Michael Peña plays a Latino sergeant in ‘12 Strong’

Mexican-American actor Michael Peña is Sergeant Sam Diller in ‘12 Strong’, the story of the Horse Soldiers that combat the Taliban after Sept. 11. (Photo, courtesy)

The movie “12 Strong” is a new war action drama starting Jan. 19th. Based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Dough Stanton, it’s the story of the Horse Soldiers, the first Special Forces team who rode on horses and worked alongside the Northern Alliance to combat the Taliban through the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan a few days after 9/11. In this film, Michael Peña plays Latino Sergeant Sam Diller, one of those twelve elite soldiers.

Chrisplays Capt. Mitch Nelson. The cast includes Elsa Pataky, Taylor Sheridan, Michael Shannon, Austin Stowell, Geoff Stults, Rob Riggle, Jack Kesy, Trevante Rhodes, Navid Negahban, Laith Nakli, Ben O’Toole, Yasmine Aker, Alisson King, Lauren Myers, Kevin Kent, Fahim Fazli, Kenneth Miller, and Veronica Diaz Carranza.

La Prensa had the opportunity to do a phone interview with the Mexican-American actor, who talked about his new role in his upcoming movie.

Peña, who has been in successful films like “American Hustle” (2013), “Ant-Man” (2015), “The Martian” (2015) and other works like “Cesar Chavez” (2014), “Fury” (2014) and “Chips” (2017) hopes the movie goers know the story of the real Horse Soldiers through his latest film. Peña added that he hopes people recognize Latinos in Armed Forces as a “hard working people”.

LP: Why “12 Strong”?

 MP: Because there were only 12 guys that actually went… soldiers that were able to adapt to the circumstances, to the conditions. In this case they had to ride horses and they ended doing it. They were a different [kind of] soldier, you can say. They went into the reconnaissance of the area and they had to be close enough to call and coordinate the proper coordinates for air strikes, they worked alongside with the locals which they don’t want to turn on them as well…

LP: ¿Y cómo te preparaste para este papel? ¿Ya sabias montar a caballo?

MP: No, eso no, I rode a horse but not really, the horses did whatever they wanted. I basically was just suggesting. But that was it, we contacted weapon training, we’ve done as much we could and we did a horse training and which that itself was kind of fine.

LP: Did you train with Real Special Forces or did you read the book or did you serve in the Armed Forces in the past?

MP: We trained with a couple of guys who were from there. They were actually Navy Seals and we were playing Green Beret’s, but that is different. At the same time it’s still elite soldiers and it’s a different mindset all together when we were around those guys.

MP: Was any of the real Horse Soldiers involved in the production of this movie?         

MP:  Not in the production but they were definitely around. They came by for a weekend and we were basically just talking to us and just getting the knowledge of what it was really like when it was there. Some of the stories are pretty amazing. These guys had amazing results, but I think what’s interesting to know about them is that there is fear. They are afraid, but they’re able to not necessarily conquer their fears but overcome them and that they still kept their heads high to do their job. That in itself is pretty amazing because it might be—I don’t know— a skill that you are necessarily born with or you acquire; the ability to overcome your fears, but still keep the composure. I think is kind of a priceless skill to obtain.

LP: Did you know about the Horse Soldiers story back in 2001?

MP: No, I didn’t. You know it happened on Sept. 11 and I didn’t know this went on. I actually passed by the Worl

d Trade Center, the new one, and they had a statue of a soldier on a horse and I didn’t know where that story came from. I think hopefully with this movie, people will understand the story of the Horse Soldiers. These guys went in and were the first responders and were able to make a real impact on that particular, specific part of the world.

LP: How do you feel about being part of this story of the American war history?

MP: [It] Was great, It’s tough to say that it feels great. I guess it is more an honor that I’m part of this movie. The role was written as a Latino and also there was an African American. I think it was Jerry Bruckheimer and the rest of the guys wanted something different and they were open to other ethnicities and I think it’s really cool, you know? I think it’s an honor but at the same time it also really cool that for people to see that, because there are Latinos in the military, a lot of Latinos in Special Armed Forces and for America and it shows that we are a hard working people.

LP: Because the original Sgt. Sam Diller is not a Latino?

MP: No, he’s not a Latino, so I don’t know if anybody told him, but he’s going to be really surprised when he sees the movie…

LP: And do you like military history? I remember I saw you for the first time in ‘Fury’…

MP: Yeah, I do. There is something really cool about it. It’s kind of crazy. Some of these things done, and then when you watch… the stunts that they’re doing, seeing it live. It’s crazy.

LP: Would you like to make more military movies?

MP: I actually like what I’m doing, I’m able to do like a real good job Marvel movies … my dream would be to get a cool part in a movie with the Cohen Brothers, you know all Thomas Andersons like… Wes Anderson, you know any kind of Anderson… just to work with those guys, I haven’t been a movie like that in a while and it will be really cool.

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