Paul Lincoln Alayo Talks ‘The Mule’, Art and More

ATM: What’s the moral compass of what Sal is about?

PLA: The way Sal spoke to me was to play him more as a quiet and internal type of man. Someone who speaks within reason, he is a little aggressive at times. He is well oriented and tight with his Narco family. He over steps on people’s shoes that he shouldn’t of which affects his future and what happens to him.

ATM: How does Earl show the wisdom of a 90-year-old?

PLA: Throughout the whole story ‘family’ is the one thing we consistently touch on whether you see him doing the wrong or right thing. It’s something the audience can see that is important. Clint does a beautiful job because he does not tell you, but he shows you. He helps you build that emotion without telling you which great storytelling is. There is no narration. He shows you a guy that makes the wrong decisions and how his family ends up paying for it. He shows you a different side of the Narcos. The advice he gives Julio is something you only hear between two close friends. He is a father figure.

ATM: How does he strategically change as his success leads him to money? Does he become more cautious or does he enjoy it?

PLA: He is not cautious at all you see him do things with money that he shouldn’t of done. The number one rule with these guys is not to flash it. You hear that old say, rich people do not wear a lot of jewelry. With Earl once he starts becoming successful you see him with different things. He upgrades in a way he shouldn’t have. Throwing money around brings attention to you. He’s at a point in his life that we are all going to come across. What’s important? Our family and memories.

ATM: Have you reached this age yet?

PLA: I am starting to see this a lot more. You can hear this your whole life but to understand it takes a little bit of time. The people around us are one of the best gifts that life gives you.  It’s your rock and foundation and as you get older you realize how important this is and how close you hold these people near you. So yes, I think I have. I’ll get more experience as time goes by. I have to look at it in different angles and different forms. This is exciting.

ATM: It is interesting how you go through something it becomes the smallest thing. For example, to some people high school and even higher education was their world and where their biggest problems probably occurred. Now, as an adult I would imagine that it has become a blur like a small molecule.

PLA: Good point. Great point. The only things you remember are the important things. It’s funny because you know what someone once told me that kind of nails this. They said, “the things that are important are because we make them important.” Most of the things we should truly care about are around us already. Everything that we want is in front of us. We have everything we need, we are born with it. Your family will always be there for you in your darkest moments. This is all that matters in the end. You cannot take any of this with you. Not even the movies. Even this beautiful experience that I just had working with Clint and Andy. Going out to dinner with the man. Being lucky enough to have an Oscar winning actor showing you how to break down scenes and what works for him. I’m here to learn. The only thing I can take from this are my memories. You cannot take anything else. It’s like grabbing a hand full of sand and trying to pick it up. It’s going to slip right through your fingers.

ATM: Your memories are your grandest treasures. It’s similar to the saying you have to live each day like it’s your last. Live it great.

PLA: Yes, you have to enjoy. Sometimes we have to re-teach ourselves. It’s so easy to wake up bitter and because of that you’ll have a bad day. It’s harder to choose to be happy.

ATM: A lot of people do not know what being happy is.

PLA: Good point. A lot of times society just tells you what being happy is. For example, at this age you should have this and that age you should have that. If you’re a girl, then you should only do this because it’s not lady like, we have all of these rules.

ATM: What happens when you do not meet these expectations? When you decide to go beyond or out of the stereotype?

PLA: You get frown upon, you become an outcast, they are like “oh no that’s not right.” Our own parents sometimes make the mistake of telling us this. I am not judging them. It’s hard to be a parent. Especially with women, I feel for women. Women ultimately have the hardest time in this world because of what we think and expect of them and these traditions we have. I am glad things are changing. But, oh boy is it hard for women.

ATM: In Hollywood, when you look back 50 years ago, women’s hair had to be like this, or their attire had to be like that. It was so strict and a little even now. What if you decide wait, I do not want to do this? If you decide not to do it, then is this your happiness or is it not considered happy because it is not what society is telling them to do.

PLA: I applaud women that break the boundaries good for them. Even yourself, you are doing something amazing. You sound young yet you are doing something you love. You are seeking and having conversations with a lot of interesting people. You have not only received knowledge, but you also have an opinion about what you are hearing. So, it’s opening up all these doors. This is what we need to feed our young individuals, specially our little girls. I have a little girl. I want her to think this way. I would be flattered if she was already a journalist like how you are. I want her to challenge and break the rules.

Rules are there to keep you in line. If I can give any advice to any actor, then be bold. Do not be disrespectful but be bold and be nice to everybody. Break rules in a good and smart way.

ATM: Well thank you. I’m only 21. This means they have gotten a sense of knowledge that we did not expect for them to receive at this particular age. What happens when they have this new sense of knowledge but them people impose the expectations their age should be.

PLA: A person can choose to listen and accept or choose to listen and disregard. They’re going to say you should not be doing this because you are too young. You know when you’re right and you got to follow that instinct. Some of the greatest people in history have done this. Einstein was told he was a slow speaker and turned out to be one of the smartest men that ever lived. Look at Stephen Hawkins or even Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali, man! Look at how many boundaries he broke, and he was young buck too.

