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Savannah Film Festival: Refugio dances on the edge

Refugio screens Wed. Oct. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at the SCAD Museum of Art. Sherk and Director Demian Bichir will attend the Q&A.

SHOT on location in New Orleans, Refugio is a sexy love story between a hot-blooded young man and an exotic dancer.

Interested? I thought so. Let’s proceed:

The first directorial feature from crossover Mexican star Demian Bichir, nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for A Better Life, this film also stars Eva Longoria and Bichir’s real-life partner Stefanie Sherk.

We spoke to Stefanie last week.

Tell us about this movie.

It’s about a very different, very unique young man who is one of these people who just shoots for the stars in trying to find ultimate love. He just never gives up.

I play a dancer named Kay. She’s one of these girls who has lost her way. She wanted to be a professional dancer, but ended up a stripper. That’s sort of her place to shine.

She meets Demian’s character and he helps her believe in herself again.

You are in this film with Eva Longoria.

Yes, Jose (Jose Angel Bichir, Demian’s nephew) plays another version of Demian’s character. In those scenes his love interest is played by Eva Longoria. She’s more experienced than he is and that sort of sets the stage for what’s to come.

People on a movie set don’t always work together because of how the scenes are filmed. Did you get much time on set with Eva?

We didn’t have any scenes together, but she’s been friends with Demian for a long time, and we became friends too. She is just the most impressive and positive strong woman. She’s one of these people who is always looking to help those around her. She stays very busy! She was nice enough to invite me on her show Telenovela. She’s an incredible woman and I can only aspire to how amazing she is.

So here’s the big question: You and Demian are partners in real life as well. How in the world does that work? He’s literally your boss as director, he’s your love interest in the film, and your love interest off set.

We knew how to navigate, and separate the two lives. I did pretty well considering the pressure I put on myself to do a job worth of the role. I’m grateful to be able to work with such amazing people, so I can’t take anything personally. I knew this was happening several years ago, so I had time to prepare. The biggest stress was the pressure I put on myself to do the best possible job.

He said from the beginning that, “I will not make this movie without her in this role.” He is a man of integrity, which is more than you can say for a lot of people in L.A. He said from the beginning that I would be perfect in this role, and he stuck to it.

Other than the pressure you put on yourself, what were the most challenging things about this particular role and script for you?

Kay goes through a lot of emotional stages that are very cathartic. Of course the biggest thing to deal with was having to play an exotic dancer. There’s nowhere to hide anything!

How do you really prepare for that?

The thing is, in LA that’s a really trendy workout class. You don’t have to go far to find one.

I did spend a week training with a professional pole dancer. She actually competes at it, she’s in amazing shape! I worked with her and learned the main two routines in the film over the course of a week.

My most nervous moment making the movie was that first shoot of a dancing scene. There was no nudity in it, but I was really trembling.

Tell us the truth: Did you do a couple of shots before doing that scene to loosen up?

No, it’s a pretty complicated routine with lots of really athletic moves. I don’t think that would have worked out very well!