Stars of McFarland USA in Miami


Set in 1987 and starring Kevin Costner, who plays coach Jim White, Disney’s McFarland, USA tells the story of a group of "pickers" (crop workers) in Bakersfield, California, who go on to become state cross-country champions thus bringing hope to their small, agrarian, dust-bowl of a town.

Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) and Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran) were in Miami recently to talk about toils of training for the movie, and the Latino identity in this country.

Pratts, who plays Thomas, a talented leader and broken spirited teen looking for purpose, says before the movie he was in good shape but afterwards that he will never look at hills the same way. In order to shoot certain scenes, the seven actors needed to be ready for different running trails throughout the film.

“Weeks before we started shooting, all we did was train,” Pratts says.

Aside from the conditioning, Duran says the movie tells an untold story of the perseverance found in the Latino community. Moreover, the story hits even closer to home because a few of the actors casted for the movie were McFarland natives. McFarland, USA was their big screen debut.

Juanes was also doing promotion for the flick, which opens Friday. The Latin-rock star performed an original song called Juntos (Together) for the soundtrack.

The Miami-based performing artist said he was touched by the storyline and found it inspiring.

He wasn’t sure what he would do on opening day yet but was interested in possibly attending a few events at the SoBe Wine & Food Fest. Some of the avid foodie’s favorite local stops are Big Pink, Cantina La Veinte, Bardot and SushiSamba. “I have very different tastes,” Juanes said.


Staff writer Madeleine Marr contributed to this report.