The great Cheech Marin is an actor, musician, comedian, writer, art collector and activist. In fact, there seeminly isn’t anything that the man can’t do. From his iconic work as part of comedy duo, Cheech & Chong through to roles in everything from Martin Scorsese’s After Hours to his work in the films of Robert Rodriguez, Marin has continued to have a strong impact on popular culture since the 1970s. One of Marin’s trademark roles was as Joe Dominguez in the popular television series, Nash Bridges.
Marin starred opposite Don Johnson in the show, which ran for six seasons and 122 episodes between 1996 and 2001. Over the years the series has retrained a loyal following and now, 20 years on, Marin and Johnson are back fighting criminals on the streets of San Francisco in a new Nash Bridgess movie event (read the review).
Movies In Focus caught-up with Cheech Marin to discuss Nash Bridges and talk about what it’s like returning to the role of Joe Dominquez after a 20 hiatus.
What’s it like coming back to Nash Bridges after 20 years?
You know, it is much easier than I thought it would be as soon as Don and I got in the ‘Cuda, it was like we never left. You know, that was just something that was easy to do and natural to me. So I felt like coming home.
And how did this reboot come about?
We have reruns of Nash Bridges happening right now every week. They play Nash Bridges episodes all day on Mondays. So people are familiar with the show , and they just wanted to see more of it, apparently.
To have it as a movie as well, is a little different from the series. So did that bring anything different to it?
It was mostly introducing a new kind of cast, our partners in the crime prevention area , the officers that are working with us. And all the other storylines and we had to get out, but it came out well.
It has a real energy to it. It was just pure entertainment, which is something that I think everybody kind of need now,
You know, I think so too. Don describes us as comfort food. Mashed potatoes and chicken.
It’s just fun from the very start. The film begins and you’re right in on the action and you’ve got this big, spectacular action sequence. So it begins with a bang, literally.
That’s how it begins – with a bang. That’s how it was with the original too.
Going back to the original, I know you and Don Johnson did Tin Cup before Nash Bridges. Is that where the two of you became friends?
We were friends before that. Because we were young actors in Hollywood, we kind of ran into each other. We had a group of girls that we knew that introduced both of us to each other. It was way before Nash Bridges and way before Miami Vice. Then I didn’t see him for a long time and the next thing I knew he was Sonny Crockett and the world’s biggest star.
Well, you were pretty successful yourself at that time as well.
I was successful. He was up and coming actor. You could see he had it in him that he was going to be known. And then Miami Vice came along and that changed everything. But I knew him from way back. And so for us to get together, when we found out that we were playing together in Tin Cup he valued and recognised that we were actors in the same type of mood.
It was easy for us to kind of, you know, it was like two musicians that knew all the same songs and what speed to play them at. How loud and how soft. We just kind of knew each others rhythms. So it was always surprising and easy.
When you were making the original series, how much input did you have into the character of Joe Dominguez?
Totally everything. The wardrobe was sort of there before I got there, but I liked it. I always wondered what colour of tie I was going to wear that day, you know. I could see what he wanted to do with the characters and the colourfulness of their dress and who they were – and that really made all the characters standout. The things that I liked, I never said anything and just did it and the things I didn’t like I never said anything and just did it anyway.
Just keep quiet about it!
Well, you know, that the thing about doing an hour show, it’s a tough gig and you don’t want any roadblocks or speed bumps along the way. You want the process to go smooth because it’s hard enough already. You know, you’re working 12 to 16 hours every single day, you know, and the easier or the smoother you can make that process go, the easier it is for everybody. Don and I had a very smooth relationship during the show, both on and off the camera.
Did the both of you relocate to San Francisco, where you shot it?
Yes we did. That was one of the biggest things, you know, because San Francisco is such a beautiful city and we shot every place you could possibly shoot in San Francisco. And we were beloved by the community, you know, and we were allowed to shoot in places that had not been shot in before.
That’s one of the things that I took away from this new movie. It looks beautiful. You really make me want to go to San Francisco.
Yeah. I want to go back to San Francisco. It was fun shooting. The pandemic was still going on and quarantine was just breaking, but it was like a semi ghost town in many, many instances. Like the cast and the crew was staying at the Fairmont Hotel, which is a very old historic hotel, at the top of Nob Hill and there was nobody in it but us. So you could wander around in your pyjamas 24 hours a day. I looked like a ghost with plaid pyjamas on.
