Damian Chapa making stop in San Antonio to celebrate 30th anniversary of Blood In Blood Out

Chapa and Blood In Blood Out co-star Victor Rivers will appear at Traders Village on Aug. 12-13.

click to enlarge Alongside Damian Chapa, the film also stars Jesse Borrego and Benjamin Bratt. - Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Pictures
Alongside Damian Chapa, the film also stars Jesse Borrego and Benjamin Bratt.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 1993 film Blood In Blood Out, actors Damian Chapa and Victor Rivers will make a stop at Traders Village in San Antonio on Aug. 12-13 to meet fans and sign autographs and memorabilia.

In the film, Chapa plays the role of Miklo Velka, a half-Mexican, half-Anglo teen and member of the Vatos Locos gang. He's sent to prison after killing a rival gang member. While behind bars, Miklo rises in the ranks of a powerful prison gang known as La Onda. The film also stars San Antonio native Jesse Borrego and Law & Order's Benjamin Bratt.

During a recent interview with the Current, Chapa, 59, talked about what it's like being connected to Blood In Blood Out and when he realized the beloved crime drama had developed a cult following. He also shared his viewpoint on whether a filmmaker's race matters when making a movie about a minority group.

Does it feel like it's been 30 years since Blood In Blood Out premiered at theaters?

It doesn't seem like that long, because it's always so close to me. It's with me every day like a good friend or family member. I don't think there's anywhere I go that I don't hear someone say, "Hey, Blood in Blood Out!" I get off a plane in Sweden and these blonde-haired people will walk up to me and say, "Hey, Miklo!" I'm quite fascinated by it. It's been 30 years, and people are still impressed by it.

When did you realize the film had developed a cult following?

It was probably about two years after [it premiered] when some kid walked up to me in a store and asked, "Hey, are you Miklo?" I was like, "You saw the movie? Were you at the premiere?" He goes, "No, I saw it with my dad last night. We rented it at Blockbuster." Blockbuster was a new thing back then. I don't know if this is true, but one of the guys at the store once told me that Blood In Blood Out was the most over-kept movie in their library.

I remember kids in high school passing around copies of the movie on VHS to one another — probably from Blockbuster!

A lot of people didn't want to return the movie! For me, it was great. I had this $35 million movie, and I was thinking it was going to be this big film with this massive theatrical release, and it fizzled out. I went from thinking I was going to be a well-known actor to somebody who had to start selling carpet again or cleaning floors. But [Blood In Blood Out] became a cult movie, which to me is incredible.

In San Antonio, I hear people referencing Blood In Blood Out more than they do, say, The English Patient, and that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

That's a good point. [Director] Taylor Hackford was a bright man who understood and loved the Chicano community. We didn't have a perfect relationship. We fought every day — like a father and son. I think it enhanced the movie, because the intensity shows up. Even though we fought, we really respected each other. That's why I think people in the Chicano community and outside the Chicano community love it so much.

That's a debate happening in Hollywood right now — who has the right to tell certain stories? If Blood In Blood Out was made today, some people would be upset if they hired a white director to do it.

I find it interesting that people are always saying, "You can't do this because you're not this or that." I don't understand the identity politics. They fail to realize that when they're speaking Spanish, they're speaking a damn European language. That's a white people's language. So, if they're going to be proud of something, speak Aztec or Mayan or an indigenous language. My father's Mexican and my mother's white, so I understood both perspectives going into it.

Why do you think you were cast as Miklo?

I know there's reasons why [Hackford] gave it to me. Probably because I grew up tough. It was a difficult life, and I had to fit in. I knew what that was like. A lot of big-name people were up for the part. It's funny because I just did an episode of FBI: Most Wanted with Dylan McDermott, who had auditioned for the role of Miklo. We were on the set for about eight hours, and he didn't recognize me. Then, finally, he was like, "Wait a minute, you're Miklo! I auditioned for that movie! You son of a bitch, you took that part from me!"

Do you ever think about how your career might have turned out if Blood In Blood Out had been a massive hit right from the beginning?

No, and I'll tell you why. I've always been a bit of a rebellious person. I've always said what I felt. Tinseltown's not the kind of place you can do that. I've been on the inside, and you have to say the right things at the right time and say them to the right people. If you don't, it doesn't matter how talented or handsome or pretty or charismatic you are, you're not going to make it. I always wanted to stay true to myself.

Blood In Blood Out 30th Anniversary Celebration, noon-5 p.m. Aug. 12-13, Traders Village, 9333 SW Loop 410, (210) 623-8383

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