Inside The HERO Winter Annual 2022
On reading the script for Elegance Bratton’s deeply poignant semi-autobiographical film, The Inspection, actor Aaron Dominguez was so moved he did something he’d never done before. He DM’d Bratton: “I just wanted to tell you I’ve been moved to my core by your script and by your story.” Such was the emotion behind the text, it felt necessary to reach out with praise, in the hope he could play a part in bringing this story to life – which serendipitously happened months later. The film tells of Ellis French (played by Jeremy Pope and inspired by Bratton’s first-hand experience), a young gay Black man targeted for his sexuality while training to be a Marine during the war on terror, and simultaneously from his mother at home.
US actor and playwright Raúl Castillo had an equally visceral reaction when reading his part as a drill sergeant and sympathetic superior. In terms of shared experiences, for Dominguez and Castillo this was as powerful as they come; it not only tested their acting, but also their resilience and attitude, thanks to Octaya Jones, the real-life drill instructor who put them through their paces – and then some.
Raúl Castillo: Dude, where are you?!
Aaron Dominguez: Brother I’m currently in LA, unfortunately. I say that because I wish I was already in New York to see your play.
RC: The production you’re on now is shooting in LA?
AD: Yes, it’s going to shoot here for the next month-and-a-half I believe. But I just got approved for New York so I’ll see you in a few weeks. How are you, bro? How’s your play?
RC: American (Tele)visions opened last night at New York Theatre Workshop, it was beautiful.
AD: Congrats! [claps]
RC: Thank you man, I haven’t done a play in eight years so it’s wacky to be back on stage. The first preview was incredibly terrifying, it was an out-of-body experience. We got through it, but I was terrified and, after that, it was just like riding a bike. You’ve done stage before, right?
AD: Yeah man, that first night is like an out-of-body experience for me too. [laughs] It’s the beauty and terror in it all, you’re excited to be there but also nervous as hell. No matter the preparation, so much of it is in your control but so much of it is also out of your control. Especially how it’s being received and perceived by the audience, theatre is such a receptive thing.
RC: You came up doing theatre with your family, didn’t you?
AD: Yes, so I feel like I can say I understand where you’re coming from to an extent. Obviously, this is a unique experience in and of itself and it’s New York, so share with me a little bit more about how it’s all been.
RC: I got an offer for this play, I read it and it’s a beautiful script. It’s interesting because I just watched The Inspection the other night as they screened it here in New York for the first time, and my character in this play is a lot like Gabi’s [Union] character in our film, if Ellis [Jeremy Pope’s character in The Inspection] had died and the parent had all these regrets. It’s interesting how many related themes there are in the play and the movie, but when it came across my desk I was thinking about passing because the character reminded me of a character I played before in We The Animals who was a domineering father of a queer boy. So I was going to pass on it but my theatre agent was like, “Just meet with the creative team and take it from there.” Rúben Polendo is the director and Victor I. Cazares is the playwright, I met with them and after that meeting, I was like, “I have to do this play.” They are both from the Texas-Mexico border and I’m from McAllen, it was just a no-brainer after I met with them. I can bring value to it and it brings great value to me. Speaking of The Inspection, talk to me about your process. How did it come your way?
