The star of a film about California’s Chicano culture has said it was “natural and real” to have white actor Shia LaBeouf also appear in the movie.
Bobby Soto said LaBeouf’s character in the David Ayer film The Tax Collector mimics his own experiences of growing up on the west side of Los Angeles.
The duo play two enforcers for a crime lord who run into trouble when an old rival reappears in the gritty crime thriller.
Ayer has previously defended his decision to cast LaBeouf in the film, saying the actor is “not taking anyone’s work away” because he’s portraying a “whiteboy who grew up in the hood.”
Soto told the PA news agency: “It was just natural for someone that is a white boy growing up in west Los Angeles to become someone like that character that you see portrayed in the film, which is something that I grew up around.
“I have cousins that are German-Italian and they grew up in west Los Angeles and south Los Angeles just like myself and they got into a lot of heavy things themselves.
“You see them, they’ve got big ears, big nose, big jaws, big guys, and they have green eyes or blue eyes and they are white so it was nothing to discuss, it was more like ‘Sure that is part of life, part of this kind of life.’
“It wasn’t ever a topic of discussion but it was something that we always knew was natural and real.”
Soto said he and Ayer met by chance in a mixed martial arts studio and started developing the film together after discovering they grew up in the same neighbourhood.
He said: “I’m Chicano and then we have Shia who is in the film as well with us and it’s kind of like the relationship that David and I have, there were all these mirrors.”
He added: “We rehearsed for about three months, Shia and I moved into a house together, we really got to know each other and we became really good friends and even to this day – him and I speak every day. We opened up a theatre company in Los Angeles and we have our first play this month.”
The Tax Collector is out now for digital download.