Published: Saturday, 04 November 2023 20:46 | Written by Jamie Ruby
In the film At the Gates, immigration officers arrive at home of the affluent Barris family, searching for their housekeeper (Vanessa Benavente) and her son (Ezekiel Pacheco) who are living in the United States illegally from El Salvador. Peter (Noah Wyle) and Marianne Barris (Miranda Otto) convince them to hide in their basement closet, where they live and evade the officers. As the days go by and the threat closes in, the two families begin to question each other’s true intentions as tension mounts. The film also stars Sadie Stanley as Peter and Marianne’s daughter, Lauren.
Recently, Wyle and Pacheco spoke with SciFi Vision about filming the project.
Watch the interview and read the full transcript below.
***At the Gates is a Sag-Aftra Interim Agreement Project***
SCIFI VISION:To start out, can you both talk about what it was that attracted you to [the film]?
NOAH WYLE:You know, the script, the script script. The script came in, and it was one of those - I knew Augustus’s father socially. So, Armyan Bernstein, old time legendary producer, sent the script to my agent, and I looked at it, but it was Army’s kid’s script, how good could it be? Then I read it, with that eye, and then just kept turning pages going, “Wow, wow, this is holding a really interesting tone. This is walking a very interesting line. This is dealing with some very interesting subject matter.” I got to the end and just thought, “I want to be in this.” I met with Augustus, and his sophistication and filmic knowledge came through within the first fifteen minutes; I felt very comfortable to give him my time, my trust, the best I had, and I tried really hard.
SCIFI VISION:What about you?
EZEKIEL PACHECO:I got the audition from my agent. I was working at Amazon at the time. So, I read the script, and I was like, “I'm gonna get this. This is meant for me.” The script is amazing, and Augie just did a beautiful job of writing this for someone like me. So, just throughout the audition process, I was getting closer and closer. The week I got it, I was dropping off a package, got the part [and] was celebrating, super excited, and I got straight to work, because this is my moment to show the world that I'm a leading man in Hollywood. So, I was very grateful for the part.
SCIFI VISION:Hopefully you'll have more to come. So, what parts of the character, for both of you, did you have the easiest time and the hardest time connecting with?
NOAH WYLE:Well, I've got teenage children; I understand what it's like to sort of try to put a brave face on to your family while you're struggling with things inside that you don't necessarily feel as appropriate to share with anybody else. When you're the emotional sort of rock of a group of people, it's really not comfortable to admit vulnerability or when you're scared. So, I really felt for the characters plight. I felt for a guy who really didn't feel he had any kind of support group that he could turn to, friends, family, otherwise, felt very alone with a lot of pressure on him to also put on a face of competency and confidence. I just saw him as a bit of a trapped individual, and had a lot of empathy for him.
EZEKIEL PACHECO:I mean, the easiest part was connecting to the fact that I've been through a lot of adversity in my life, and Nico as well. He's an immigrant. I'm an immigrant. He's under DACA. I'm under DACA. I help my parents; he helps his mom. That was very easy for me. The hardest part was probably - I mean, the hardest part was - it was honestly smooth sailing. The set was amazing. Augie was amazing. The cast was amazing. I mean, towards the later half, you see very heavy scenes between the mom and the son. I wouldn't say they were hard, but I just tried to bring as much truth to them as possible, and I hope that was reflected in the film.
NOAH WYLE:Just to echo that it's very rare where you meet a young actor who's handling his first leading role in the film with the same level of professionalism, sophistication, and talent this young guy just did. I was incredibly impressed by him and wanted to do the bulk of my interviews with him, so I could say on camera what a joy it was to watch him work and how much I look forward to watching his career unfold.
EZEKIEL PACHECO:Thank you, Noah. My man.
SCIFI VISION: Let me ask you then; Ezekiel I’ll ask you this. What have you learned the most having done this from working with everybody, since you haven't really done it before? What have you learned about yourself or just about the process that kind of stuck with you?
EZEKIEL PACHECO:I've been envisioning this for so long now, and when I got there, I wasn't really surprised but very grateful and thankful to God that he gave me this opportunity to be able to work with a great actor like Noah, Miranda, Vanessa, Sadie, you know, to be able to learn from these people, even little Jack; he was great too - just being grateful for all that and being able to showcase to the world my talent. Hopefully more movies will come soon, and I’m just very grateful, because now Noah’s like an uncle. I’m able to like learn from him anything I need. Even if it’s an audition, I'll ask him. He’ll help me out, any advice. I mean, he'll help me out. He's been around this industry for a long time. So, being able to learn from them - I'd stick around when I was told to go home after my scenes were done. I'd stick around and watch him and Miranda, because I want to learn. I'm very hungry in this game. So, I want to learn from the best, and he's one of the best.
NOAH WYLE:Neo Noah.
EZEKIEL PACHECO:That’s right.
SCIFI VISION: So, let me ask you Noah, since you've obviously done this a lot before, is it different, having such a small cast? Does that let you kind of, I guess, develop the character easier and be able to kind of change things and just do things the way you want easier?
NOAH WYLE: You never really know what you're going to encounter when you go into a job. You don't know what the environment is going to be like, or what everybody's priorities are going to be. I was just overjoyed to see that the priorities were what they were, which is Augustus really wanted to put a lot of time dedicated to rehearsal to really flush out these relationships, build the histories, so that you really felt that mother and son were mother and son, and you really feel like husband and wife were husband and wife. I really appreciated the sort of ensemble nature of it, where we were all kind of together in this house, and I think that comes with being a smaller budget and production. Everybody was sort of throwing in to be part of the movie. The sense was, this is all about putting it up on the screen more than it is about any individual's contributions or credit, which is why, subsequently, I want to give all the credit to the Ezekiel and to Augustus, because they really did carry this project all the way through on their shoulders and pulled it off beautifully.
SCIFI VISION:You've talked a lot a lot about work with Ezekiel. Can you talk about working with Miranda and with Vanessa a little bit?
NOAH WYLE:Yeah, Miranda is just like one of the greatest tennis players I've ever played with, you know, where I hit the ball, and she hit it back twice as hard. So, I just came to work ready to be on my back your feet. And she's so brave. There's that one close up at the end. I don't want to - I think it doesn't give anything away to say, you see this character's plight having to wrestle with a very difficult decision, and the camera could not be closer, and she could not say more in that closeup. You read every thought she has, and she barely moves a muscle. To me, that's technique at the highest level. That's what we all aspire to, is to be able to paint with that fine of a brush. So, watching her work and getting to work with her was just a joy.
SCIFI VISION: Ezekiel, do you have a favorite scene that you can talk about quickly, without spoiling too much?
EZEKIEL PACHECO: Yeah, the mom and son scene towards the later half of the film. It's a very heartfelt scene, and a lot of kids have gone through that conversation with their parents if they're blessed enough to have them. I hope that a lot of people see that, and they can see themselves in that part.
SCIFI VISION: What about you Noah?
NOAH WYLE: Well, it's a weird little scene, but there's this one little confessional monologue that Peter has in his office, where he's basically talking to himself, which, to me, is sort of very rare, where you get one moment, a private moment, where the character basically says everything that he's feeling subtextually, in one grand swell. So, I liked that. I liked the specificity of it. I liked the randomness of it, and I thought it was a bold choice to do.