This new movie is pitched as a Nash Bridges movie, but you leave things open at the end. Is it the dream to relaunch the series again?
I hope that to some degree it does relaunch the series. I’m looking forward to doing more episodes. That was kind of the idea. I think that they kind of knew that there was an audience out there, but they wanted to be sure. And that we are still young enough to do it – it 20 years later. And so I think that was proved. And so I think that the gestation is what do they want to do next?
You left me thirsty for more when it ended. I was like, I could happily watch another, you know, 10 of these in a row, you know, binge watch it.
I think 10 is a good number.
I think the days of TV series has got 20, 23 episodes have gone.
Yeah. I hope so. It’s tough.
It all seems to be shot on location as well. Do you shoot everything on real locations?
Right there in San Francisco. We’re all over the city all the time. Every day, you can spot us anywhere.
That must draw crowds. You must get a lot of people looking in the background.
It does happen. We’re out on the streets doing big stunts, all the time and so it’s hard to secure the area, but, you know, it’s very, very respectful and they want to see the show go on. So it was always hard and easy at the same time.
I can imagine that you guys are like magnets to the locals and tourists.
Yeah. When were shooting the new one, they kind of didn’t know we were there until there was a big explosion and ‘Oh, I guess they’re shooting it’.
One of the things about the original series was that Joe Dominguez always had these money-making schemes and in the new movie you’ve, got a new business, a new business concern.
I do. I own a dispensary. How about that?
Yes! Presumably that was your idea?
No, it was their idea. Go ahead and move with the times. What is Joe doing now that he’s not officially on the police force. But I have experience in that kind of life because my father was a policeman for 30 years, LAPD. So I saw what they had to put up with the particulars of their job and he was also Chicano. By definition, Chicanos, you have to have three jobs at all times. So that was always one of the aspects of the show.
And it kept things nicely up to date with the way that things have gone in California.
I hope so. You know, 39 states have some form of legalised marijuana and that boulder is rolling down a hill right now. You could stand in front of this but I wouldn’t recommend it, but that’s it.
Going back to the plot of thew new one – and talking about keeping things up to date. There are hints of Jeffrey Epstein woven into the plot as well. Is that something you guys were aware of as it was coming together?
I wasn’t until I saw the script and I was like, ‘oohh, okay’. We’re ripped-off the headlines. It was the same way with Nash Bridges originally, you know, we took stuff out of the headlines every day, so it’s nothing new for us.
It feels very fresh and contemporary. And one of the things about the new movie. Is the old guard versus he young cops coming up. What, what was it like playing, playing that?
Oh, it was easier. I didn’t have to do a lot of shooting. Just let the young guys go first.
What has the feedback been like on this new Nash Bridges?
They seem to love it a lot, which they’ve put a lot of money into the advertising of the show. And so I think they really liked it. And the question is the, what do they want to do next?
How many, how little, how, how much? I don’t know yet. We’re finding out. Well, I think the question was, are they capable of doing it? I don’t know many series that come back again after 20 years? And I think it was proof, you know, immediately that we could do it and portray those characters, honestly.
You didn’t see many different really. I mean, it was just back into it and it was just like sticking on an episode of Nash Bridges.
Yeah. I mean, for me it was, I mean, I experienced the same thing when I got back together with Tommy Chong after 20 years and we had been separated, I’d been doing stuff, separate stuff and he had been too and when we got back on stage together, it was like had taken a break for five minutes, not 20 years. And it was easy to do without any rehearsal whatsoever. And it was kind of the same thing with Don and I as soon as we got in the ‘Cuda. It was like, you know, this is in our DNA. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but that’s what it is.
It can only be good.
I guess that it can be good.
Just say, thank you so much for taking the time. I had a blast with the movie and I really hope it’s a success and there’s a new series.
Thank you very much. I hope it’s a success too – and so do my kids.
And maybe next year we’ll be laking again about the new series.
I have to come to Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland, I’m dying to go.
I think you’d love it You’ll have a great time. There are plenty of golf courses here as well.
Well, get that into your press tour contract for the series,
I’ll do that, first thing,
Thank you so much, Cheech.
No, my pleasure. You be good.