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Joey Morgan gets big break in Spanish-language film ‘Compadres’

Northwest suburban native Joey Morgan, in a scene from his new film, "Compadres." | Pantelion Films

Young actor Joey Morgan, who grew up in the Schaumburg, Elgin and Streamwood areas, laughed when asked about his Spanish language skills — both before and after he shot “Compadres” (opening Friday).

“I wish my Spanish was better than it even is. But before I went into ‘Compadres’ I didn’t know a lick of Spanish,” said the Streamwood High School graduate.

That wasn’t really an issue, given his character of Vic — a computer whiz and hacker — is one of the few people in the film who are non-Spanish-speaking North Americans. “My lack of Spanish is actually important to the overall story,” added Morgan, whose character is inadvertently pulled into the violent world of the Mexican drug cartels.

Yet, after being exposed to a lot of “Compadres” actors and actresses whose first language is Spanish, Morgan joked, “Now I can sort of fake it. … I know a number of verbs and adjectives and specific words, but I have a long way to go. As for Spanish sentence structure — I’m trying to get better at that.”

Morgan’s cousin, Trevor Morgan (“The Sixth Sense,” “The Patriot,” “Jurassic Park III” and a lot of TV projects), has been an actor for a number of years. “When he got a bit older, his mother came back to Illinois and started Management By Morgan, to focus on developing young acting talent in this area.”

After working at the company for a couple of years right out of high school, Joey Morgan got his first big break when he was cast in “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” which was released by Paramount Pictures last year.

Joey Morgan in "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse." | Paramount Pictures

Joey Morgan in “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” | Paramount Pictures

He recognizes this new film — “Compadres” — provides him with a unique opportunity to expand his horizons. Morgan loved working with Mexican director Enrique Begne and his main co-star Omar Chaparro, who plays an ethical Mexican police detective framed by a vicious drug lord.

According to Morgan, Begne was “very specific, he knew what he wanted and he was a big help to a young actor like me — especially since this was only my second feature film.”

Chaparro took the northwest suburban native under his wing and “taught me so much. Omar was constantly pushing me to be better and do better. He wanted us to be a great team, since that was so central to the film’s story. … We really were an odd couple who come to become great pals.

“Plus Omar had a lot of input on the script, so we got to improv a lot. We would come up with new jokes anytime we could, to make it all more fun and add another level of realism to the story.”

Along with Chaparro, Morgan loved getting to know two well-known American actors — Eric Roberts and Kevin Pollak — who play smaller roles in the movie. “Those guys were fantastic and it was great hearing all of their stories about the business. Listen, it’s not often that you see an action movie done on a $3 million budget! But everyone wanted to be part of it, because it was such a great script.”

Since Morgan’s Vic is such a computer-savvy, hacker, it seemed fair to ask about his skills in that area in real life.

“Oh no! All that involved a little bit of acting,” said Morgan with a chuckle. “I wouldn’t know how to mess with anyone’s bank account or things like that. … I practiced a lot typing very fast on the keyboard, especially working a lot on typing multiple sentences. It seemed like I did that like a thousand times. But I needed to type very quickly and without any effort — just the way Vic would have.

“I think it comes off as believable in the film.”