As a huge fan of David Ayer’s films (Street Kings, Harsh Times, Fury), I am happy to report that The Tax Collector did not disappoint. The biggest takeaway from that film is Bobby Soto, an actor whose career should be elevated thanks to his fine performance as the film’s lead. This post features my Q&A with Soto as well as the Find Your Film podcast episode which contains the full audio interview with the talented thespian.
Hitting theaters, Digital and On Demand Friday August 7, The Tax Collector centers on David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LaBeouf), lifelong friends who take a cut from the local gangs’ illegal activities. The pair collect the tax for this mysterious figure known as the Wizard, and David’s Uncle Louis (George Lopez) is also another person who serves as their surrogate boss (Wizard is in prison).
David is a family man and Creeper, loyal to a fault, is David’s intimidating muscle. Their partnership has been a fruitful one, but when a new crime lord enters Los Angeles from Mexico, their business and lives are immediately upended.
Bobby Soto talked about his bond with director/writer David Ayer and Shia LaBeouf (who previously worked with Ayer in the WWII epic Fury) and he also illustrated how his mother’s grateful outlook on life shaped him as a human being. Soto also briefly mentions Slauson Rec, a theater group he co-founded with LaBeouf.
Although Ayer and LaBeouf are the big names behind The Tax Collector, this first rate narrative’s effectiveness rests on Soto’s shoulders. The full audio of my chat with Soto is below (if you can, please rate/review Find Your Film onApple Podcasts). The Q&A has been slightly edited for clarity (I usually ask long winded questions!):
I read in an interview that acting has been a huge part of your life since you were a child.
I’ve been grinding for this craft since I was 10 years old. It was a place for my mother to drop me off after school to keep me out of trouble while she went to work and I just stuck with it. I’m 26 now.
I fell in love with the art. I fell in love with the craft and working with David (Ayer) was just a blessing really. It was something that I stumbled upon. I was actually part of a dojo in Echo Park not knowing who goes to the dojo and not knowing who owns the dojo or anything like that. I became friends with everybody. I came from the streets and I grew up fighting and stuff – I never had a technique to my thing but in this class I learned how to really stand my ground and people recognized that.
David and I actually became friends through this process of this dojo. I didn’t know he was a movie guy. We were friends. I’m over here working out with him. We’re sparring. We’re doing s**t together, we’re becoming homies. He’s going to my family relative’s weddings and quinceañeras. I’m at his house and we’re talking about regular (stuff). I didn’t know who he was and then one day, he said “Yo what do you do?” (I said) “I’m an actor.”
He said “What really, I make movies!” I said “What did you do?” He said “Ever heard of Training Day?” (I said) “Yeah it’s a classic.” He’s like “I wrote it.” I’m like “Alright then.” He said “I want to do a movie with you, I want to work with you.” I said “Okay, you can do whatever you want, I’m ready.”
We were friends, I said “I’m not asking for nothing.” He’s like “Nah, I want to do something with you, that’s the best thing is to work with the people you love and we’re really authentically friends and we can make something together.” I said “Of course” and it was just like really working with a brother of mine. Regardless of who he is in the industry, it was working someone I can really touch base with on many personal levels and someone that understood where I was raised in Los Angeles. He was raised in Los Angeles.
We were raised in similar surroundings. He grew up with people my family grew up with. He understands what it means to be Chicano in South LA so he’s got that history just like myself and many other people that live here in LA. It’s a very specific story that people don’t tell. This movie. It’s a very specific and it kind of dives in. It takes a very unique person to tell that authentically and to be able to collaborate with others. David really does that.
Can you talk about your bond with Shia in The Tax Collector? That feels very real.
It’s really real man, I was just with him today. I see him every day for the last three years I’ve been seeing him every day. We opened up a theater company called The Slauson Recreational Theater Company in South Central Los Angeles from where I grew up. He came over here. He grew up in Echo Park so it wasn’t too far.
We talk about the way – the school programs – they remove the sports and they remove the arts and you have nothing to express yourself here in Los Angeles and you got to really go out to Hollywood to find some artistic endeavor. Shia and I – he understood where I came from and we were open to each other and we fell in love with the way we both had the same desires and vulnerabilities and the way we trusted and wanted the same journey. So we became really good friends to the point where he’s my best friend.
I see him every day. He’s like my big brother. I never had a brother and for me he’s my big brother. He knows that. I’ve learned so much and he’s a blessing man. He’s really a blessing.
What’s the key to staying in the moment as an actor?
I think if you’re willing – if anybody’s willing or if anybody has that mental capacity. My mom likes to say “mind over matter.” So if you can put your mind to it, you can create any possibility you want regardless whatever the script or the text is asking of you. Any human being if they dig deep and search inside themselves, they can find something that gives them substance to that text. It will bring life to it.
Whatever you saw in the screen, it was a process of becoming really close with my co-stars. It was a process of being intimate with every single one of them and being able to share all of my sides from the ugly to the bad to the good to the sweet. Everything – it required our whole selves to be a part of it. I was happy and excited and that’s the key. Enjoyment. Really enjoying the process.
They talk a lot about it in acting but it’s just whatever is happening. Everything is an inspiration, nothing is a distraction. If you carry that with you and everything around you is informing you, then you let it flow. When you’re flowing, everyone’s flowing and the film’s flowing and you can capture so many things.
I don’t direct but I can imagine being on that side you want people to be close to each other so they can express themselves.
Bobby you seem to be passionate about giving back as opposed to just taking that slice of pie for yourself.
No I never did. I was never raised that way. My mother grew up in South Central Los Angeles. My mother grew up with her father being in prison for her whole life and my mother grew up as an only child. She needed to work very hard in her own business and what she did, she became successful and my mom would always say “Remember there is somebody that has less than you. Remember, there is someone who doesn’t have what you have. So be grateful all the time no matter what you have.”
My mother always gave back so I learned a lot from my mother the way that I am and the way that I’ve always been is I’ve always to bring – when I was a kid, I tried to do an acting class but people laughed at it like “What are you doing, nobody cares about this stuff.”
It’s a miracle when somebody makes it out of a place like South Central LA. If you can come out of it and make something, you’ve scratched the winning Lotto Ticket. It just takes a lot of mental stamina, stability and perseverance and really trust in yourself. Humble. Being humble and giving it to God and letting God take the reigns, you know?
Right off the top of your head, what’s one your favorite movies and why does this movie still resonate with you?
Okay The Godfather. Al Pacino. It resonates with me because it’s the story of a man who is forced into his position to take over his business or whatever business his family was in. He was a good person and he is still a good person. He has to make decisions to protect his family to show that he loves his family. He has to do things that might necessarily be good, but he’s doing them because he needs to do them. That story resonates. It’s a classic. That’s my favorite movie of all time.
Thank you Bobby for your time.
Thank you have a good day. God Bless.
The Tax Collector comes out August 7 in theaters, Digital, and On Demand.You can also listen to the full Bobby Soto interview on Spotify: