The Dominican actor gives us all the gritty details about playing a wounded veteran in the new flick Stop-Loss, starring Ryan Phillipe

Por Lee Hernandez/ NYC
Updated Marzo 28, 2008

After showcasing his talent in celebrated independent movies like Raising Victor Vargas and Lords of Dogtown, 25-year-old Dominican actor Victor Rasuk is breaking into mainstream Hollywood with a starring role in the new Iraq war film Stop-Loss.

The down-to-earth and humble actor took time from his busy schedule (he's got five movies coming out in 2008 alone) to talk exclusively to us about playing a wounded soldier in his new war movie, his upcoming role in Steven Soderbergh's Che Guevara biopic, and where he was when his friend Heath Ledger passed away.

Tell us about your character Rico Rodríguez in “Stop-Loss.”
The movie is about five best friends who come back home from Iraq, and try to adapt to everyday life again. Rico is one of the guys. He is the group's extrovert. He is an in-your-face kind of guy. And he's the only one of the guys who comes back from Iraq wounded during one of the most poignant moments in the movie.

Why did you want to make this movie?
Besides having a great cast, I wanted the opportunity to work with someone like Kimberly Pierce. I liked that it was a big Hollywood movie, and I wanted to be a part of something that would be displayed to the world.

What was it like working with Ryan Phillipe?
Ryan is a natural born leader. I'm happy that finally his work in this film will prove how good of an actor he is.

Did you have to get in shape for the movie?
Yeah, the entire cast did. We were out in the middle of nowhere, and we all went through hard-core boot camp. They didn't cut us any slack because we were actors. But that was good because it created camaraderie among all of us, and those bonds we developed off-camera translated on camera.

Was it hard to get into the mindset of a soldier in Iraq?
Yeah, yeah it was. I kept thinking about what would make a person want to enlist. I tried to put myself in the circumstances of some of these young men and women in the armed forces and I'd think “What would make them do this?” And a lot of the situations in the movie aren't situations that we actors have ever been in. So meeting real-life veterans who were around our same age, we found that they liked the same things we liked, the same sports, music, etc., and that helped us understand our characters. The director [Kimberly Pierce] made soldiers accessible to us the whole time. She had them on set, and a lot of the extras were actually real soldiers. I think that's why the movie is so authentic.

Why should people see this movie?
Because it's not preachy – it's not about the war. The issues it tackles are many, and they are issues we all deal with everyday in society. It is a film about our brothers, sisters, mothers, husbands, and wives. And about the kinds of issues we all deal with regardless of our ethnic background. People will relate to it because it's very realistic.

In the highly anticipated film “The Argentine” (the Che Guevara biopic starring Benicio Del Toro), you play Rogelio Achavedo. Tell us about your character in the film…
Well, the film is about the Cuban Revolution, and my character is this guy who is lazy, but also very outspoken. He's a young rebel in Che's group. My scenes are mostly about me being rebellious against Che's commands. I am the comic relief of the movie. The film is great. Benicio is the best actor I've ever worked with in my life.

What is your dream role?
After watching Benicio play Che, I have to admit, I would love to play a historical figure like that.

You seem to always play a guy who has a good heart. Do you think that's your niche?
I get asked that question a lot. No, I don't think that it is. I think my niche is doing stories that are real and relatable, and that are somewhat universal. The characters I play are not stereotypical. They're not necessarily Hispanic guys as perceived by Hollywood. You don't get a lot of Hispanics playing good guys.

Where were you when you heard your “Lords of Dogtown” costar Heath Ledger had died?
You know, I was home, and my brother called me. And when he told me the news, I was like “Dude, you're joking.” I was completely devastated when I turned on CNN and saw that he had died. At one point in my career, Heath was my inspiration and very influential in my life. He was a great and amazing human being.