Almost a decade ago a few select television shows changed the way we watch tv. The traditional, episodic format where each week told a mini story with beginning, middle and end, gave way to a new way of watching–a way that nurtured a committed relationship with the audience; a way that had you hooked. At the forefront of that approach was Prison Break, an American drama series that tells the tale of a wrongly accused man who’s put on death row and his brother’s fight to bust him out of the joint. The series, which lasted four seasons, ended, as most great things must; and left audiences with an insatiable thirst for more. But shortly thereafter, in the space in time that we call today, where people can revisit things of the past thanks to websites like Netflix, a whole new generation was exposed to Prison Break. A demand ensued and the people were heard. Today the incredible, original cast of PB are reunited in filming a nine episode comeback season set to air in the spring of 2017. And at the forefront of the stellar cast that made the show the game changer that it was is fellow inmate Fernando Sucre played by Puerto Rican actor, Amaury Nolasco. TFB caught up with Nolasco to talk everything from show resurgence to Latinos in show business, as well as some of his next moves.
In the show, Fernando Sucre is, like Nolasco, Puerto Rican. He’s also a convicted felon. I ask Nolasco if that’s coincidental or if it says something about the way that Latinos are cast for roles in Hollywood. It’s 2016 and the world has changed so much but unfortunately the topic of race and stereotyping and even white washing remain relevant. Just recently news of Tilda Swinton being cast in the role of The Ancient One in Doctor Strange raised much controversy as the character is Tibetan and Tilda, well, isn’t. “Why wasn’t an Asian cast?” people wondered. Does the casting of Latinos as villains say something similarly political? Not according to Nolasco who credits those who came before him for paving the way for Hispanics in Hollywood.”I have to thank those that came before me like Jose Ferrer, Raul Julia, Mario Moreno, Esai Morales, Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno, even Jennifer Lopez,” lists Nolasco in a gracious tone that speaks to admiration and respect. “They came before me…they opened and paved the way for us; they broke down barriers.” In his own personal experience, however, the roles have been choice.
“I have to say, people always ask me if I found it hard to find roles because of Latinos being stereotyped to play the maid or gardener or drug dealer, but I’ve been lucky I play a villain all the time, but it’s because I like playing the villain.”
And probably because he’s kind of a bad ass. But also because he’s always prepared. A rule of thumb he learned from a mentor of his, fellow Puerto Rican and Academy Award winner, Benicio Del Toro whom Nolasco met when he first moved to New York to pursue his career in 1995. He recalls pieces of Del Toro’s sage advice: “The first thing he told me was study. Study, study, study. You want to be ready when that door opens. And it’s something that I have taken to heart. You give them the best performance you can when you get the opportunity and just leave them wanting more.” And left us wanting more, he did.
Aside from his Prison Break come-back which he’s currently filming in Toronto, Nolasco is venturing into new realms of the biz including production. In fact he’s producing what he describes as a pet project right now in an effort to take things into his hands.
“I’m not going to be given the roles that are going to be given to Matt Damon, you know? Or that Ryan Gosling is gonna get. I have to make those roles for myself,” he explains.
And that he is. The film is soon to start shooting in Puerto Rico and while he hasn’t casted himself in a leading role just yet, he does have an exciting supporting role; however its the producing credits that he’ll be receiving alongside his partner, Kia Jam of Sin City and Lucky Number Slevin fame that’s got him most psyched. The ability to tweak and edit is empowering but owning the material is his new greatest asset. Nolasco tells us where he learned the importance of intellectual property, “I had the great pleasure of meeting the legendary producer, Robert Evans who was responsible for putting Paramount on the map in the 70’s with movies like The God Father and Rosemary’s Baby, and he told me ‘Own the material. You always want to own the material.'” It’s true that as actors, while highly respected and definitely necessary, there’s always a chance of ending up on the cutting room floor, but aside from eliminating the possibility of being edited out, producing allows him a vehicle by which to deliver a message. Currently that message is political by way of a documentary he’s producing with Eva Longoria whom he lovingly refers to as his sister.
In what most would call a very interesting election year, to say the least, the super star duo have set out on a mission to tell the story of the power of the latino vote. A power that he says is such that it basically decides the presidency. “The are over 50 million latinos out there,” he says, ” but only some half actually vote.” The project, which has been under way for nearly two years, has had some really serendipitous timing given that at the project’s inception, they were unaware that Donald Trump would be running as a presidential hopeful, let alone how much speak he would be spewing with regard to Mexicans. “We couldn’t have written this script ourselves,” he laughs,
” we couldn’t have picked a better time to work on a documentary about the elections.”
The documentary is set to be released once the elections have transpired; results he’s vocal about hoping go the way of Hillary Clinton. We look forward to seeing the fruits of his labor come to bear and eagerly root him on as he embarks on this producing projects. Perhaps we will soon see him go the way of Benicio Del Toro and win himself an Academy Award. And if does, he’ll be accepting wearing J. Lindeberg with his new favorite Berluti shoes, ya heard it here first.