From Dusk Till Dawn Director Joe Menendez teases Season 2  (Exclusive Interview)

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By Jes Vu

Joe Menendez isn’t just a director on From Dusk Till Dawn—he’s a fanboy just like the rest of us. Whether it’s talking about From Dusk Till Dawn and his love of Cuban food, or geeking out about Star Wars, Joe’s passion shines through.

Despite having been raised in a poor family in Miami, Joe has risen through the ranks in Hollywood with a number of television shows and films under his belt.

How did it happen?

“I never accepted the premise that my station in life was my station in life.” He told Nerd Reactor. “I said, ‘Nah, there’s something better.’” And there certainly was.

Entering season 2 of From Dusk Till Dawn, Joe is directing three of the ten episodes. He talked to Nerd Reactor exclusively about what to look forward to in the next episode as well as what it was like to work alongside showrunner Carlos Coto and powerhouse filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.

What are you looking forward to in the next few episodes? What can you tell us about the upcoming episodes you’re directing?

These are two really cool episodes because for the first half of the season so far, Richie and Seth have been separated. This is now when their storylines are about to intersect.

What’s it like working on an American show with such a large group of Latin creatives and artists?

There’s a scene early on in episode 204 that has Wilmer Valderrama (Carlos) and Esai Morales (Malvado), and the scene is about them jogging for power. It’s a chess match between these two powerful characters. There’s a point during the editing that I started watching this scene. I said ‘Look at these two well-known Latino actors doing this great scene, and the scene had nothing to do with being Latino.’ It was about power.

As much as Carlos [Coto] and Robert [Rodriguez], and the rest of the writing staff…we know we have the undercurrent of the Mesoamerican mythology, we know we have a lot of Latino elements all throughout the show: A good part of it takes place in Mexico and in Texas, but what we focus on is that it’s a crime story. The Latino elements come into pepper the series with authenticity. It gives it a unique flavor; it gives it a unique touch.

How did you originally get involved with From Dusk Till Dawn?

Carlos Coto saw my movie Ladron que roba a ladron (‘To Rob a Thief’), part one of the [movie, Ladrones], that’s coming out now—they loved it and thought it was really well done. Turns out that his daughter, while growing up, watched a number of shows I did for Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

You do have a strong background in directing children’s programming.

It almost worked against me. Luckily I had other things that had action and blood and guts. But the fact I had done that (and if I had only done that, it would have been hard for me to sell myself as someone who can do action) showed that I can do something that was grittier.

The reasons they hired me wasn’t because I was an ethnic voice—it’s cause my voice was a comedy voice, which I found interesting. The natural instinct on this kind of show is to only hire directors that have done horror. So you hire directors who have done horror, and it starts to take on a tone where the horror becomes the emphasis. I find some of these scripts to be hilarious. They’re wickedly funny in a very dark kind of way. I think they wanted one or two directors that would key in on that kind of stuff.

What is it like working with the horror elements of the show?

I signed up because it’s an opportunity to tell a great crime story…then when I get to do the horror stuff, as a director…there isn’t a director alive that doesn’t like doing horror stuff because that is as cinematic as it gets. For the audience, it was fun for me to craft the horror part. For me, it’s not the thing I look at first, but the moment I get to do it, I say ‘this is cool.’ The entire time you’re watching the stuff between [Scott and Kate], the undercurrent is Scott going to become a culebra and kill her. You’re like ‘Don’t trust him, don’t trust him, Kate. No!’ That stuff is straight up horror stuff.

Scott’s journey goes really dark in the next two episodes. When you see where Scott’s story goes, part of you will be heartbroken and part of you will be repulsed all in the same breath.

You directed one episode last season, so how do you feel that you were bumped up to three this season?

Obviously it’s very gratifying that Robert Rodriguez appreciates what you’ve done, that Carlos Coto appreciates what you’ve done. It’s incredibly gratifying and flattering. But then it becomes “Gee, don’t f**k it up.” [laughs] You better go in and make this worthy. Aside from my movie, I have never focused that much on anything. It also helps when you love the material—and I love the material.

So to me, the pictures, and the scenes, and the stories—they were all coming off the page. I get to be a geek for a living—c’mon!

Tune in for Joe’s episodes of From Dusk Till Dawn TONIGHT and September 22nd at 9 PM ET/8PM CT on El Rey Network and Wednesdays on Netflix internationally.

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