AD: It’s kind of crazy to go back to that, the first audition I got was for the character you play. It was while I was shooting the first season of Only Murders [in the Building] in New York, I remember when I got the audition I was a little bit nervous because it was a big opportunity. But sometimes schedules are hectic, it was early mornings and long nights so I wasn’t sure how I was going to get the time to devote my attention to it. I think I asked for an extension and did the audition but it wasn’t until the call-back I remember telling myself, “Man, I really want to read this script.” When I read the script I was so moved by it. I remember calling up my team and being like, “Listen I know the way this goes, I’m not going to be able to play this guy because they’re looking for an older guy, he’s a drill sergeant, he’s a little higher up and I don’t really fit that in film or TV yet. However, find me another fucking job on this movie!” A few weeks go by and I don’t hear anything but I remember going back to the original email and seeing there were other role breakdowns on there, I saw Castro and I was like, “There’s another Latino on here!” [both laugh] I just wanted the read. They were early in the process and only casting the first few leads so they were looking for you, Jeremy [Pope], Gabrielle [Union] and maybe Bokeem’s [Woodbine] character. It was going to be weeks or months before they started casting those roles, so I ignored the do’s and don’ts of Hollywood, I go on Instagram and I DM Elegance [Bratton]. I never do that because you and I are one and the same, and we’re not that guy. [both laugh] I show face when I have to, I’m just very to myself, respectful, humble, I don’t ask for anything I’m not owed but I remember being fixated on the fact I wanted to be part of telling this story. I remember DM’ing Elegance and I kept it strictly about the script, I was like, “Hey man, I just wanted to tell you I’ve been moved to my core by your script and your story. Thank you for your art, and thank you for sharing your experience with everyone. I would love to work with you someday.” It was about having the will, the drive and the balls to share such a story because that’s not an easy thing to do. He writes me back, “Oh my god thank you so much for the message,” we start communicating but nothing came of that because I didn’t say, “Hey man, I’m an actor! I would love to play a role in your movie!” I just expressed my love for the script and the film. Anyway, it comes back around and I do it, I get the callback, Elegance and I start talking about how we’d spoken months before and I get the job. I was obviously thrilled, I got it the day before my birthday last year, it was June 23rd.
AD: I was thrilled man, because not only has it been a dream of mine to work on an A24 film, but this type of film. It’s great to do all the other types of fun movies, to go off and do comedy, action, thrillers, but I will always be linked to things that leave the audience thinking. Things that are linked to the heart and the human experience. It’s a powerful [project]. What was it like for you?
“…not only has it been a dream of mine to work on an A24 film, but this type of film.”
RC: First of all I want to say I remember we were gearing up to go to Jackson, Mississippi where we shot the film and my friend JoAnne Yarrow who is an editor, Emmy-nominated for Only Murders in the Building, calls me up…
AD: Let’s go Emmy-nominated! [laughs]
RC: She’s been a dear friend of mine for many years, she called me up and said, “Your little brother is going to be in this film.” [both laugh] John Hoffman who created Only Murders, and JoAnne continue to have conversations about how much you look like my much younger brother. So, I already knew I was going to meet you before I met you, it was really remarkable.
AD: When we met each other at the Homewood Suites in Jackson it was like I already knew you. I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I saw you in Looking: The Movie. I shared this with you the first time we met, especially in my age range you have been someone I admire and look up to.
RC: Thank you.
AD: If there isn’t enough inclusion nowadays, imagine when you started making significant strides in your career. To see you move up in the ranks and get heavier only goes to show your work ethic and talent. I’ve always told you, We the Animals fucked me up man, every time I see it now it still hits me the same way it did when it first came out. Still to this day, every time I watch it I need time to process it afterwards.
RC: Speaking of We the Animals, I’ll tell you how The Inspection came to me, in 2018 we were in a Tribeca Festival Film premiere and it’s so funny you spoke about the DM thing because it reminded me. I get the script for The Inspection, I read it and I was the same – my mind was blown. I was so enamoured with the story and I knew it was something I wanted to be part of. Then I read Elegance’s name, and Elegance is not a name you come across every day so it rang a bell. I went through my emails but I didn’t see it, I searched my texts and a text comes up from 2018 from Elegance – it was a text I had ignored. [both laugh] At the time I was saying yes to too many things, spreading myself a little thin and being too accessible in a way. I’d had a couple of negative experiences so I was a bit skittish around people approaching me. Elegance had approached me at Tribeca when We the Animals was premiering and was like, “I have a script I want to send you, ” and I must have given him my number because he texted me all this stuff but I just kind of ignored it. I felt really sheepish so I thought, “Let me put a tape together, I’m going to record these beautiful scenes, I want to play this guy and hopefully he has no hard feelings about me having ignored his texts.” I put the tape together, sent it off and then got the offer a few weeks later. The next thing I know I was on a Zoom meeting with Elegance and I just ‘fessed up, I was like, “Dude I ignored your text!” I had to come clean. [both laugh] Elegance is a special kind of filmmaker, we’re so lucky to be part of his first venture into narrative filmmaking. What a special experience that was. It was a challenging shoot, we were in Jackson in August, which has no clean drinking water right now I should point out, we were there a year ago and it was really hot.
