In “Ghost Team One,” a parody of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, actor J.R. Villarreal (“Akeelah and the Bee”) stars as Brad, an outgoing college guy who finds out his house is haunted by the ghost of a brothel madam. Brad and his roommate Sergio (Carlos Santos) recruit the beautiful Fernanda (Fernanda Romero), who has an interest in the paranormal, to help them track down the entity. They also use the opportunity to ogle over Fernanda as much as possible.
“Ghost Team One” opens at some theaters around the country and is available On-Demand Oct. 11.
Yeah, I remember when the first one came out. Everyone thought it was real. I don’t think the other [three movies] got me as good as the first one did, but I enjoyed them. I remember everyone was really scared with the first one.
What do you think audiences are going to like about a film like “Ghost Team One” adding a comedy element to the “Paranormal Activity” found-footage setup?
I think it’s different and original. We’re mocking the found-footage genre. I think people should give it a chance. They’re really going to crack up. It is pretty silly, but it’ll scare you, too, in a way.
There was another movie like this one that came out in January called “A Haunted House” that starred Marlon Wayans. And before I continue, “Ghost Team One” is a lot funnier than “A Haunted House,” just so you know. But what did you think when that movie came out at the beginning of the year? Were you like, “Ah, they beat us to the punch!”?
To be honest, when we were shooting “Ghost Team,” they were shooting “A Haunted House.” We were actually in production before they were. But because he’s a Wayans and he’s got a lot of clout to his name, they got distribution fast. Supposedly, they heard about our movie and got theirs out really fast to capitalize on it. But I still think the two movies are very different. “Ghost Team One” is kind of its own thing.
What did you like about your character Brad?
Well, my character Brad is a jerk. He was a lot of fun to play because he says the most obscene and ridiculous things. You really can’t go wrong with a character like that. I mean, the most grotesque things that came to my mind, I would just say them and it would work. I would just be a jerk to Sergio every chance I could. I threw a little Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell’s character in “Anchorman”) into the character with a little Vince Vaughn from “Old School.” It was crazy, but it was a lot of fun.
(Laughs) Exactly! That’s what the directors (Ben Peyser and Scott Rutherford) said it should feel like!
So, were you really behind the camera when your character is supposed to be shooting footage?
Yeah, we wanted to get the realism of an amateur holding the camera. So, whenever Brad was supposed to be holding the camera, we would shoot a few takes with me actually holding it and then Ben – the director of photography and co-director – would get the shots he needed.
Did you at least get a DP credit for all the work you did?
(Laughs) I should have! It’s OK. I’m a team player.
So, you say you’re an amateur, but how did you know exactly what to point the camera at when shooting Fernanda (Note: In some of the scenes where Brad is recording Fernanda, the camera is pointed at her breasts or her backside).
(Laughs) Oh! I think you would’ve known where to point, too! (Laughs) That wasn’t me on my own! That was directed! I was told where to shoot in certain places! That wasn’t all me!
Of course. I think we’ve all experienced it. I feel like if you haven’t fallen in love with a crazy chick, you really haven’t lived. You have to fall in love with a crazy person at least once. It just kind of wakes you up. It gets the blood boiling. It’s just exciting.
Since this movie is about ghosts and the paranormal, I wanted to ask if you’ve ever experienced anything like that. Do you believe in that kind of stuff?
I believe in all sorts of stuff. I definitely believe there’s life after we pass. I believe in the fourth dimension. I don’t think [ghosts] are necessarily evil or anything like that. Once I was at an old hotel that was haunted and the hotel room door kept opening over and over again. We would lock the door and it would unlock and open all by itself. That kind of scared the bejeebers out of me.
You come from a Latino background, so were there any specific legends or stories you grew up hearing?
Well, of course, La Llorona. We’ve all heard that one. I think it’s the one where you go into the bathroom and look in the mirror and say Llorona three times and she would appear (Note: This specific legend is associated with Bloody Mary, not La Llorona). I knew about El Cucuy. Grandmothers would always scare kids and say, “Hay viene El Cucuy!” But I was more afraid of the dark when I was little.
I like all kinds of movies. I just went and saw “Insidious 2.” That was pretty good. That one got me a few times. I thought the first one was scarier. The ones that really get me are those psychological ones like “The Others” with Nicole Kidman.
Did you ever seen “The Orphanage?”
Yes! I saw that one. Her son dies because he was hiding in the closet. Yes, that was such a good movie! That scared the crap out of me, too. Then at the end, she’s at the orphanage with all the kids. Oh, why did you bring that movie up? Now I’m going to cry!
How would you handle some kind of paranormal phenomenon happening in your own house? Would you stick around to see what happens or would you get the hell out of there?
(Laughs) I think I would go to church real quick and ask for a priest and have him come bless my place. I’d want him to get all the bad spirits away and cleanse the house. I’m not the type to investigate something like that. That’s the wrong way to go.
I mean, it’s more for the kids to get dressed up and have fun. But I definitely like to dress up and scare people. I like to hide in the house and jump out.
Ah, so you’re a practical joker, I see.
(Laughs) Yes, exactly. I even got my poor grandma. She hates me for it. I scared the crap out of her. Oh, that’s not nice. That’s not right. Now I feel bad. I shouldn’t have shared that story.
The first time I saw you in a movie was back in 2006 when you were in “Akeelah and the Bee,” which is a really good film. Tell me about the journey you’ve gone through as an actor since then. What have you seen in yourself that’s changed?
I think I was just blessed to have started that early. I got right into it. There are so many people trying to get into it. I really got lucky in booking that part. I got to work with so many good people and learn from them. Things got rolling after that. But then something put a halt on everything. I went back home to regroup and just spend time with my family. I felt that really helped me because I got to go home and go to school and forget about the whole acting thing and live normal. I think I would’ve had a different agenda if I had been out here the entire time. But going back home helped me see that [acting] is what I love to do. I love to work. I want to do it forever.