ATM: The people who are in these history books and the people who we try to mimic. Sometimes when people aspire to become an actor. They try to copy what someone else has done. They cannot. They cannot tap into what they did. Some people do not do it because they want to act. They are like I want to be Denzel Washington, or Viola Davis, so I want to act. Why can’t you just get inspired by them, use the inspiration to create your own recipe. They crawled before they walked. So, anyone can’t become them. This is the result of their journey.

As for the legends of our time a lot of these people went against what was normal because they did not have anything else to lean on. It was not until later where people went wait you mean to tell me if you got the other side of this you make sense. What if they would have followed the rules? What if the painters would have continued painting like they saw? It took one painter to paint in depiction of shapes. “Hey, what if I do not draw in a straight line and I just connect the lines to make shapes, and in this I make people.” Pablo Picasso. And this became art history.

PLA: Vincent Van Gogh was considered an unsuccessful artist when he was alive. He never saw his work reach the level it has now.

ATM: This is sad. Frida Kahlo. People did not start honoring her work until the 80’s. Why? Just why? We looked at it and it was too late. All we give are posthumous awards. These people just took a different route. I mean if you tell me to walk straight… then I will just walk backwards for the fun of it.

PLA: This is exactly it. The only way you are going to make something interesting is to do it differently. It’s funny you talk about actors being like this. I was talking to a friend, he was also in the Mule. We were talking about a third friend of ours that was not getting work. Of course, we actors go through this dry spell. If it’s too long, then it can mess with your psyche. You start questioning yourself like “Oh man what is going on? I’m not getting any more work. Am I doing this wrong? I have to take a class.” Now you have people in your head telling you what you should be doing.

Art is personal, which is what makes these people great. They had a gut instinct and they followed it even in rough times. Actors that choose to mimic other actors are probably good at mimicking. This is probably a good tool to have as an actor but in the end it has to be personal and your own.

The reason why we love Denzel Washington why we love Viola Davis? When she starts screaming and she’s passionate about things. You can’t help but say wow now that’s real.  That’s raw. It’s because it came from somewhere. You are not going to get there unless you find your signature. This is deep inside you this is what makes you unique.

ATM: What is art to you?

PLA: To me, art is the seed of your soul. It’s the first root that sprouted into a dream. It’s hard to get there. When it flows freely it’s beautiful it’s being truthful to the character.

ATM: To me, art is tapping into the unknown.

PLM: Absolutely.

ATM. For example, if you write a song and someone is familiar and associates it with someone else, then this is not art. Now if they write a song, and you noticing it’s unique and different, then this is art at its fullest blossom, to me.

PLM: You can be influence by somebody, but you have to make it your own.

ATM: You have to find your own identity and your own way of expression.

PLA: It is so hard to do what you are saying. America is about 240 years old. Art has been around forever. The longer it has been around, the harder it is to come up with an original piece. The only way you are going to come up with original piece is to listen to what’s inside. Michael Jackson is a beautiful example. There will never be another Michael Jackson, not even in 1,000 years. There are so many reasons why he is amazing. He followed his heart. We can never fault Michael on this. He came from a place deep down inside.

ATM: Now, describe an artistic and inspiring day on set.

PLA: Boy, I could tell you many. You want a story. Ok first day on the set of the Mule. Everyone is setting up and I just finished saying hello to all the other actors. I’m sitting down in the bench were about to film on. Then comes Clint. I knew it was Clint because the seas parted like he was Moses. Clint walks towards me at slow pace I don’t’ know why but it felt like a duel. He’s getting closer and closer and I’m a little frozen. I know it’s him but it’s taking me a long time to register.

He says “How are you Paul? I appreciate you being here.” (silences) It took that long to answer I went “yeah, yeah you’re welcome sir my complete pleasure. Thank you for having me.” The cool thing about Clint is that he is so laid back, funny and smart. The whole “He is Clint Eastwood” thing goes away. He is such a sweet man. Once the camera rolls you don’t even know he’s acting. He talks so low I had to really pay attention. It made the scene interesting. I was very nervous because I had one day to prepare. I wasn’t sure if he was going to like what I brought.

He was so generous because he gave me the best compliment I will ever receive in my life. Right after the first take, he says, “Can you put the camera on Paul? Are you getting anything he’s doing? I like what he’s doing.” It was amazing. This was the pull pork sandwich scene, which I chose to make it more intense. If you look at the scene, it’s a very uncomfortable scene. But hearing his approval of my work, made me feel invincible. We have all been discriminated in some kind of way no matter what race you are even if you are rich or poor. Have you ever experienced anything like this?

ATM: Yes

PLA: I took this and said to myself I have been here before. I’m going to make this a real as I can. The extras were so good and gave me looks that made me feel so uncomfortable. If you look at the scene, then you can slice the discomfort from it.  It’s even almost comedic. He says the funniest things ever. When the scene is done, he would ad-lib. He’s so funny with the things he says in character. I’m sitting there with a serious face trying not to laugh at the moment. He’s that funny. He cracks you up. You want to laugh but you have a job to do. He taught me so much about directing and I wasn’t even seeking it.  I have become a better actor from working with Andy and Clint. No other set is like a Clint set. You work 10 hours not 13 or 14 yet you get everything done.

ATM: You only got the memory. You can only take the memory.

PLA: Yes. If you ever get the chance to work with him, take it, because it is terrific. It was lovely talking to you.