Carlos Ponce learned one main lesson while shooting the comedy Spy, out Friday: You don’t want to share a gym with Jason Statham.
“He’s an animal,” says Ponce, from Brimstone Wood Fire Grill restaurant in Pembroke Pines. “I mean, in person he’s more petite than he appears on screen, but he’s very fit, very agile. He’s got all those mixed martial arts moves.”
The two costars found themselves working out together at the same facility in Budapest, Hungary, getting in shape for their scenes in the Melissa McCarthy-helmed movie. Ponce plays Matthew Wright, a CIA operative who is a little “airheady.”
“A joke will go right over his head,” explains Ponce of his character, “but when it comes to the nitty gritty of espionage, he’s on point.”
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Overall, the experience was up there.
“I had so much fun; what a great group of people,” says the Puerto Rico native, who has lived in Miami since he was a teenager. “It just didn’t feel like work. Can you imagine waking up in the morning and saying this is your job?”
Helping ease matters was Spy’s writer/director Paul Feig, the kooky genius behind Bridesmaids and The Heat, which helped McCarthy make the transition from TV star (Mike & Molly) to bonafide leading lady.
“He’s a classy guy, excellent guy, who knows how to put a group together,” says Ponce of Feig. “I’d been a big fan of his as well as of Melissa’s. It was a no-brainer when I was offered the role.”
Part of the fun was getting to explore the European city during his time off.
“I’d never been there before so it was exciting,” says Ponce. “I was able to see the sights and drink in the culture.”
“Oh my God, I had the most delicious goulash I’d ever had in my life! I was out one day by myself, and it was just started to rain. I ducked into a little hole in the wall for shelter and ending up having the best meal.”
Of McCarthy, Ponce reports that the comedic actress is less manic in person than you’d think.
“She came to Budapest with her family, her kids and husband. We all usually had breakfast together, but she more or less kept to herself. If there is a crazy Melissa in there, I didn’t meet her.”
As for his current plans, season 1 of his ABC sitcom Cristela recently wrapped; season 2 is reportedly headed to Hulu.
The show being based in Los Angeles means a cross-coast commute.
“I fly to Miami on the weekends,” says Ponce, who spends his leisure time in South Florida bowling, camping and go-kart racing. “It’s a long haul, a whole day traveling, but worth it to spend time with my kids.”
The actor — whose girlfriend is local telenovela beauty Ximena Duque — is referring to his four school-age children with ex wife, photographer Veronica Rubio. She’s the younger sister of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Though Ponce — smartly — won’t talk politics, he would say this of the Republican presidential candidate: “His parents lived in my house for many years. He’s my kids’ uncle. I know where he comes from and that he’s a good guy and doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet.”