Audiences first fell in love with Esai Morales in the popular ’80s biopic La Bamba. The 49-year-old actor is now known for his roles on NYPD Blue and Caprica. Esai is starring in the chilling true story of one woman’s fight to get her husband released from the hands of kidnappers in Mexico in We Have Your Husband, set to premiere on Lifetime on Saturday, November 12th at 8pm ET/PT.
Esai opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about his new role that will raise awareness for an “ongoing problem” about “social cannibalism,” his thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, his “very willful” 1-year-old daughter Mariana that has taught him “you can’t force any situation,” and his reservations on welcoming a second child.
CBS: What’s your best advice to parents?
EM: “Teach your kids to learn by learning yourself. The best and most direct form of this is learning from them directly and thanking them for the lessons that they teach you, because they do teach us. If we allow ourselves to learn, we can do some of the important un-learning that has been done to us.
Kids come to the world more prepared than we know – then we educate them out of their natural genius. They ask, ‘Why,’ and we say, ‘Never mind, I don’t know.’ We get jaded as adults because we don’t want to know! So, I think one of the best responses to ‘Why’ is, ‘Very good questions, I don’t know right now. I’m going to find out and get back to you.’ And actually go and find out why!”
CBS: So what has your daughter Mariana taught you in her short life so far?
EM: “That she will not eat anything I try to give her [laughs]! She is very willful. Her mother knows how to work her. And she has to look at it – she cannot just eat blindly. She has to look at the food and determine if she wants to eat it or not. And I’m like, ‘But you don’t realize this is for you!’ But no, she has to look at it first.
She’s teaching me that you can’t force any situation. Children are children and they can’t be reasoned with the way adults cajole each other. We all agree upon certain rules. But children go beyond that and they are just going to exist in a rhythm of their own. We as parents should learn their rhythm as opposed to conforming them to our expectations. They need to know that there’s a limit to patience and generosity, but at the same time we should not be blind to learning a different way. You would think my kid is starving because my wife is always offering her something, but she just wants to know that it’s there and she’ll have it when she wants it.
Sometimes parents fret because kids aren’t molding quickly enough. It’s tough! But it’s so beautiful to wake up and see this completely innocent face. Just thinking of what dreams are going through their little brains. What could they possibly be thinking of. That kind of stuff makes you think about eternity.”
CBS: Sounds like fatherhood has been life-changing for you! Would you like more kids?
EM: “That’s a tough one! What I want is more securities to raise them in. Right now, these times are really, really tough and the loans that I made are not coming back, and friends need this-and-this, so does family. Everybody’s hurting, and so I want more children theoretically, but right now we’re going to keep our family unit as lean as possible so that we can survive the waves of catastrophe that seem to be mounting. Hopefully we’ll have enough resources and resource-fullness to survive, relatively unbeaten.”
CBS: Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?
EM: “I always liked the gatherings, but after awhile I needed to be alone and go to my room. I remember thinking, ‘I’m glad this is not every weekend.’ I think the most important thing is reflection. Family gatherings should be about reflecting on how we’ve grown, or not, or too much!
I think family gatherings are great as long as they don’t get too excessive and there’s no fighting. I think it’s great when families can get together and work through issues. There are so many problems that families create amongst themselves, so if you can focus on the positive and work on some of the negative, maybe we can evolve as a family unit.
It can be very difficult to keep in touch. As kids, all you ever wanted to do is leave! And then you form your own family, and then you think, ‘I want my kids to see their relatives.’ I’m not a traditionalist, I’m more about making the best of now.”
CBS: Do you do Halloween in your house? If so, do you have a costume for Mariana?
EM: “It’s so funny because someone just asked us that! We don’t yet. Elivimar is from Brazil and they don’t celebrate Halloween there. But she said, ‘If she wants to do that one day, fine, but I’m not going to paint her face until she realizes what’s going on.’ So we’ll give her a couple years until she feels the pull from society.
But for me, I loved Halloween until I became an actor! I thought, ‘Wait, I get paid for this, I don’t want to be in costume and makeup.’ I dressed up as a drag queen about two times and that was enough for me! I don’t know how you ladies do the heels thing [laughs]!”
CBS: Tell us about We Have Your Husband, premiering on Lifetime on November 12th.
EM: “It’s a classic Lifetime caper movie based on a true story. A family is victimized by the growing epidemic of kidnapping, especially in Mexico. It was a big surprise to the family. I play Eduardo Valseca, the son of a newspaper magnet. Everyone thought he must be loaded, but it was a large family and he didn’t inherit all that much. They asked for a ridiculous amount of ransom and the system there will only help you to a point. Over there it’s successful if you don’t get killed. But if you get wiped out financially, that’s your tough luck.
