi cult-fave Blade Runner. But Filly Brown is why he called, and Filly Brown is what he’s most eager to discuss.

CultureMap: Edward, you’re the executive producer as well as the co-star of Filly Brown – but your son is the co-director. So who hired whom?

Edward James Olmos: [Laughs] He hired me. He came up to me with the script, and told me: “Read this, tell me what you think of this story.” And I said: “Oh, my God! This story is incredible. I’ve never seen a story like this. Thank you, son, this is incredible. The only problem you’re going to have is finding someone to play Filly Brown. How in the world are you going to find somebody who can act dramatically, has comedic timing, and at the same time sing and dance and do poetry – and rap? Good luck. You guys have written a great script. But I don’t know if there’s anyone out there with the talent to do the role.”

CM: So just how difficult was it for them to cast the role?

EJO: Actually, it didn’t take that long. I was very surprised. They were at it a little over a month. And then, all of a sudden, they came across Gina Rodriguez. And then the whole world changed for them. Just like the whole world’s changing for Latinos in the film industry. They’re the next vanguard. Basically, I just play a small supporting role in it – a lawyer, which I’ve never played before. But the music is phenomenal. And the acting is really amazing – not only by Gina Rodriguez, but Jenni Rivera and Lou Diamond Phillips. Amazing people playing amazing characters. And I’ve got to tell you – I’m so proud of what this story represents.

 "Get a load of this: The [mainstream media] has no interest in the picture. None. None."

CM: The film’s being shown twice at WorldFest – at 8 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday. But it’s also set for a regular theatrical release, right?

EJO: Yep. It opens in theaters next Friday, April 19.

CM: So, what, we’re going to be seeing you promoting Filly Brown on all the talk shows, in all the newspapers?

ELO: Maybe not. Get a load of this: The [mainstream media] has no interest in the picture. None. None. I’ve done one other interview, with someone from the Miami Herald – the only other mainstream person who’s called to interview me. That’s it. CNN? No. CNN Latino? Yes. Every Latino show in the United States of America? Yes. The Spanish-language stations are eating this up like gangbusters. If this film works, it’s going to work because it comes out, and the Latino community’s representing it – and then the rest of the world finds out about it. But it’s not going to be because of information given to us by ABC and CBS and the rest of the mainstream press.

CM: That’s surprising – and disappointing. Hell, remember when the Los Angeles Times sent me out to San Antonio to talk with you and Jennifer Lopez for a story on the making of Selena?

EJO: Yeah. But there’s been nothing on this one.

"The older people go for Miami Vice, and the younger people go for Battlestar." 

CM: You mentioned this is the first time you’re playing a lawyer – even though you’ve played quite a few characters who needed lawyers.

EJO: [Laughs] That’s true.

CM: So how did it feel to play the attorney instead of the accused?

EJO: Fantastic. It’s one of the great roles that I’ve had. Very small, very intimate. But it’s very poignant inside the storyline. It really needs to be there. Only three scenes. But those three scenes are invaluable to the story.

CM: When people recognize you in public, do folks in different age groups know you for different roles? Like, do Baby Boomers want to talk about Miami Vice, and Gen-Xers want to talk about Battlestar Galactica? Or is there a mix?

EJO: There’s kind of a mix. But mainly, you’re right – the older people go for Miami Vice, and the younger people go for Battlestar. Big time. But let me tell you right now: They’re both great roles. I love Lt. Castillo, and I love Admiral Adama.

CM: Finally, in Blade Runner – let’s settle this once and for all: Gaff knew all along that Deckard really was a replicant, right?

EJO: [Laughs] Yes, Deckard was a replicant. And I was the only blade runner in Blade Runner. That’s what people are finally finding out all these years later. Deckard was a replicant, man.

(Filly Brown will screen at 8 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday at the AMC Studio 30, as part of the 46th annual WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival.)

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