LOS ANGELES, May 27 (UPI) -- Jimmy Gonzales stars as Omar Venegas in the Netflix movie Blue Miracle, which is based on the true story of a group of boys at an orphanage in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, who enter a fishing tournament in 2014 to get out of debt.
Venegas still runs his orphanage, but Gonzales was not able to meet him. Gonzales said he respected the privacy of the orphanage, but was able to research Venegas enough to portray his character.
"What I did see of Omar was his spirit," Gonzales said. "He's got this beautiful spirit that just emanates out of him, and it's obvious in the way he just is as a person."
Gonzales met with Blue Miracle writer/director Julio Quintana and producer Javier Chapa while filming Mayans M.C. Gonzales played Canche, the president of the Mayans Motorcycle Club Yuma chapter and filmed Blue Miracle after wrapping the show's third season.
Portraying the fishing competition meant filming much of the movie on a boat. Gonzales said he filmed most of the scenes in a water tank in a Dominican Republic studio, but the cast and crew spent one full day filming in the open ocean.
"In between sets and setups, people would jump in and out of the boat," Gonzales said. "Everything we did was scheduled around the kids, the kids' safety and their school."
In the contest, whoever can catch the biggest marlin wins a cash prize. Dennis Quaid plays Wade, the captain who reluctantly takes Omar and the orphans fishing.
Gonzales said that in between takes, the crew set up tents to shield the cast from temperatures in the mid 90s.
"The kids specifically were shepherded into a cooling area where they could relax and recharge, which wasn't easy," Gonzales said. "It was absolutely critical."
Blue Miracle is Gonzales' first leading role in a feature film. He played police officers in both Happy Death Day movies and Taken 3.
Gonzales starred in two TV series in 2016 --Containment and Game of Silence -- and played Gil Sandoval on two seasons of Lodge 49 prior to Mayans.
As the star of Blue Miracle, Omar gets his chance to reel in a marlin during the contest. There was not an actual marlin on the other end of his fishing line when Gonzales filmed that scene.
Gonzales said the crew set up a rig so crew members could pull against him to simulate the marlin trying to get away.
"They just knew the rhythms of what kind of movements the fish would make," Gonzales said.
Since he was not a professional fisherman, and did not have time to train at sea, Gonzales was concerned about making the scene look realistic.
"That fight between a person and a big fish like that is not easy," Gonzales said. "People go hours trying to reel those fish in."
Blue Miracle premieres Thursday on Netflix.