We talk to this Cuban actor who played the roles of a lawyer in De amores y esperanzas, militiaman in Lucha contra bandidos, Brindis de Salas or impersonated Kid Chocolate on the stage…
He did not plan to study acting. He registered at ISA School (Higher Institute of Art) just for fun and with his self-esteem at his peak he auditioned in singing because “he sang like Benny More.” He recalled everything with a smile on his face and thanked Maestro Armando Suarez del Villar, who showed him the way: “Go to the theater school. Bold people like you usually audition there.”
Stellar Corina Mestre was his second and final discoverer. The first year was tough. The young man from Cayo Hueso improvised in the exercise he did not feel ready to face: standing ovation and the special congratulation of the stellar actress who, of course, was laying low. In a private conversation, she gave him a hard time and he denied everything. But he ended admitting she was right. From that moment on, Corina Mestre became his professional mother in the acting world.
-You have made the leap into almost all languages and media. What is your favorite?
-I feel comfortable in the film industry. Cinema is the perfect place for me as to comfort while working. It is the space where cameras and the special caring in the production process target the actor, who is certainly the final and principle image.
“But my passion for theater, devoting myself to theater…, which is not comfortable at all: it is the mislabeled Cinderella of the arts, when it has been the Mother of Arts. I strongly believe it is uncomfortable to do theater. It is complicated, not only economically, but also physically and mentally. There is always enough room for critics and they hurt sometimes after all the sacrifice you make. That is why I say I feel comfortable in cinema, but I definitely love theater. Theater makes me feel alive.”
-What about television?
-I respect television for everything it takes away from you, your privacy. I believe television has both positive and negative implications. You experience wonderful things, but also terrible ones.
-Is there any special character in your acting career?
-I have a soft spot for these two characters of the theater trilogy Ritual cubano, a stage play I am doing with the theater group Buendia, under the direction of Flora Lawten and Raquel Carrio. I have special love for Kid Chocolate and Brindis de Salas; they are characters with whom I have found very strong connections as a human being, as a Cuban man, as son, artist, and I am having a lot of fun. We recently finish a theatrical season and I loved to go back to those characters with all my strength and passion…
-Are you already working on the third part of the trilogy?
-I am on it. It is named Voces de 1912, and as the project was named Ritual cubano, theater has certainly a lot in common with rituals. Cuba is a nation where generally speaking, ritual traditions are preserved. In the stage play, as a result of a ritual, the voices of all the people slaughtered in 1912 in the Independientes de Color’s incidents under Jose Miguel Gomez’s administration emerge from the land. I am having a hard time assuming this stage play, and play it from the research, where the core is the ethnic and racial conflict, the conflict within the race, different stances. Live music is performed in the first two shows. I am going to take up stage elements as well. This trilogy is linked from the concept to visuality.
-You have embraced different roles in this project: drama, co-direction, acting…Do you feel Ritual cubano has made you grow?
-It is more than that. I think the project itself has grown. A lot of people know and are linked to it, somehow. I have now more responsibility and commitment. Instead of a chair to sit and boast about it, I have now a lot of responsibility and commitment and I am fine with it. I think it is very positive.
-You always show gratitude to the teachings of Eduardo Eimil, Eduardo Arrocha, Raquel Carrio, and especially, Flora Lawten. What does Buendia theater group mean in your professional career?
-As student, the doors of Buendia were close to me. I loved that theater. A sort of show that would invite the audience to think and that is the ultimate goal of art. One of the actresses called me to work in one of her plays. Flora saw me and then I was given the chance and did the casting. Since the very first time I stepped on the stage and got Flora’s suggestions, I became definitely another man. I say I found my treasure. I found what my body and mind just needed.
-What kind of character do you like to impersonate?
-A character with a story to tell, a motive. If I play a character, I want to tell something through him. That is what I like: Whenever I read my part and find out what I could tell, I just move forward.
-Regarding one of your recent works, the spot for the campaign against the Helms-Burton Act, What is your view on reactions?
-I have been under attack; personal attacks, but especially Fernando. He is a classy man and that one of his many qualities. He just taught me there are attacks that need no answer. I am really happy to be part of it. There have been lots of open, sincere, bold reactions. I told someone once: If you like, you may come and be part of the process; if not, at least, respect those who try to improve and change.
“Another element: I know great actors who do not live in Cuba. I truly regret they are not here because Cuba needs them. But everyone is responsible for his/her own actions and I respect that. And I still admire them, nonetheless. But giving up on acting hurts and time passes by, and the pain grows. And many of the criteria are triggered by such increased pain.”
-Are satisfied with this work?
-I am coherent with what I say and do, and believe. To me, having participated on that spot against the Helms-Burton Act…First, I am a Cuban citizen living in Cuba, whose career, family are here and Cuba is part of me. Hence solutions must be found by us. That is my opinion. If France were responsible of the Helms-Burton Act, I would be against France, then. It is not personal. The thing is that the problems at home must be solved by us, not someone else.
“The campaign is well-done. Sincerely, you can count on me if there are other campaigns of this kind even though there may be critics. I see the will to move forward. So I am in through what I do best, theater.”
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff