Come Friday, film actor Jay Hernandez can be seen in theaters playing characters on the furthest ends of the acting spectrum.
In “Bad Moms,” out now, he’s handsome, nice-guy single-dad Jessie Harkness. Later this week in “Suicide Squad,” he’s Diablo, a former gangbanger with a murderous past who is enlisted to a team of supervillains by the government to take on the worst of the worst.
“I love the fact that if you saw those two characters side by side, you wouldn’t even think they’re the same person,” Hernandez says. “My character in ‘Bad Moms,’ it was a fun, sort of easy character to play … and then in ‘Suicide Squad,’ we get to be badass heroes, or supervillains rather, and save the world. It’s actually really cool to have them come out so close together.”
The 38-year-old actor’s turn as Diablo falls in the third film in the DC Comics cinematic universe and features some of the worst villains around, from Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) to Deadshot (Will Smith).
amNewYork spoke with Hernandez about the film.
Do you have a bad side?[Laughs] I keep that under wraps, man. That’s just for me and the unfortunate few who have witnessed it.
What was the process like putting on all those tattoos?
It was a long process. Initially it was like a 5-hour process and that was before we even started shooting. Base camp would be empty and I’d be the first one arriving, and after a couple of hours, people would file in and then a couple of hours after that, people would leave and I’d still be in the chair. So initially it was a really long process. As time went on, we were able to get it down to between two and three hours depending on how much of the makeup we had to put on, because sometimes parts of my body would be covered, so I didn’t have to do everything. It was a minimum of about two hours and I had to do it every day, put it on and take it off. … If you leave it on and come back to work the next day, it would be destroyed just from sleeping. We tried! And I wish it would have worked out, but it’s too much.
At any point, were you like, “Forget this, I’m just going to get some of the tats for real”?
No, face tattoos are never a good idea. Ask [Mike] Tyson.
What did you know about Diablo before taking on the role?
Honestly, I didn’t know the character before the movie. I’d heard of “Suicide Squad.” Obviously, I’m well aware of the DC characters. … I did some research, found out there were different incarnations of the character — there were earlier incarnations of him, like Zorro, kind of a cowboy. The one that we were basing it on … was a gang member who spent time in prison who has the ability to control fire. It was based on a more contemporary version of the character.
How did you prepare for this role?
The preparation was, in some ways, me growing up in Los Angeles. This character is an LA gang member who spent time in prison. So I did some of my research by virtue of me growing up in LA, and the other part of it is I read a book that [“Suicide Squad” writer and director] David [Ayer] gave me, which kind of delved into the world of prisons and how that all functions, the rules and hierarchies and all that. … And outside of that, I spent time with David and just kind of talked about stuff, talked about our past, our history. Because he’s actually from LA too, and spent a lot of time in the streets doing his thing. It was a combination of all that and just getting with the Squad, getting together with all the other actors and getting into it, rehearsing and working on scenes in a million different ways and just finding what works. It was a nice process.
What was it like working with David on set?
David’s an interesting dude, he’s really smart. I think one of the things that gave him ammunition is we did almost like a debriefing with a really good friend of his who works in the police department. They’ve known each other for many years. We just talked about the past and our story and he took what he learned from those sessions and he brought it to set so that if we had to get to a certain place emotionally, or you were trying to pull something out of the character, you could pull from our past because he had all this research. In a way, he used it against us — to perfection. If he was trying to get something out of you, he knew one word that would just give you a very precise place to start, or to finish sometimes. It was interesting the way he works.
What’s your pitch for people to do a Jay Hernandez doubleheader of “Bad Moms” and “Suicide Squad”?
There’s something for everybody, that’s it!