AD: We got there in July, right?
RC: That’s right.
AD: Wow. It was hot as hell.
RC: We got there in July, I had a mullet – we all had long hair. [both laugh]
AD: Yeah I had hair for sure, we all had facial hair.
RC: After I shaved my head and got my fade, I came out of the elevator and you younger guys hadn’t shaved your heads yet because you were going to do it on camera and you were all like, “Yo!” Everyone started to get excited because it was becoming more real.
AD: For sure, initially they were trying to get us out there a few weeks before, trying to get us into this mode beforehand where you guys might have been told to not break bread with us or talk to us.
KNITWEAR AND JEANS BOTH BY SACAI FW22
RC: That’s right.
AD: So there was definitely that synergy going around, schedule stuff happened then we all got there at different times. It never went according to plan but I remember all the training we had to do beforehand, I think we only had a week. Octaya [Jones] was on our ass, she was great.
RC: Let’s talk about her.
AD: Octaya was our trainer and she trained us in everything Marine-related, all the stages before you have to do the test to graduate. When we were in it, we were in it. The training was tedious at the beginning, obviously, she is a sweetheart outside of that but I remember she really made us feel like we were gearing up to be in that world.
RC: We should point out she’s a drill instructor in real life, and she served with Elegance. They were dear friends.
AD: That’s right. So the training was intense but might I add the weather was crazy dude, we were out there in 103-plus- degree weather and then the humidity was up to 90 so it felt like 120 every day. We were in all the gear, we were in layers of clothing and imagine someone yelling in your face too. [both laugh] I remember my first day, I had just landed and got to the hotel, I guess Octaya had already been training with McCaul [Lombardi] and a few others earlier that day. She didn’t put two and two together and realise I had just got there. I went from having a conversation with Elegance and him being like, “How was the flight?” then within seconds, I had Octaya in my grill yelling. I was so taken aback and within 45 seconds she was on my ass again saying, “Why don›t know you know this? Why are you looking around? ” I looked at her and I was like, “I just got here. ” I was out of it dude, I was so lost. [laughs]
JEANS AND UNDERWEAR BOTH BY CALVIN KLEIN; BLANKET FROM PENDLETON
“We were in all the gear, we were in layers of clothing and imagine someone yelling in your face too.”
RC: It’s sort of cool because Octaya knows very little about the filmmaking and acting process, that wasn’t her job. I think Elegance had just instructed her to instruct you guys and to put you in that world.
AD: After two minutes of her yelling at me I just broke, I looked at her and I looked at Elegance because there was a moment where I was about to be like, “Yo, I don’t know what the fuck is going on but I just got here.”
RC: Take it easy! [both laugh]
AD: I felt like she was about to hit me [laughs]. But I liked it, the thrill and getting into the motions was what we needed. Getting into shooting it was great to build that camaraderie with the cast on and off set. I loved the tactic where you guys weren’t really accessible to us yet, I think we all started hanging out after a few weeks of us being there. The same thing with Bokeem, he really kept to himself but then towards the last weeks of filming everyone was hanging out. It was a thrill, the process was amazing.
RC: Our filmmaking journey was broken up into two parts too. We got shut down because of Covid in August 2021, we had a couple of cases in the cast and it became un-doable. But it was maybe three-quarters of the way into the shoot, we had done more than we hadn’t, so we got back in November. The thing I was angriest about was that I had to shave my head again – I hated that [laughs]. But obviously, I love this group, it’s a great group of people so coming back and finishing it was important. I know it gave Elegance an opportunity to step back and see what he needed in his cut – not all films get that. There are some happy accidents in that respect, he was able to re-approach the story and do some shifts to help the narrative.
