Gabriel Luna on Netflix’s FUBAR, Reuniting with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Warning: This post contains light spoilers for Netflix’s FUBAR.

THE LAST TIME Men’s Health spoke to Gabriel Luna, he was a couple months away from debuting as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s adversary in 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate. He wasn’t shy about his excitement to work with a childhood hero, noting that he and his brother grew up watching classic Schwarzenegger films “until the tape popped.” Four years later, the actor’s star power has skyrocketed after starring alongside Pedro Pascal in HBO’s The Last of Us. Now, he’s gearing up for another anticipated release on May 25—Netflix’s eight-episode spy dramedy FUBARwhere he’ll once again share the screen with America’s favorite Governator.

“Since working together on Terminator, we’ve developed a very strong bond,” Luna, 40, says of Schwarzenegger. “I’m at his birthday party and Christmas party every year. We’ll go and train maybe once or twice a month. His family is like family to me.”

FUBAR, then, was less of a reunion and more of an extension of the pair’s IRL relationship. Schwarzenegger stars as Luke Brunner, an undercover CIA operative on the verge of retirement. Luna plays Boro, a Guyanese military leader who’s aware of Brunner’s false identity, Finn Hoss, but doesn’t realize Brunner was behind his father’s murder 25 years earlier.

Boro views Brunner as a role model, while Brunner views Boro as an enemy. This layered relationship allowed FUBAR creator Nick Santora and executive producer Adam Higgs to imbue both characters with more depth than one might expect from a typical hero-versus-villain scenario, and the show comes out better—and fresher—for it. Meanwhile, off-camera, Schwarzenneger and Luna swapped their characters’ underlying tension for schnitzel lunches, chess, and FaceTime dates with Sylvester Stallone.

“At one point, Sly was like, ‘Maybe if these shows go well, we can do them back in LA, sleep in our own beds,’” Luna recalls. At the time, Stallone was filming Tulsa King in Oklahoma while Luna and Schwarzenneger were filming FUBAR in Toronto. “And then Arnold takes that opportunity to say, ‘Actually, Toronto is fantastic. I’m really enjoying myself here. It’s beautiful in the summer.’ It was just another example of Arnold coming out on top.”

Ahead of FUBAR‘s premiere, Men’s Health chatted with Luna about bringing his character to life, his friendship with a living legend, Latino representation in Hollywood, and what he’s most excited about for season 2 of The Last of Us.

Men’s Health: In our 2019 interview, you told us of Arnold, “That man’s desire to be first is probably greater than anyone I’ve ever met.” Do you still feel that way?

Gabriel Luna: Absolutely—it hasn’t changed. He’s the ultimate competitor, but he’s also gracious in victory and only sees failure as an opportunity to try again. He’s the greatest, man. Arnold is número uno.

How did you physically prepare for your role in FUBAR?

I could’ve easily just fallen back into eating whatever I wanted, but you’re working with Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s no way I was going to let him see me out of shape. He had given me the building blocks. He gave me all the information I needed to continue in my own fitness journey, my own health, and to make it habitual like brushing your teeth in the morning. It has been [like this] since I met him in 2018.

[That said], it was just my normal splits: Five days a week, push day, pull day, legs, arms, and then trying to mix it up. You always want to trick your body and you always want to give it exciting new things to do.

In FUBAR’s first episode, your character says he still does the workouts Arnold’s character taught him. It’s awesome that the same thing happened in real life.

Totally. Everything [Arnold] taught me—to go slow on the negative so your muscles are working on the way down from a curl, for instance—was training with intention and visualizing the muscle groups you’re working. [Arnold] gave me all the tools and it translated perfectly into our roles.

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Emotionally speaking, how do you prepare to play a character meant to be perceived as the bad guy?

You love the character; you empathize. You give him all the reasons why [he became this way] and you try to operate from that place. With this script, it was already there. [The writers] drew a lot on [Arnold and I’s] actual relationship. I’m somewhat the surrogate son—both Monica [Barbaro]’s character and my character are kind of the sons Luke wants. They most closely embody who he is. That was always the backbone of Boro for me…how much he loves Finn Hoss—or Finn in his mind and Luke Brunner in reality—and how awful it was for him to rip my heart out as he does. Really, you want to play them like a real person who has emotional reasons for doing what they do.

As a viewer, it felt like the show made a clear effort not to paint Boro as another stereotypical Latin villain.

I am hyper-aware of that. I always joke that I only play bad guys for Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you’re going to be a bad guy, have the protagonist be the greatest action hero of all time. It was very important for me to play Boro with sophistication. He’s a highly-educated person, a skillful communicator, a very shrewd planner, and a leader. Even though he leads through violence and a fear-based approach, really it’s all business. He’s a businessman trying to make his father proud.

