Interview with actor, producer, writer, and director Gilluis Pérez
Today on What On What’s Good with Host Jovin Tardif, I am here with actor, producer, writer, and director Gilluis Pérez. Pérez was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His notable projects include Nicky Jam El Ganador, The Least Worst Man, The Baker, and the Beauty and The Big C. Today we discuss his formal training, his experience working in multiple TV Series, his dream role, and more.
1. Any fun memories from when you first started acting work in the Telemundo TV series Zona Y?
Absolutely! This series was an eye-opening moment in my life. I came to acting by accident, and it was with this series. I was studying architecture at the time. The TV series was the first time I experienced being on set and early tips of acting. So I remember very vividly when the director noticed me walking by, and he mentioned he needed a person for an extra role. Though I was there on set, I was just there to support my sister. She was the one who booked the TV series. I was there as a sidekick, and it changed everything in my life. Because the first day the director put me to act in a scene and after that everything changed for me.
2. Describe your formal training as an actor from the Actors Studio Drama School.
It was a great foundation for me. ASDS not only gave a structure to work in the professional industry, but it also brought a sense of awareness to myself. I grew as an artist but more so as a human being. I was privileged to study with Elizabeth Kemp before her passing. She used to be Bradley Cooper’s acting coach and a beacon of light.
A woman who not only was I honored to know her as a master and teacher, but as a friend, she gave me one of the most special techniques I often use in roles. She showed me how to look for, create and be the “green light,” which is to go to this safe space within myself where I am able to feel whatever I need for my character. It allowed me to welcome whatever I felt right for the intention of my character.
I appreciate the tools I developed in school. The Actors Studio Drama School works with relaxation techniques, vocal warmups, physical warmups, and movement training. All of these are based on Stanislavsky and Lee Strasberg techniques.
My formal training highly influences my growth as an actor and how I move in this industry. The creative process that I went through was always supervised and coached by great Masters like Susan Aston and Corinne Chateau, who was big on relaxation. These mentors work with top actors in the entertainment business. I feel very blessed to have had a few years with them digging in my soul to see what I could bring as an artist and human.
3. How would you compare being in a TV Series vs. being on stage?
Being on stage, there’s a real control of the story with you. First, the audience sees the whole body on stage at a distance, so there’s a control you have with your body that comes natural to the audience. But to yourself, you have to achieve a relaxation that allows the character to play using your body, mind, voice, and imagination. Second, I believe that in theater, you have an opportunity to shift something and react to the audience’s reaction in a live moment other than your castmate, and that moment is never the same each night.
For TV, there’s a focus on a specific moment defined by the attention of the camera, and so it also has great control that I have not yet come close to mastering. From what I have done, the work on TV or Film is a riskier one. Sometimes working alone isn’t as fun when you’re acting with a camera instead of with a person. But that’s why you have a set of tools to use. Yet we cannot change the shots in the TV series or film, they are kept forever. In the theater, it becomes a memory, a moment.
4. Recently you played Chino in Netflix Nicky Jam: El Ganador. What can you tell us about the hit series and how you prepared for your role.
El Ganador was very special in many ways because it was the first Netflix TV Show about a Puerto Rican and played mostly by Puerto Rican actors. The story of Nicky Jam from which the show is based on a Latin superstar I listened to when I was a kid. This project made me feel proud and nervous.
I had some time to prepare, but when it was time to shoot, we had to move to Mexico, because some scenes were shot there. What helped me prepare was being around some of the actors that were real rappers 24/7, so I took from their body postures and how they held themselves. I knew the context of the story of Nicky Jam, what I mean is that I am from Puerto Rico. I’ve seen life in the projects and many places where the story takes place, and as well the music from the show was actual music I listened to most of my childhood years and in the culture.
5. Can you tell us about your experience in the ABC TV series The Baker and The Beauty?
It was so fun! I was so happy a show like this was starting in a major network. My role was what we would call a small one, but I was happy and lucky to do so. We need more diversity in TV and film. As a Latinx actor, I don’t want only to demand diverse structures of work, I want diversity to not be a trend or a fashion from the time. I think we need to work towards having it always. We need more women working on positions of power in the industry and women of every race, color, and ethnicity. The Baker and The Beauty was almost granting that path.
6. Do you have a dream role?
Yes, I would love to play a superhero or villain in the Marvel/DC atmosphere. But really a dream role is to play characters from my community and my background without the notion of thinking of it as a Latinx role, leaving the character traits, heritage, and probably language, speak for itself and represent a real human, that is complex, vulnerable, multidimensional and has a heart. I think that is and would be a dream role important for kids to see on TV or the movie theaters. So they have one thing clear: their dreams, no matter where they were born or circumstances, are valid and will be heard. They matter.