Guillermo Jorge photo credit: JeanPaul SanPedro
By Davy V.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cuban-American actor, screenwriter and director Jon Molerio.
And much like other interviews I've done with actors such as David Bianchii, and Oscar Torre, many of you reached out to me, not not only to tell me how much you enjoyed the Q&A, but also thanking me for showing a side of Hollywood which has long been overlooked.
Latinos in film.
So, I decided to follow up that interview with another Latino actor helping to change the game in Tinsletown.
Cuban-American actor Guillermo Jorge.
Jorge has starred in television shows such as C.S.I. Miami, C.S.I. N.Y., House, as well as in several films, including Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby."
From his days studying medicine, to why he chose to pursue acting, to his thoughts on Cuba's future, to why it's so important to remain humble, Guillermo Jorge took time out to come on The Davy V. Blog...
Guillermo, tell the readers a little about yourself.
I was born in Miami, Florida. My parents are from Cuba. I'm an only child who was born in the 70's, and grew up in the 80's. I feel like I was there for the advent of cable and computers, so I'm a cable box kid. Movies were my escape. I can remember my mom coming home from work and I'd be on top of the couch pretending I was Spider-Man in my underroos.
My parents didn't really push me into the arts, but my dad being an architect amd his uncle Miguel who was a well known painter in the Cuban community, I guess it ran through my veins. My dad used to take me to see films, and I remember watching 2001 A Space Odyssey with him, which at the time seemed like reading War and Peace, but luckily for me the 1980's which were Spielberg and Lucas's bedrock of material, to name just a few, they took me to worlds that sparked my interest in movies.
I remember watching Poltergeist and E.T. and seeing the opening sequences that revolved around suburban life, the only difference being that they were both surrounded by mountains in some valley far off, and not in the flatlands of Florida, and that always stuck with me. I wanted to go there. But I did the typical stuff every kid does. I loved Star Wars and McDonalds. I played little league baseball. But movies is what I always revolved around.
You have an interesting background, you studied medicine right?
Well, you know, growing up in Miami from Cuban parents who fought hard after coming to this country, it was expected to go into something like medicine, law, etc. Everyone in my family is either a doctor or a lawyer. So I followed suit, and went off and studied medicine in the Dominican Republic.
I was there for five and a half years roughly, and I can say that it was one of the most important times in my life. I saw how others lived, and the things that we as Americans take for granted. I did what I had to do to get by. I remember watching ER back then with my cousin who now happens to be one of the best cardiologists in South Florida, and we'd see a scene where George Clooney was doing a medical procedure and my cousin would say, "The medical terminology is pretty exact, you see how he intubated the patient in the fifth intercostal space?", and I'd turn to my cousin and say, "Yeah, did you see the emotion on Clooney's face? He's so in right now!", and my cousin would look at me like what the fuck are you talking about... LOL!
That's funny. Ok, but did you always somehow know you would pursue acting?
The first couple of years, in the back of my mind, I always knew that I'd be going off to do film. I was always a performer of sorts. Me and all my friends were a cast of funny cats. We used to get up in the high school cafeteria and get into reenactments and make the whole lunchroom bust out laughing. I would say that if I've ever been given a gift it was to make people laugh. And I cherish that gift. I grew up watching those everyman type of actors, the ones you can relate to, like Dudley Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, and Roy Scheider (Jaws), people who weren't the typical Hollywood looking guys, but I remember I always related to those guys.
But the good thing about the medical field was that it taught me how to empathize with people. They were so happy for you to give to them. Me and my other cousin would rent movies, and we'd spend the whole day watching them and I would tell her, "I'm going to be an actor," And she was all for it.
The turning point where I finally decided I was going for it, was with a certain patient in my final years of doing my internship. He was there for what's called gaseous gangrene, because he was a diver and his left leg was at the point where they might have to amputate it, and I'd see him on the graveyard shifts.
The other students would tell me that he'd always ask for me. One day I went up to him and he was in great pain, and he would tell me, "You remind me of Patch Adams, with his bad English. You make me laugh. You're good at it." And I went on to tell him that I loved movies, and he said, "Hollywood!"
It was a foregone conclusion for me to go and do what I loved.
But there were so many things I learned in that country, such as the human condition which in turn has helped me in acting. Luckily I was also really good at psychiatry, one of my better subjects, and that really helps me with character development. Those days over there in the Dominican Republic, I carry with me everywhere I go.
What's a typical day like for you?
Well, actually as I've gotten older I've become more of a robot, I really have become routined based.
I wake up in the morning like clockwork and I go straight to Starbucks and I get a grande cup of coffee and I smoke a cigarette. I then go to my "9 to 5" around 12, I get out of work around 4 and I go home, surf the net for acting work, and usually speak with my agent around that time as well, and relax.
I'm a big behind the scenes kind of person. What I mean is people see the finished product, the edited film, but what's behind that Guillermo, what don't people see that goes into acting?
A lot of things go into making a movie. From the grip (camera), all the way to the top of the food chain, the producer and director. When I first came out here I was really cocky and I thought just put me in front of a camera and let me do my magic, and I was so wrong. You learn to respect every aspect of the industry. First off, the script. Probably the most important part in my eyes. If you don't have a good story or plot, you can't believe in Peter Pan.
Also, as an actor, trust and humility are probably the biggest things you can have. It helps you out in so many ways. Especially humility. Like my mom used to say, "You're not the last Coca Cola in the desert." There's always someone waiting in the wings who'll be better than you or want it more. So being humble is the only way to go. And you'll feel better because it becomes a team effort.
I'm big on that.
Ok, like me you're from Miami. What's your favorite thing about the 305?
First thing back to Miami, I go straight to the ocran and put my feet in. I do miss the warmth of the Atlantic, I love the water in Miami. I usually go once a year but I'm trying to go more often.
Favorite thing about Hollywood?
I have to say the people, they get me. I love the climate and the hills, where you have a chance to see great distances,
Guillermo, as a Latino myself, here's a question I like to pose to Latino actors such as yourself. What do you think about the state of Latinos in Hollywood? Latinos have come a long way since the days of the stereotypical roles of maids and gangbangers which Hollywood doled out to Latino actors, but there's more work to be done right?
A lot of work to do. I mean even amongst the Latino community itself there's a lot of work to do. Never mind the nation or Hollywood at large. The giant white and brown elephant in the room for me is that a lot of Latino cultures will only back or support what they know, their own culture. But I'm starting to see great change. Take, for example, the recent movie Ladrones which has a multitude of different Hispanic, Latino cultures in it. So it appeals to different nationalities, but I've never had that problem. I remember going to see "Maria Full of Grace", about a Colombian girl, before it was in the news, and saw the things I related to as a Latin/Hispanic man, but I also saw the differences.
The other thing that bothers me sometimes is that there are still racial boundaries within the Hispanic community. I went to an audition once for a student film at USC, and I read to play a Cuban, and the director thought I wasn't Cuban looking enough. I was like "Que Pinga?" I go outside and everyone who I think is Cuban was of the fair skinned Cuban, blonde hair, light eyes. Racial profiling will always exist. Racism in every culture and nationality still exst. It's not an American or Hollywood problem. It's a cultural and personal problem with every single human being on this planet.
Guillermo, what are your thoughts on the recent lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, and what do you think that opening up our beautiful island can mean for Cuba's future when it comes to film?
It's mixed emotions on that. My parents lost a lot when they came over and had to start all over. But, at the same time, I wouldn't have been born here in a country that I love so much. It's a selfish feeling on my part, but aren't we all selfish to a certain degree? I'm a middle aged man who's never gone to a country that he has grown up learning about. I could probably debate this with my father for years, I think about the people there, and I think it's a good thing. I'd like a different leadership there but the chances of an overthrow by the U.S. is highly unlikely.
As for the film business there, time will tell. I'd love to be able to go there and make a film, but it goes back to what my parents think. They wouldn't want me to help that dictatorship. It's a conflict of interests. It's a beautiful country that has been hiding from the world for over 50 some odd years, and only through memories do we even know what it's about. But the people in Cuba, are the ones we should think about, and I think it's time the world knows about its beauty.
Tell us about any upcoming projects.
Well I have a couple, some I'm still waiting to hear back on, but I'm doing a film called "The Mexican" which is directed by Wes Cheers. I play the great villain cowboy type, and I'm really excited about that one. I'm also in a comic web series called All of Love, with comedian and actor Mike Estime from "Everybody Hates Chris." It's hilarious and I love when I'm shooting that show. I play Jay Patel, he's a great character.
Ok, I saved the best for last... What advice can you give to aspiring actors?
First, make sure you love it, before you start off. It's a very hard life before it gets any better. If it gets any better. But keep pushing and surround yourself with those that push you upwards and are as passionate as you are at telling stories. Don't burn any bridges and like I said before, humility, humility, humility. Another one from my mom--"Be good because you want to be, not because you're expecting something in return." And that in a nutshell is the business of Hollywood. And life... FIN.
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