By Jane Wollman Rusoff
City & Shore Magazine
If Yul Vazquez’s face looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the self-described “workaholic” in supporting roles in nearly 100 TV series and feature films over the past 25 years, including The Infiltrator and Captain Phillips. One especially striking TV turn was as the manager of a 1959 Miami Beach hotel in the 2012 series, Magic City. More recently, he’s appeared on Midnight, Texas; Bloodline and Divorce.
The actor, 52, is now co-starring in Richard Linklater’s comedy-drama feature, Last Flag Flying, opening this month. He plays an army colonel opposite Steve Carell, a Navy vet whose son dies while serving in Iraq.
The prolific Vazquez also can be seen in the recent or upcoming Crown Heights, The Super and The Looming Tower, a Hulu movie about 9/11.
Early in his TV career, he did three Seinfeld episodes, including the famous Soup Nazi, in the recurring role of “Bob,” a comically tightly wound angry man who causes trouble for the hapless Kramer.
For his work on Broadway in The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Vazquez scored a Tony nod.
City & Shore talked with the Cuban-born New York City resident about his South Beach vacation home, purchased 13 years ago; and his most vivid memory of growing up in Miami Beach.
City & Shore: You were raised in Miami Beach, and you’ve had a home in South Beach, near Lincoln Road, for 13 years now. What do you like about living there?
Yul Vazquez: I love the life. It’s very easy – slower. You can walk everywhere, and I can ride my bicycle everywhere. I love the sun and being close to the water. I’m a Pisces!
C&S: What do you recall about growing up in Miami Beach?
YV: I was a pool boy in hotels earning money to buy a guitar. Later, it was so nutty when I did a TV show [Magic City] playing the manager of a Miami hotel: I’d been a hotel pool boy, then on TV I wound up owning the joint.
C&S: You’re Cuban, and you often play Hispanic characters. But you also take on many non-Hispanic roles too.
YV: It runs the gamut. I’ve played Egyptian guys. Knock on wood, I don’t seem to get terribly typecast. I’ve had a chance to play many characters – [often] guys that are, sort of, off-kilter.
C&S: You do a lot of authority figures. For example, Colonel Willits in the feature Last Flag Flying. What’s he about?
YV: I try to convince Steve Carell’s character, whose son has died in Iraq, that the right thing to do is bury him in Arlington National Cemetery. He doesn’t want to.
C&S: Who are you in Gringo, a movie about a pharmaceutical company involved in nefarious dealings that’s opening next March?
YV: A guy you think is one thing in the beginning; but by the end, you realize he’s something else. He’s the authority figure, as you’d put it.
C&S: You appeared in the same part in three of the most popular Seinfeld episodes: The Soup Nazi, The Sponge and The Puerto Rican Day. Please talk about that.
YV: I was ‘Bob, the intimidating gay guy,’ as the show has described him.
C&S: Did you audition for the role?
YV: Yes. I did an imitation of my mother – she was extremely intimidating! She was an actress in Cuba and then acted in Miami; but she also had to work as a waitress there to support two kids.
C&S: You moved to Miami from Cuba when you were 2 ½ years old. Ever been back?
YV: Three times, as an adult. And in a sort of abstract and intangible way, I automatically felt like I came from there.
C&S: Your wife, Linda Larkin, voiced Princess Jasmine for Walt Disney’s animated Aladdin before you two married 15 years ago.
YV: She did it for three Aladdin movies and a TV show. She still does that voice for games, dolls and other products. Linda was inducted into the Disney hall of fame: She’s a ‘Disney Legend’!