He brought dignity to a television genre that doesn't always get respect. He put a face on a disease that had too often been hidden in the shadows. He made "The Real World" more real than anyone ever thought possible — and then he was gone.
And so, it's no surprise that a new film is paying tribute to Pedro Zamora, some 15 years after we were first introduced to the gay Latino man dying of HIV.
"The story is simply about the life of Pedro Zamora," director Nick Oceano explained recently, discussing his film
"I remember growing up in Miami, watching 'The Real World' that season when he was on it, because it was a big thing in Miami — and that's basically when I first heard of him," explained Alex Loynaz ("Greek"), who plays Pedro in the film, which premieres April 1 at 8 p.m. ET on MTV. "I remember just how big of a figure he was and how important he was. What he was doing, especially at that time period [of] the early to mid-'90s when AIDS in particular wasn't really being spoken about ... I just remember seeing him and seeing how strong he was."
The movie takes a look back at 1994, a time when "The Real World" was laying down the groundwork for the reality genre that would eventually bless and haunt us with so many addictive hits ("Survivor") and misses ("The Swan"). It prevented a unique challenge for the filmmakers, who could literally watch a scene from the old TV show while trying to figure out how to give it a new-yet-faithful look for the film.
"It's really interesting to re-create a reality-TV show in a film, because they are very different styles," explained producer Wash Westmoreland. "Reality TV is this raw, slightly edgy [medium], but it's really happening. Film has more of a cinematic quality. And it's really a question of fusing the two in this project, so that when you're watching those 'Real World' scenes being re-created, they feel just as real as the original version with the original cast.
"I really do feel that Alex Loynaz is a bona fide discovery in the lead role; he's just astonishing," the producer added. "The spirit of Pedro, I think, is watching over us."
"He processed a lot; he was an observer," Loynaz remembered of Pedro. "He loved to speak, he was very outspoken, and loved to get his point across, which I do. And he was confrontational, which I am. ... That's what made him great at what he was doing, because he could reach out to all different groups, ages, races, and was able to speak to them and connect with them."
Asked if Zamora would approve of someone else playing him in a movie, Loynaz didn't hesitate. "He would love it! He would absolutely love it. I hope he would have cast me," the actor smiled. "He really loved life, and this would be just another way to reach out to more people."
Check out everything we've got on "Pedro: The Movie."
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