Raoul Max Trujillo stars as Conrad Carapax, a.k.a. Carapax the Indestructible Man, in the upcoming DC Universe film Blue Beetle. Trujillo sat down for an exclusive interview with Heroic Hollywood to talk about what drew him to the DCU, his experience on set, and the powerful message the film is trying to convey.
At 68, Raoul Max Trujillo has been acting since long before the new age of comic book films and nerd culture. Yet despite having acted through the birth of the modern superhero genre with Iron Man and having a storied career in the science fiction genre, Trujillo hadn’t committed himself to a cinematic universe like Star Wars or Marvel before Blue Beetle. When asked what made him take the jump after all this time, the actor revealed he had no idea what he was in for when he was initially approached for the role:
“Well, I have to be honest with you. When they came at me they didn’t specify that it was ‘Blue Beetle.’ It’s typical studio fashion — everything was top secret. It was basically an undisclosed title and I read the side — I had to read it both in English and in Spanish — but I had no idea what I was even getting into. And then it sort of got leaked out after the audition process. The director, Angel [Manuel Soto] ended up being really close friends with two really good friends of mine, and he had mentioned, ‘I loved his work in ‘Apocalypto’ so much that I want him to be Carapax’.”
“It kind of got leaked out that this was for ‘Blue Beetle’ because of that connection, but then, I had to basically go to my manager and go ‘Okay so what’s Blue Beetle? And who’s Carapax?’ His son went ‘What, are you kidding me? Blue Beetle? Carapax?’ He went on to send me a little clip about the Indestructible Man and, once I was aware of the character, I got super excited because, at this point in my career, 32-some-years into the business, the idea of playing a supervillain was incredibly enticing. The more I learned, the more excited I got, but initially I had no idea what I was even getting into other than they wanted me. But it’s good to be wanted, right?”
Blue Beetle isn’t just the first superhero film that Raoul Max Trujillo will have a starring role in. The film also holds the honor of being the first Latino-led superhero film out of the two major studios of Marvel and DC. While Trujillo admits he isn’t a fan of putting labels on broad groups, he says he was excited to star in a film with such a unique heart outside of the typical American family:
“Being part of a project where the focus is on a culture that’s outside of the Hollywood Anglo-Saxon culture that we’ve seen our whole lives in everything… it’s just so touching and warming. You see a whole level that, had it been just sort of a regular American family, it wouldn’t have had the heart that it had. So I think that’s what made me super excited about being a part of this film.”
“Susan Sarandon’s character, Victoria Kord, is the only ‘white person’ in the film. The rest of the characters are all brown people. And that is pretty exciting, and I think it’s pretty brave of Warner Bros. to have supported the project and Angel’s dream to tell this particular story. As a DC movie, this has darkness in it, but it’s also got this incredible heart and it’s incredible light.”
“When I saw the movie, there were a lot of teary eyes in that audience. They were moved. There are some images that will make you go ‘Holy f–k, that s–t’s real.’ In relation to the military-industrial complex, and the sort of ravishing of indigenous people. There are some brilliant references that Angel has thrown in there, and you just there’s no way you can miss them. They have to do with the times that they’re living in in America.”
Susan Sarandon’s Victoria Kord serves as the film’s main antagonist alongside Raoul Max Trujillo’s Conrad Carapax. Details about her character, and how she relates to the second Blue Beetle Ted Kord, have been kept close to the chest by DC. While Trujillo didn’t illuminate much more than what fans already knew, he did talk about hitting it off with Sarandon on set and learning from her expert acting skills as Victoria.
“Oh my god! From the day we met… she walks into the make-up trailer, I was already there getting my prosthetic test, and hugs, kisses — just, a lovely, lovely human being. She brings this — not only experience — but this power. It’s a role for her that you’ve rarely seen her in. But she does it in just that incredible style that is Susan Sarandon. She’s a serious pro. I learned a lot from watching someone like her and I’ve been in the business for a while. Doing this but watching someone like her, I learned so much about how to keep giving different versions of characters and takes and all that. Working with her is amazing… she’s just an amazing, amazing human being. A down-to-earth, solid, caring human. She really cares about things that really matter, so we’re very similar in that way. We hit it off really well.”
Susan Sarandon wasn’t the only actor Raoul Max Trujillo had high praise for. He also praised the film’s star Xolo Maridueña, who plays the titular Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes. According to Trujillo, he had to stop himself from getting sucked into the emotion of Maridueña’s performance, saying the actor was full of “bubbly love.”
“Oh my god, Xolo is just one of those guys. I tried not to hang out with him too much throughout the whole shoot because he is such a nice guy and I really wanted to keep that distance. For such a young kid… I mean he’s been in the business for a bit, for sure, but the places that he had to go to — and he went there. I mean that kid wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s able to access emotion and a depth that is really refreshing to see in a young actor. He’s a total sweetheart. He’s just nothing but bubbly love! So working with him was not only fun but the scenes with him, I have to say, there were times when I get caught up in his own emotion and realized you can’t do that because you’re about to cut his head off! He’s infectious with his energy and his capabilities, but overall, he’s just a really sweet human being and I loved working with him. He’s gonna have a great future after this.”