There were a lot of little tweaks and colorful moments I requested. I didn’t want Boro to be some two-dimensional, mustache-twirling bad guy. There’s a lot of specificity that’s required to give a character emotional depth. I was so thankful that [Nick] Santora was as open as he was. Even our costume designer…they originally had a more traditional, cliché villain look for him, almost like a poor man’s Pablo Escobar. I was like, “No, that’s not this guy. He’s a worldly man of taste, so it’s important that comes across.” Everyone, once again, was extremely collaborative.

What was the most challenging part of working on FUBAR?

The impulse to do everything when it comes to the action, and having to realize I’m the boss and I have minions to do these things. To have to delegate that stuff, all the gun play, the combat, the stuff I’m used to, it was secondary for me in this case. [With] Boro, his weapon is his intellect and his planning, so it was kind of challenging to see everyone else having all the fun [laughs]—especially Fortune [Feimster] just being amazing and being the action hero that she is.

We had Billy Lucas, who’s one of Arnold’s stuntmen and our stunt coordinator, and Jean-Francois Lachapelle, who was our Canadian fight coordinator. They were putting together some really phenomenal set pieces, and I was over there just kind of attached at the hip, living vicariously through everyone else. I remember Travis [Van Winkle] had this great fight scene and I was like, damn, I wish I was in there. It took a long time to shoot. I was like, “Travis, quit playing with your food. Finish this guy off.”

fubar l to r gabriel luna as boro polonia, arnold schwarzenegger as luke brunner in episode 101 of fubar cr christos kalohoridisnetflix © 2023

Luna and Schwarzenegger in FUBAR.


Pausing from FUBAR for a moment, I have to ask…what are you most excited about for season 2 of The Last of Us?

Oh my god, I’m excited about everything. Craig Mazin sent me a bible-long text…it might be one of the longest texts I’ve ever gotten. Just through the words on the screen of my phone, I could feel his excitement. Everything he’s describing to me is just spectacular, so I can’t wait to make it all real. We set a high bar and we have every intention of exceeding it next time.

You’ve been in this industry for so long. How do you feel Latino representation in Hollywood has changed since you first started acting?

There’s certainly more of us involved and a lot more is being made as well. Proportionally, [though], I don’t really feel it’s changed as significantly as we may have hoped. It’s important that we lock arms, that we’re unified, and we make sure that as beautiful and diverse as our cultures are, we can’t let those subtle differences in our music or food be the crux by which we become rivals. It’s important that we support each other’s projects fully and completely, and sing from the mountaintops when someone else is doing something great.

I [also] think it’s important that we’re not otherized. We’re as much a part of the American experience as anything else. We see it in Andor with Diego Luna, with Pedro [Pascal] in The Mandalorian, Pedro and myself in The Last of Us, Jenna Ortega in Wednesday, Ana de Armas in Ghosted. These are some of the best shows on television and on any streaming network. That’s proof that it not only works, but it’s some of the best stuff there is.

Right, just let us happen to be Latino while playing the best roles.

Exactly. I had a conversation with Craig while we were doing The Last of Us. At one point he asked, “Do we add a bit of a Spanish-speaking element?” I was like, “You know, I don’t think it’s necessary.” Personally, I’m not fluent myself, but that’s also true to my experience. It’s true to a lot of Mexican-American and Latino Americans’ experiences. I tried to say in so many words that the fact that I’m on screen as a Latino is enough. I don’t have to make it make sense for the audience by speaking Spanish. The Spanish language is beautiful, but if it’s not true to the character, it shouldn’t be a requirement simply to make sense of why there’s a Latino on the screen.

We’ve seen that inauthentic incorporation of Spanish backfire, too. You went into this a little already, but who are some Latinos in the industry you admire?

I’ve always loved John Leguizamo. I’ve gotten to meet him a few times and he’s always been really supportive. Robert Rodriguez, who I worked with on Matador. Pedro, of course. And Diego [Luna], I mean, just the fact that someone with my name was doing these things. He’s only a few years older than me, but he came to prominence a lot earlier than I did and was somebody I greatly admired and saw as one of the door-openers.

And you’re opening those doors for other people as well, which is the dream. Finally, how are you celebrating the release of FUBAR?

We’re having a big party. As far as I know, it’s still scheduled [laughs]. Maybe we’ll go over to Arnold’s and watch some episodes together and feed his donkey the oatmeal cookies that [Arnold’s girlfriend] Heather makes for them. She makes them with no sugar to feed to the mini horse and donkey, and now their pig. He just added another animal to his menagerie, a pig named Fast.

FUBAR drops on Netflix May 25, 2023.

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Tess Garcia is a Brooklyn-based journalist. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue, Bustle, and more.

This article was originally posted here.

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