INTERVIEW: Gilluis Perez

Photography by Idalmiz Lopez

Hi Gilluis, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I´ve been aware, probably more than before. I could say I am fine, but it´s been a tough year for so many. I feel very grateful, healthy, and hopeful.

How were you drawn into the world of acting?

That is a great question; I was absolutely drawn to it. Initially, I got to be part of a TV project when I was 19 that changed my perspective of the profession. At first, being an architecture student, I was attracted to being aware of what affected a space versus a context, for example, how placing a window or a staircase in a certain area of the space changes not only the light or the air but also how one can circulate the space. In a way, I translated that first try to understand how situations, other characters, and external elements affected me or my character internally. That was how I made that shift and got drawn into acting as a craft. After that, I went to school to train.

What would you say you learned from your time at the Actors Studio?

I would say, to relax. Relaxation allows me to get in touch with myself and the character´s life and the actor´s work to be a vessel for that life to come through. Lee Strasberg´s techniques are in my toolbox, not only as an actor but as a human. Because before we are actors, we are humans, always humans with impulses. So whatever we do on stage or camera, we need to follow our impulses through relaxation.

Let’s talk about your latest work on Nicky Jam: El Ganador – what was the audition process like?

Let´s! Well, I remember I got a call from the showrunner to audition for the show, and at first, I would lie if I didn´t say, I was a bit reluctant to audition for this show because insecurities we all have and doubting my talent. We often are typecast, which is something that is recently fading in this industry. But we are expected to be a certain way or perform a certain way. So with Nicky Jam: El Ganador, because I knew who the bioseries was about, I never thought I could be a character in that realm. Again, we are so used to being typecast that actors we usually limit our opportunities by assuming we should give just a certain character. We get in that box, mentally. I am glad they called and pursue me to audition for it. It was pretty quick. I made a self-tape the next day with a few lines by myself, no reader. Three days later, the producers told me I got the part. I could not believe it. I was and still am so grateful and lucky.

You are no stranger to TV, so working on a Netflix show was a similar experience or the opposite?

I think I am no stranger to TV, but this, in this particular case, I was much more intense. I had to work toy guns, stunt fights, do my own driving stunts while acting, which had an action element; it was a learning process. Also, we were living in a hotel in Mexico, then shooting in Puerto Rico, and in between, I went to New York as well. So it was particular and opposite in that sense where I had to travel a lot. As well most of the crew was Latinx, and usually, most of the shows I´ve done, recent ones, have been run by an American crew. So it was refreshing to see diversity on that scale.

While many of the shows you’ve been in have proven to be a hit, I am guessing you didn’t know about it when signing up to appear, which I am guessing was different with this project as Nicky is a prominent name in the music industry – so were you a bit nervous this time around?

Absolutely! I laugh now, but I was terrified. Not only because I was so intimidated, but I knew Netflix was attached, and being the first show with Puerto Ricans at the helm and telling a story from a Puerto Rican superstar was a big step. I knew from the moment I won the role that the scale of the show was insane. Also, I was very nervous at the time because I not only had the pressure of being in this type of show and how culturally important it was and means, but I did this while I was a third-year MFA student at the Actors Studio in New York, doing my thesis and preparing to graduate. It was a time that I will never forget, and I am grateful for the program and the faculty for allowing me to work on both as a professional actor and a student.

Dealing with music and an actual living person working on the industry – did you get to focus more on the music when preparing for this role, or were you more demanded to focus more on the acting?

I am not a musician; I don´t do music at all. But I deeply respect their artistry. What I would say is that music is definitely part of my ritual for preparing not only for this character but most of my characters. So I can say that Nicky Jam´s music from the 2000s and other artists were major inspirations for getting into the mood of Chino.

What would you call the most challenging aspect of playing Chino?

Playing ´Chino´ really showed me through time that I have many things in common with him, but I was so aware of the differences with him as well. I think getting into that skin, people who know me realize I made conscious choices about the way he talked, which probably showed where he came from, the way he walked, which was more confident than I could ever be, and looked and even thought, I think he was so active and was trying to be intimidating. Those are conscious choices I made for him. He was way more impulsive than I could ever be but much braver in many ways. It was challenging to have all that and be in balance with my amazing scene partner, Nestor Rodulfo, who played Cuti. I believe his character was much more impulsive and reactive, and mine was more like the reason and conscience of the pair. I usually thought Chino was fighting for his friend and brother and went for what he needed to do for Cuti because he cared so much for him; they were friends since childhood, so their bond was brotherly-like. That balance where you care so much, where you want to hold him back, and you know that person is in the wrong, even though you are actively supporting and an ally in the story, was a challenge.

What else is happening next in Gilluis Perez’s world?

Before the pandemic started, I was lucky to be part of The Baker and The Beauty project in a co-star. It premiered around the same time Nicky Jam: El Ganador also premiered, but sadly ABC network decided to cancel the show after just one season. The two shows premiered in April while we were in quarantine, which I feel I was quite lucky. Besides that, I´m attached to a script for a movie, but it has been delayed because of the pandemic. I´ve been spending a lot of time with my family, rarely doing auditions through self-tapes, doing press for the shows virtually, and collaborations with different creatives and my team, agent, and wonderful publicist. But most definitely reflecting on this time and how 2020 has impacted us, emotionally. In the meantime, I often urge people who follow my platforms to register to vote and the importance of being emphatic about COVID and BLM during these times. So in my world, I am constantly working for change.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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