‘Coyote’ wants to break US-Mexico border stereotype, says actor Michael Chiklis

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The US-Mexico border has imposed itself on the imagination of mainstream American politics and culture, dividing people into us versus us, insiders versus outsiders, and immigrants versus natives. But Emmy-winning actor Michael Chiklis hopes his new TV show “Coyote”, which premieres on January 7 at CBS All Access, will challenge viewers to re-imagine both sides of the border.

“You know that old saying ‘walk a mile in a man’s shoes?” Well, he had to walk 100 miles in another man’s shoes, which I found to be very compelling to tell the story, ”Chiklis told NBC News about his character, Ben Clemens. “I think it’s attractive to some 50-year-old white man in America that all his choices are taken from him.”

Chiklis plays the role of a former US Border Patrol agent who, after a 32-year career, finds himself on the Mexican side of the border, sheltering and protecting the pregnant girlfriend of a drug trafficker (played by Salvadoran actress Amy Myna) Helps in the United States. .

Fans will remember Chicalis from acclaimed police dramas such as “The Shield”, dirty cop Vic Mackie and “The Cummish” playing the role of small town police commissioner Tony Scully. But the actor says that “Coyote” is not really about following or breaking the law, but rather about mitigating the circumstances that drive the characters on either side of the border.

“It’s about the people and places and things he encounters in the Odyssey that he goes through,” Chiklis said. “And as we get deeper into that dive, it’s about the interaction between Mexico and the United States and the collision of cultures. And it’s universal, we see that happening all over the world.”

The actor was inspired to take over the US-Mexico border after watching the TV series “Fouda” (meaning “anarchy”) about the Israeli-Palestinian border. The purpose of the “coyote” is to take the highly politicized frontier and strip it of the status quo humanity, says Chikotis, in order to engage viewers in more granular conversations about immigration and other complex issues. .

“You are for something or you are against it. You are a pro gun or you are anti gun. You are pro-law enforcement or you are anti-law enforcement. And this is ridiculous, in my opinion. Two things can be true at once. “You can be pro-law enforcement, actually pro-law enforcement, but also recognize that there is systemic racism and there are things that need to be done to fix that problem.”

Boundary seen through a racial lens

Off-camera, the US-Mexico border is for many a geographical and cultural context that not only shapes their identities, but also affects them psychologically.

“It’s not just a physical location of the border between America and Mexico,” said Frederick Aldama, an Ohio State professor and Latin culture scholar. We are fully aware of how it can suddenly impact our lives, and the monitoring and fear that comes with it. “

Aldama states that borders cut off one population from another. And in mainstream American culture, the US – Mexico border implements itself as a racialization of immigrants.

“The US-Mexico border turns brown immigrants into danger for a white American north,” Aldama told NBC News. “So when we see a picture on TV or a film that produces a rhetoric about brown invasive hooves, it’s disturbing.”

Aldama said that mainstream culture and politics created polarized images of good migrants vs. bad migrants and desirable people vs. undesirable people. And for the nuances of the conversation about the border, he stresses that these stories should accept the viewpoint of those who are being excluded.

“We need to tell border stories through a brown optic,” he said. “We need to show what it means to be invisible in a world where we cannot participate. And to do that we have to be the heroes of our stories. “

Through personal, opening the boundary

Colombian actor Juan Pablo Raba plays El Cartin, a drug trafficker in “Coyote”. But he said he rejects many such roles because they are poorly written or represent a cliché with which he is not comfortable.

The character, however, revealed something more complex for him.

Colombian actor Juan Pablo Raba “Coyote” in the series.Kate Cameron / CBS

“I like the idea that we have to show this man, which at least now we are going to consider a bad man. But that doesn’t work the same, “he told NBC News. “And these are the bad people we have to fear. Which we do not see. “

Raba states that where geographic and cultural boundaries can be permanent, stories have the power to move the invisible lines that make humanity live among them.

“It’s a story about a different group of humans and they all have their own vision about this imaginary line,” Raba said, “and they would have acted differently depending on which part of that line. Are who they were born to be. “

By understanding those differences, viewers can open up big ideas and politics that sometimes add tension to border issues and instead focus on personal connections that nourish unity.

Raba compares those person-to-person connections in “Coyote” to the love story of Romeo and Juliet, especially when the characters discover that they have common, despite opposing families (or countries) It is more than I thought.

“We start with this huge idea of ​​a range of law enforcement, about immigration politics, then we just focus on two or three individuals,” Raba said. I think it is easy to understand in this way.

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