AD: I couldn’t agree more. Obviously, I was thrilled to go back because as you said it was a fun group and I wanted to see this movie finished. You want to see these things come to fruition because you see a few days turn into a few weeks and weeks turn into months, and there was a moment where I thought, “Fuck man, this movie is just going to get shelved.”
RC: Yeah, when we got shut down in August I went to film Cha Cha Real Smooth right after that in Pittsburgh.
AD: That’s right, it was about three proper months of not filming. It was about sorting all the intricacies going into filmmaking, we were shooting in the summertime and then we had to shoot in the winter, we had to match these things. This experience was a very cathartic one for Elegance and often we got to see it first-hand for him, he had to step away for some scenes because these were true events in his life. With this also being Elegance’s first major feature film and his narrative debut, I feel like there was a lot of grace and understanding from the cast. I can’t imagine having the experiences he had, obviously, we’ve all had our own experiences and traumas but to then put those things out and make art of it. To try and put those pieces back together, relive it and then carry it through so it turns out a certain way for the film is a whole other beast. I remember there were often times on set I would take a step back and be like, “Shit man, I wonder how Elegance is feeling throughout all this?” There are things we’ve all lived through in our personal lives but I’m not having to relive those things every day, for Elegance these things are at the forefront every day and he still has to put a face on. I remember just being in awe of that, his resilience to carry the film through as a director and how loving and caring he was for us as well. It gave me so much reassurance, I’m sure you felt the same.
RC: Have you seen the film?
AD: Yeah man, I saw it here in a screening recently. I think it was the same day you saw yours. It’s amazing.
RC: It is. The character I’m playing in this play mirrors Gabi’s character and those scenes between Jeremy and Gabi just rocked me because I’ve been living in this emotional space with this play, so when watching the movie I was really shaken. I thought Gabi did beautiful work. We obviously experienced so much of Jeremy, filmmaking works that way when people go off into their own little subplots and have intimate moments we don’t see. There were scenes I was watching with you guys I wasn’t privy to, which were just beautiful, the camaraderie with the ensemble was wonderful. Feeling the chemistry you all developed off-set and watching it shine on screen was so beautiful. Just to pivot a little bit, can you talk to me about what you’re working on now?
AD: I’m currently on a production called Sitting in Bars with Cake, it’s an Amazon film. I’m really excited for it because it turned out to be a hell of a cast, I don’t want to forget names but it s just an amazing cast to work with. I just met the director and writer Trish Sie for the first time yesterday and she greeted me with a gift, she was wonderful. I remember when we were doing one of the last sessions with producers involved at the studio we spoke for twenty to thirty minutes on Zoom. In the end, she was like, “I don’t even know if I need to have you read.” One of the producers was like, “I couldn’t agree more, just say words.” [laughs] She’s a director’s director, if that makes sense? It was the same with Elegance, and I mean that by saying she’s also an actor’s director. She’ll connect with you every single time for us to get to where we need to.
AD: Not all directors work that way, they have their own equations and their own ways to go about things. I’m super thrilled to be a part of it.
RC: Where are you shooting that?
AD: This is the first feature film I’ve shot here in LA. It’s almost like a dream come true because a lot of the time in this industry, we go where the work is. We’ve shot in Jackson, we’ve shot in New York, shot in Atlanta but not in LA. Although I’ve been living here and I’ve really started to book substantial work in the past two years of my life, it’s always been outside of LA. So now getting to shoot here just makes everything more real and it’s kind of an, “Oh, shit!” moment for me.
RC: You’ll feel the infrastructure in LA, it’s a city built to make movies and you feel the difference when you shoot there.
AD: That’s what I’m thrilled about. Then there’s something else I shot in the summer but I can’t really say anything about it.
RC: Is this the thing in Rome?
AD: Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe I was just vacationing in Rome! [both laugh]
RC: Got it, copy that.