The hero of this story is Jayne Valseca (played by Teri Polo), the wife of Eduardo who perseveres, doesn’t lose hope, who is put through the ringer. We see that these crimes are not just against the individual kidnapee, but the entire family. The psychological and spiritual abuse of not knowing where your beloved family member is and how they’re doing and if they’re going to make it. This is the worst form of terrorism. The affects do not just go away at the return of the person and the Valseca family are brave to tour the world and speak out against this problem. Of course governments want to sweep this under the rug because they don’t want to scare away investors or tourist dollars.
This problem is ongoing and it’s become an industry. They are now kidnapping people from hot dog stands and selling them back to their families for one thousand dollars. It’s that ridiculous. It’s Mexico and it’s also elsewhere.
I remember Tommy Motolla‘s wife’s sister — the singer Thalia — her sister was kidnapped for ransom. They paid big money to get her back. Many have this romantic notion of negotiation — kidnappers and terrorists do not negotiate. And this is the only hope families have to get their loved ones back. There was a gentleman on Dateline they showed his story. He did everything he could and they still killed his daughter. I just can’t imagine!”
CBS: Not only is this an interesting role you’re playing, you’re also raising awareness.
EM: “Yes, that’s the key! If enough people say, ‘This has got to stop,’ and if we put enough effort into this, not just PR efforts, something might change. Something has to give! This is a great role! It’s really the woman’s heroics that we see, but this character is such a sweetheart. He was living his dream. They were living in paradise, raising their family on a ranch by gathering all of their resources, and built their home by hand. They put their heart and soul into their hacienda. Their children went to a school nearby that they helped found. And unfortunately human nature, jealousy, greed, and even survival took that away.
It’s easy to just ‘hate’ people. I spoke to the man I portrayed and I said, ‘I’m sure there were times that if you could have killed them with your bare hands, you would have for what they put your family through.’ I asked if there is any virtue in the kidnappers. I think it’s a combination of living in desperate times and having to resort to desperate measures. It’s a form of social cannibalism if you ask me.
The family that I helped portray can’t even return to their home! The system is so entrenched that the problem forms around it. There are people in high places who very well might be in on it. That’s the real problem! It’s corruption and it’s gotten to another level.
If we don’t listen to what this family went through, society won’t take this problem seriously. It’s something that people think is a problem of the ‘very rich.’ But the problem is that you don’t have to be very rich. You can be just getting by, doing relatively well.”
CBS: Did this role make you appreciate your freedom a little more?
EM: “Yes, but when you want to be free to help others on a mass scale, you run into invisible walls. I think that our society – as wonderful as it is – has other problems that we are not conditioned to recognize. So, Occupy Wall Street has been trying to do something about it. And as much as they have been mocked in the media for their lack of organization, I respect people for saying, ‘Enough is enough.’
Seriously, I believe the American people have been kidnapped by their own congressmen and bankers. You can take trillions of our dollars but not lend it back to us? What’s that? To me, it’s all related. Yes, we are free, but how free when our civil rights are disappearing by the day? So yes, I kiss the ground I walk on, but how long will that remain before the social problems that are going on in Europe reach here?
I appreciate the fact that these protesters are being non-violent because violence is what the system wants in order to justify abusive crackdowns. Everything is political if you look deep enough. We’re not conditioned and programmed to ask the deeper questions. It doesn’t seem there are informed populations.”
CBS: What’s up next for you?
EM: “I did a stint on Fairly Legal. And I just did a movie called Gun Hill Road where I play the father of a transgendered teen. It is an amazing independent film that, unfortunately, doesn’t have a big studio behind it so it won’t be seen as much. But the people who have seen this film walk away extremely grateful. It’s a beautiful humananizing portrait that doesn’t preach, just shows what happened to a family (because it’s based on a true story) because the father couldn’t deal with the emerging realities of his son’s sexuality.
I like these great roles because I’m so tired of all this stuff that is just about nothing! Our media sells fashion, our media sells this and that. I don’t mind a little commerce here and there, but when you lose the point you have to ask why. It just feels pointless. I like to be more of an enlightening factor than just an entertainer.
We are the most entertained and least informed society — Americans. It’s the truth. We have the best propaganda money can buy. When I go to another country and I don’t see American advertising, I kind of miss them! We are suffering a Stockholm Syndrome where we miss our porpaganda — we don’t even realize what it is but we miss it. It’s high production value. I always say, don’t just make dollars, make sense!”
We Have Your Husband premieres on Lifetime on Saturday, November 12th at 8pm ET/PT.