Despite the character (literally) having a hard shell, emotion is a key part of Raoul Max Trujillo’s performance as Carapax the Indestructible Man in Blue Beetle. Outside of the balance of portraying a murderous hatred for Jaime Reyes while acting against a sweetheart, Trujillo also spoke about the magic of filming in a place like Puerto Rico. He explained the real power he felt while filming in the island territory, claiming all he had to do was let the spirit of the pain channel through him:
“First of all, Puerto Rico, being the place that it is with such a rich history of slavery, colonization, and exploitation to this day by the United States — that sort of vibe is felt underneath, you feel a sort of revolutionary vibe in these people. So to shoot this film there, which has a lot of those elements, you’re surrounded by it. And it’s real. It’s not make-believe. It’s not pretend. Some of the locations, especially the old fort, are 500 years old. The blood spilled there, and the tortures that must have happened there — that s– is real. I’m Native. Shooting it in that specific location, with that vibration of persecuted people and murder and genocide and all of that… it comes through. “
“It was surreal to be there shooting a movie there. It’s night throughout the whole night… a little bit of rain, I mean it’s just an incredible location. And it was one of those magic moments where you literally are just being a channel for all of this information that’s coming through you in spirit. It’s old, and it’s torture, and it just completely did all the work for me. I just had to be open to it and turn those antennas on and just absorb it like a sponge. And that’s exactly what I did.”
Blue Beetle seems to be a film filled with magic, with many fans considering the use practical suits to be a much-welcomed return to form for the genre. Unlike the comics where Carapax was fused into his exoskeleton, Raoul Max Trujillo explains that he was far from confined to the suit while filming, adding that Carapax will sport a number of looks throughout the film:
“A lot of what you see in the bulky suit is actually not there because it’s motion capture. We’re in these like tight leotard things with dots and stripes and things on them. Here you are playing these heavy roles, and you’re wearing this ridiculous outfit. We called [the character] Carapax 1, 2, and 3, because there are all these incarnations. You see me many ways — in an Armani suit, with my Kevlar-sort of military garb, a cape because we’re in the Andes somewhere. That was all easy stuff. And it’s just one of those times where you put the prosthetics on with the wardrobe, and you just instantly become the character.”
“It was a long makeup process, like five hours. You sit in a chair for five hours and you go in there fresh and then you walk out of it just a completely different character. You just inhabit what you’re wearing, so, in that sense, it’s kind of easy to go in there and just let the character come through the visuals of what I look like. But when it came to the variations of 2 and 3, I was actually in way more comfortable stuff, because I was wearing the motion capture tights and all that stuff. That was interesting in the movie… watching the movement, this bulky thing. I was like ‘Wow! Look at how easy I’m moving!’. That’s because I wasn’t wearing it.”
Movement, much like emotion, seems to be another key part of Raoul Max Trujillo’s toolbox. In fact, some of the actor’s earliest jobs in the industry involved performing as a dancer and choreographer. When asked if his history with dance helped him perform the intense action scenes that are commonplace in superhero projects, he explained that he uses his skills of movement as fuel for every role:
“Absolutely, it completely informed [the performance]. I mean, I started off as an actor and then I segued into dancing. I use dancing and movement to inhabit every single character. The way he moves, the way he walks, his gestures — everything comes out of a sense of movement that I incorporate right away into these characters. Throw that with the wardrobe, and that’s how I approach most characters. Whether they’re supervillains or not, I kind of approach them the same way, with just having movement as the fuel — the information that I need to get there.”
Raoul Max Trujillo’s history with dance wasn’t the only part of his acting career that served him well during the filming of Blue Beetle. Trujillo has a long history in the science fiction genre, perhaps the most notable of which being his role as Lockspur in 2013’s Riddick. When asked if that experience helped inform his performance in Blue Beetle, he explained that it did, despite motion capture now being a very different beast from what it was a decade ago:
“There was another one I did… it was called ‘Tin Man’. It was a sci-fi version of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ for SyFy channel. And a lot of that was all green screen stuff as well, as was Riddick. You do those kinds of projects you’re in a green screen situation and you got tape marks but no pillars there, and you’ve got to like imagine what this thing looks like. You’ve been shown the pictures, but you’re still in a room without any sets. Those helped prepare me quite a bit. But honestly, it was just a completely different experience in the sense that motion capture now has evolved to where it is — I mean, it does most of the work! Most of the work comes out in post-production, seriously.”
Despite everything Raoul Max Trujillo shared about his time as Carapax the Indestructible Man in Blue Beetle, there are likely still dozens of questions fans are clamoring to be answered. When asked if he had any final words for fans, Trujillo implored them to give the film a chance with how it evolves Conrad Carapax and the story it’s trying to tell, since there’s a deep message waiting for those who do:
“I just hope that everyone walks away realizing that we’re not bastardizing an idea or a character or anything else. We’re just evolving it further. Hopefully, they can walk away with a really deep, powerful message with this film. I don’t think it knocks you over the head with a hammer. I think it’s subtle, nuanced. There’s definitely a message to be seen and heard here and I hope fans can walk around and just realize that this isn’t just another superhero movie that is fluff. It’s not. With the small experience I have with comic books and heroes from DC, Marvel, or whatever else, it’s like, there are usually messages for us to take away, with the whole ‘good vs evil’ archetypes and all that. I just hope people can walk away from this and just see the deeper meaning and message with this film and keep supporting it.”
Editor’s note: This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. It was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Blue Beetle is currently scheduled to hit theaters on August 18, 2023. Stay tuned for the latest news surrounding the film.