AD: What about you?
RC: I’m finishing this play, then promoting The Inspection and then it looks like I’m moving into producing, which is a wonderful place to be.
AD: Congrats bro, that’s huge.
RC: Thank you. It’s interesting, Covid and lockdowns were really devastating for the world and the population at large. For us, in our industry, it was devastating because it was months before we all went back to work, but some creative things came out of that time which I don’t think would have come about if we weren’t locked down. I have a couple of projects in various stages of development, one of which we locked down some financing for, I can’t really talk about it a whole lot but I’m working with a director I did a short film with years ago. We’ve been wanting to work together ever since then and he’s moved into feature films, we’ve finally got a script and an actor friend of mine who has produced before, she’s an incredible actor who I’ve really wanted to work with and we’re starting to put it all together. It’s funny because we’re playing former marines, so we’re retired from the military in this story and we had the script already when we were shooting The Inspection. It was just interesting because it was so informative for making this other film. The night we close out New York Film Festival, I have a film called The Same Storm coming out in cinemas. It’s written and directed by Peter Hedges who wrote What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – he’s a wonderful filmmaker. We shot this film in August of 2020 during lockdown from our homes, it was all remote. Peter is a wonderful person, he’s written this beautiful script and it’s got an incredible cast, Sandra Oh, Mary-Louise Parker, Elaine May, and John Gallagher Jr., it has a stellar cast all across the board.
AD: Damn yeah, you’re dropping some names.
RC: He’s got so many great actors. It’s a wonderful film and it’s finally seeing an audience so I’m excited for it to be out there.
AD: Dude in one day you’ve got your play, our film screening at New York Film Festival and you’ve got this film in theatres.
“[Elegance] had to step away for some scenes because these were true events in his life.”
T-SHIRT AND JEANS BOTH BY CALVIN KLEIN
RC: It’s really cool. I shot in Atlanta earlier this year so I’d also love to talk to you about being from Atlanta and Miami. Were you born in Miami?
AD: Yeah I was born in Miami, my parents are Venezuelan and they left Caracas, Venezuela in 1992 when my brother was ten months old and my mother was pregnant with my sister who was born in Miami.
RC: You’re the baby.
AD: Yeah I’m the baby, I’m the youngest of three. Growing up in Miami had its pros and cons. It was humble beginnings and it wasn’t the best area growing up, but at times it felt very family or community oriented. In times of scarcity or necessity, people are that much closer because they look out for one another and I feel like that’s the kind of community I was raised in. Miami is a big melting pot and for the majority, it’s very Latin and Hispanic rich, it’s rich in culture, rich in food, community and music. So I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic and Black neighbourhood, Miami Lakes, North Hialeah. I grew up always being aware of and loving different cultures, we were there up until 2005 when I was about twelve or thirteen. My parents were both professionals in their industry in Venezuela, they met in theatre school, my dad is a professional ballet and jazz dancer and my mum was an actress and singer-songwriter. They both had careers before moving but the politics in Venezuela were getting very bad so they moved to Miami and it was a huge shock for them as well, my dad had to work every job under the sun to help provide for his family. My dad was working three or four jobs, anything from construction to fast food to security, and my mum was a stay-at-home mum because she needed to raise the kids. Then slowly but surely through a lot of hard work, my parents ended up getting involved in Miami theatre. I don’t know how they did it, but they did it and they ended up making their own theatre company. Around 2005, my dad wanted a change of scenery because we weren’t growing up in the best area, I wasn’t growing up around the best kids. Around that kind of culture and community, unless you adhere to these things or succumb to them, you’re either an outcast or a misfit. I was becoming a product of my environment. My dad swore to himself before that kind of shit happened he would literally move this entire family, I had very old-school Latino Hispanic parents so my dad tried a few different ways with me. [laughs] But we ended up moving because my parents also wanted a change of scenery, I don’t know why they picked the suburbs of Georgia to do that.
RC: Have you ever asked them?
