Goin' south

Working the message on Puerto Rico

[The Oval Office. Trump is at his desk. Chief of Staff MICK MULVANEY is seated on a couch, pretending to pay attention as HECTOR MARTINEZ, the actor we saw last December auditioning for Trump's anti-immigrant campaign commercial, working on his monologue. Standing nearby is his director, Academy Award™ nominee JAMES WOODS.]

MARTINEZ: [Thick Puerto Rican dialect] Yeah, I get mucho dinero from Señor Soros, but I don’t wanna just live good, I wanna live la vida loca. I want the money, the women, and the power! So you blanquitos send all your tax dollares to Puerto Rico or else I come over there an’ I cut your white t’roats. [Throws head back.] Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!

[Pause. WOODS claps his hands once.]

WOODS. Okay good. Good. That’s good energy. Always better to have too much than too little. But you know what I’d like to see, Hector? Maybe this guy — and you got this guy cold, Hector, no question, I mean he’s there — but let’s say maybe he’s also a little drunk, see? So it’s slower, less in his head, more like he’s tasting the words — [Does a hint of dialect] The money, the power, the women — [Drops dialect] Whatever the line is, but you get what I mean?

MARTINEZ: Sí.

WOODS: [Weaving in place] Okay, like this. Work with me. Let's do it. You’re baracho. Muy baracho. [MARTINEZ weaves.] Yeah, that’s it! You’re shitfaced but you’re still cholo, so you don’t give a shit, these people are all pussies. Okay, tell it to me, cholo! Tell it to me!

MARTINEZ: [A little heavier than before] Yeah, I get mucho dinero from Señor Soros, but I don’t wanna just live good, I wanna live la vida loca.

WOODS: Good adjustment! Keep going!

TRUMP: Excuse me, fellas.

[They stop, look at him.]

TRUMP: Hector, you sound different today than you did the last time we saw you. You got a cold?

MARTINEZ: Maybe it’s because the last time you saw me I was playing a Mexican, sir. For this I’m playing a Puerto Rican. It’s a different sound, less guttural.

WOODS: He’s nailing the accent, sir.

TRUMP: I know what Puerto Ricans sound like.

[TRUMP rises, walks over to them.]

TRUMP: My old man could spot ‘em, even the ones who took elocution lessons. Guys’d come in wearing a suit, smelling like Wildroot Cream Oil, trying to sound white. Say their parents came from Argentina. [Does a stiff voice] “Excuse me, Mister Trump, please, we would like to rent an apartment.” You know how you could tell? They were too polite. A real white man wouldn’t act like that. We’d send ‘em to Friedman. They had lots of blocks in the Lower East Side. Look at the prices now, it really paid off for them, once they got those people out. But we didn’t want that kind of business. [To MARTINEZ] No offense.

MARTINEZ: None taken, sir.

TRUMP: No, because obviously you’re a talented man, very cultured. You do these different kinds of people so well, I can’t tell what’s really you. Where are you from, Hector?

MARTINEZ: [In unaccented broadcast English] I’m from Syosset, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: You’re kidding me. Syosset! So what are you? Is Martinez your real name?

MARTINEZ: Yes, it’s my real name, sir. My great-grandfather came here from Navarre in Spain.

TRUMP: So you’re assimilated. Okay. Well, gentlemen, if I may, I’d like to offer my notes on this little act we have here. I think Edgar should go back to the Mexican accent.

[Pause.]

WOODS: Isn’t the ad about Puerto Rico, sir?

TRUMP: That’s right. But, you know I hate to tell you your business, James, but you get out of New York, nobody knows the difference between a Puerto Rican and a Mexican. But the people we’re talking to, they do know what Mexicans sound like. What was that word — guttural? That’s how they sound. And my people know how they feel about Mexicans. So just do it with the Mexican accent. That works for me.

[TRUMP walks back to his desk.]

WOODS: [To MARTINEZ] OK, a big adjustment. But you got this, kid, you —

MARTINEZ: I’m not gonna do it.

TRUMP: [Turns around] Excuse me?

MARTINEZ: [Shakes his head; as if to himself] I’m not gonna do it. I'm not gonna do this gig, guys. I'm gonna leave.

WOODS: Look, kid, you don't want to get a reputation —

MARTINEZ: [To WOODS] Reputation? I’ve been in SAG since I was 10. He’s a game show host. [To TRUMP] Don’t bother to call me a car. I know my way around. I’ll take the Metro. [Heads to the door] Adios, gabachos. Now that’s Mexican.

[MARTINEZ leaves. Pause.]

WOODS: Well, guess we have to get a new guy.

TRUMP: [Sits down] But you know the lines, James.

WOODS: [Snorts] Yeah, but I’m white, sir.

TRUMP: You were in Salvador.

WOODS: Still white! Come on, sir, I’m retired. Besides, you want a real —

TRUMP: A real what? [Pause] They don’t know a white guy in dark makeup from a Puerto Rican any more than they know a Puerto Rican from a Mexican. I always thought you looked a little ethnic myself.

[Pause. TRUMP folds his hands.]

WOODS: Please, sir. People will think —

TRUMP: What I tell them to think. Okay, from the top.

WOODS: [Pause; finally, with ridiculous accent] “Oye, gringos, I hear you don’ wanna give Puerto Rico your money! Whatsamatta, you prejudice? Yeah, I get mucho dinero from Señor Soros —”

TRUMP: Cut. Sorry, Jim, I’m gonna need the accent — what’s the word.

MULVANEY: [Thickly, obviously drunk] Más grueso.

TRUMP: What he said.

[CURTAIN.]