AD: Yeah man, I’ve sat down with my dad before and had some intimate adult conversations and he’s told me he was just looking for more for our family. Miami at the time was getting very expensive and my dad just wanted to set his kids up with a different quality of life. At the time my siblings and I were all living in one room and my sister was getting to an age at thirteen or fourteen where she needed her own privacy, so we ended up moving to a place called Kennesaw, Georgia. I’m not shitting on Kennesaw, shout to Kennesaw! [laughs]
RC: Any Latinos in Kennesaw?
AD: No! [both laugh] Very little, especially in 2006 when we got there. We stuck out like a sore thumb. There were a few and my parents ended up finding a church where we found some Hispanics and Latinos. But not only were there not a lot of Hispanics, there wasn’t anything else besides Southern white folk.
RC: My fiancé is from Miami, I love Miami. I grew up on the border and it feels like a big border city because it’s so Latino, you don’t have to know English to get by at all.
AD: All the other ethnicities and races know Spanish, they’ll speak Spanish to you. Miami is an anomaly dude, it’s a place in and of itself.
RC: Totally. But then to go from there to Georgia, which we know from being in Jackson is quite segregated and you feel that when you’re in certain parts of the South. I shot in Atlanta earlier this year and Atlanta is dope, you get into the outskirts and you’re like, “Wow.”
AD: It’s amazing.
RC: Where you’re from is the suburbs of Atlanta, right?
AD: The suburbs yeah, we moved around a little bit while we were there too. We were in Kennesaw for a few years, funny enough I wasn’t very happy when we moved and the people were not very inviting. At least the kids weren’t, around those times there was a lot of ignorance, my brother and sister had a hard time as well.
RC: In terms of being ostracised for being Spanish-speaking Latino?
AD: Yeah dude, sometimes I tell this story, sometimes I don’t, but I got into a fight on my first day of eighth grade there. I got walked up to by this cowboy-looking kid and he was like, “Do you speak Mexican?” And even at thirteen, I was like, “That’s ignorant as fuck.” My dad told me how it was a new opportunity, so I remember giving the kid a chance. I was like, “What did you say?” He was like, “Do you speak Mexican?” In my head, I was like, “I don’t know if this kid is trying to punk me out, I’m the new kid at the school, I don’t know what to do right now,” but then I got the sense he was trying to bully me. This was a big boy, I was very small at the time I had a very late growth spurt. [laughs] I cocked a fist back down to my ankle and I just went straight through because I was already angry we were there and I didn’t know what to do in that situation, it was a huge culture shock for me. I remember throughout the first year when we moved there, I would cry and tell my dad, “What the hell have we done? What are we doing here?” There just wasn’t a lot of culture there so to speak, and if there was it was just very suburban Southern culture. It wasn’t until we moved to another city, Marietta, that I could kind of see how times were changing. There were new students coming into the school every year or so, and by the time I got to high school, there was way more diversity. There were a lot more POC, you were starting to see more and more. My sister and brother actually started one of the first Latino Hispanic clubs at their school in Marietta.
RC: Wow, that’s really cool.
AD: It was super cool for us because my brother and sister were really involved, I didn’t get heavily involved in the performing arts in high school until my senior year.
JACKET AND TROUSERS BOTH BY DIESEL R22
RC: We’ve spent a lot of time hanging out even since the film and you told me you performed with your parents as a kid, right?
AD: Yeah, I was privileged to start at an early age, my parents got me into commercial work. Growing up watching my parents doing theatre was everything to me.
RC: What kind of stuff did they do?
AD: Oh man I’m talking real Spanish theatre from Hispanic and Latino playwrights. They would write it themselves and put it on in the streets or a theatre or a park, it was almost like Shakespeare in the Park. It was always Latin and Hispanic based but it ranged to everything. Seeing my parents do that, seeing my dad work his day job to then go home and run over his lines. My dad was very prolific and resilient when it came to his craft. I would see him being tired as hell from working whatever job he had at the time, coming back home tending to his kids, and making time for us. I get my work ethic from him, and my mother too. It didn’t matter to him the degree of the work or who was watching, at the end of the day he was putting something forward. I grew up with my dad always telling me he hated mediocrity and that if I was ever doing something I had to do it with excellence.
RC: Dude, my dad wasn’t an actor but there was a very similar work ethic.
AD: I think it goes hand-in-hand at times with that Latino-Hispanic thing, nothing comes easy so to even have the opportunity to showcase something you need to be willing to go the extra mile.
RC: My sister and I talk about this pretty frequently, she’s an accountant but we talk about how to get ahead we can’t be mediocre because we won’t get anywhere, we have to be excellent. The opportunities are so few and far between, so I respect that a lot. I love that your dad instilled it in you from a young age.
AD: For sure, that’s also why we butted heads when I first took the jump of wanting to fully pursue acting because my dad knew what it took. He was homeless at sixteen and pursued jazz and ballet. When he told his mum he wanted to be a dancer my grandma said, “You’re either going to go to school here or you’re going to work,” and my dad was like, “I don’t want to do either of those things.” So she told him, “Well you’re going to get out of the house.” But he made it happen and ended up teaching at a very prestigious school there, then for a television show at the time that was kind of like SNL in Venezuela, and then he ended up touring with La Toya Jackson. My dad’s story is crazy. Again, that’s why we butted heads earlier in my career because he would see I was slacking. He would say, “If you really want to do this you need to be resilient enough to figure it out.” I’ll never forget this, one time my dad said to me, “What I see from you is that you don’t want to be a working actor, what you want to be is famous.” I took that personal dude, I think I was about twenty at the time. It rubbed me so wrong and I thought it was pretty harsh from my dad but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Looking back on it now I can see what he was trying to do. What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face in the industry, and who do you admire?
“The more I’ve honed in on it, as Latinos we are called to get it right the first time around.”
RC: I think as far as obstacles in this industry go, there has never been a greater obstacle than myself. I’ve held myself back more than anyone else has and what I mean by that is, I limited my imagination in terms of how far I could see myself going. I became a playwright because I didn’t think I could become an actor, but I never stopped acting because I loved doing it. Now it’s become my life. I will say there has been no greater obstacle than myself and the limitations I placed upon myself. In terms of whom I admire, it’s my family, my mother, father, brother and sister, those are the people. I think that’s why you and I get along the way we do, we’re so tight-knit with our families and I think the advice your dad gave you is really great. To receive that at twenty years old is remarkable. How about you?
AD: You know what’s crazy, hearing you say the biggest obstacle has been yourself, I think often as artists that is true but we never say it. We put the mask on but in reality, you yourself have been your worst critic, your biggest enemy is always the mirror in front of you. I think that has been me. Obviously, we could sit here and talk about all the things we wish could change for POC, especially as Latinos and Hispanics because there is a lack of representation.
RC: It’s definitely worth noting that.
AD: Of course, I think that’s one of the biggest obstacles at times. The more I’ve honed in on it, as Latinos we are called to get it right the first time around. We see all these other shows at times get cancelled and they get seventeen tries at any network when they’re being led by certain people, but as a Hispanic lead show, a Latino lead cast or even just POC, for anyone that falls under that umbrella it feels like you have to get it right the first time. It’s almost like the industry tells you, “We’re taking a chance on you,” but they didn’t really take a chance on the fourteenth remake of said procedural show at said network or said studio. I’m not demonising and I’m not talking shit about things, I’m just saying that’s what the experience feels like at times. It feels, “Hey man we’re giving you a chance so you better get it right the first time,” so there is no room to explore or to find our footing in a sense.
RC: That’s right.
AD: The people I admire are definitely my parents, they are two of the most resilient prolific people I have ever met in my life. My siblings as well. The people I admire in this industry are those who I feel have to go above and beyond at times. I always say the dream is to just have the opportunity to chase that dream, because a lot of the time we don’t have those opportunities.
The Inspection is out in cinemas now.