BOLD TO BE DIFFERENT. From one of the most rooted television series, “Scandal,” Guillermo Diaz gushes on his experience playing a heavy character and being an openly gay actor in Hollywood to Ronald Liem.
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With a handful of comedy movies like “Party Girl,” “Stonewall,” “Half Baked” and “200 Cigarettes,” you might think that Guillermo Diaz has carved his own niche as a comedy actor in the highly saturated movie industry. It is indeed hard to forget his brilliant performance as a drag queen fighting for gay rights in “Stonewall” or as a drug dealer and trafficker in the comedy series “Weeds.” The 38-year-old actor also admits that he is a joker, which makes the genre totally relevant.
Now playing Huck in television political series “Scandal,” Diaz shows another layer of his acting ability. On screen he tortures, murders people and masters the technology—something definitely far from his usual “soft spot.” Nevertheless, being the talented actor Diaz is, the actor gains massive followings and rave reviews for his role. Diaz is even nominated for the ALMA Award as Favorite TV Actor- Supporting Role in a Drama and Image Award as Best Actor/Television, all of which further confirm that he is one of the best there is.
Ronald Liem: Your show “Scandal” is really popular in Asia, even though it’s a political drama that gravitates toward the U.S. political system. Why do you think the show has been very well-received outside the U.S. and develops some sort of a global appeal?
Guillermo Diaz: I think that’s because the characters are very specific. They’re all good and they’re all very bad as well. There are no squeaky-clean characters. Credits to Shonda Rhimes who created this show. “Scandal” is a fun show to watch, a fun drama where there’s a sort of darkness going on. All characters have done really terrible things. I mean, the president has murdered someone, my character has murdered people, yet the audience still seem to love these characters and root for them. Imagine you probably just come home and watch the show to escape your own trouble, and suddenly you get caught up in this amazingly written series.
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“I enjoy the emotional pain when I’m shooting the show.”
RL: In Indonesia, the new season of “Scandal” will be premiering around New Year. Any big changes in the plot of the new season?
GD: At the end of season two, as far as my character is concerned, you’d see my character, Huck, torture people in a chamber and he takes Quinn with him. He wants to show her the ropes and introduces her to the things that he does. She watches him just in case she needs to go there. In the new season, Huck has to deal with his fear; he opens the door to Quinn’s dark side and now there’s no turning back. He feels that he creates a monster with her. You’re going to see that Huck struggles with that and their relationship is a bit off. That’s exciting for my character and Quinn.
RL: The character you play is one of the darkest in the middle of the prominent characters of the show. How do you prepare yourself for the role?
GD: We don’t have a lot of time to prepare. We usually get our scripts the day we do our table read, which is the day we read it in front of the writers and directors. Sometimes we start shooting the next day. Sometimes we get a couple more days but usually that’s just about a day or so, which I like, because the fact that we don’t have a lot of time to prepare brings something out, at least in me. It helps me to take a bigger risk and say, “Well, I’m just going to go for it.”
And my character Huck, he’s been through a lot—very tragic, very sad. It’s difficult to explain how I prepare. I just open up my old wounds and get myself really emotionally available and raw, which kind of sucks because I feel vulnerable a lot of the time that I’m shooting. But it’s worth it. I enjoy the emotional pain when I’m shooting the show. It’s however difficult for me to shake the day off—coming home and forgetting what happened—because he’s a pretty heavy character and I know I have to go back and do it the next day.
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RL: In real life, what kind of person are you? Are you as dark as Huck?
GD: I am kind of a loner but I’m a really happy, smiley, jokey person. I’m really different from Huck, so I have to delve into those moments in my life that brings me closer to that emotional state Huck is in. It’s tough that a lot of time Huck didn’t smile in the show. Again, it’s hard, but it’s worth it.
RL: How did you get this role in “Scandal” two years ago?
GD: I got the audition appointment from my agent and I remember talking to my manager, telling him that I won’t fit the character because he’s described to be in his fifties. It was really off for me but I went there and I did it anyway. I didn’t really think about it too much. When I was in the room and started reading, somehow I felt really connected to the role and everybody there felt it, too. They told me I got the role a week later.
RL: Having spent so much time together on set, who is your favorite cast?
GD: I love everyone, and we get along with each other really well. We hangout all the time. But I think I’m close to Katie Lowes, the woman who plays Quinn. We spend a lot of time together on set, so that brings us closer. And with Darby Stanchfield who plays Abby, both of us have a bit of a special connection. We laugh a lot on set.
“When I was in the room and started reading, somehow I felt really connected to the role and everybody there felt it, too.”
RL: You’ve been in the industry for almost two decades. Going back, how did it all start for you, why did you decide you want to get into acting?
GD: I was 17 years old and there was a talent show in my school that I wanted to be a part of. My two friends were already in it. In the last minute, somebody couldn’t do it so I was in. We did a medley of Beastie Boys’ songs. It was my first time being on stage and I fell in love with it. At that moment when I was performing I thought, “This is it; this is what I want to do.” From that point on I just started pursuing it on my own. I did a lot of background work and joined a theatre company, doing student and independent movies. It took me about four to six years before I actually started getting work as an actor. My first movie was in 1993. It was a movie called “Fresh” and from then on, I just kept going. I never really look back.
RL: Now that you’ve experienced movies and TV, which do you prefer and why?
GD: As long as the material is challenging, then it doesn’t matter. I used to say that I prefer making movies, but now I’m on this television show. The writing is incredible and it’s different. I play a totally different character compared to what I’ve played in any movie, so I couldn’t have been happier. As long as the story is interesting and I feel that I want to be a part of it, to me it doesn’t really matter whether it’s television or film.
RL: Is there anyone particular in Hollywood that you want to work with in a project?
GD: There are a few. I love a Spanish director named Pedro Almodóvar. I’ve never done a movie in Spanish and I’m fluent in Spanish, so I’d love to do that. I love another director named John Cameron Mitchell who created “Shortbus,” a very provocative director. I also love horror movies. I’d love to do a really good horror movie.
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RL: You are an openly gay actor in Hollywood. What is it like to be an openly gay actor in Hollywood nowadays?
GD: It’s just like any actor. For me, I’ve never been in the closet. I’ve always been myself. I never lie about who I am. I’ve never really thought about it and it’s never really been an issue for me. I am who I am. The thing is, if people have an issue or I don’t get a job because I’m gay, I don’t really find out or know about it. It doesn’t really affect me. I just do my best at work and I think people have respected that—the fact that I am not hiding anything. Yeah I’m gay but what’s the big deal? People ask me what it feels for me to play a killer but not about being gay.
I did a movie about the Stonewall, the fight for freedom and gay rights, so I’ve always been asked question regarding that matter. I thought, “Oh my god, this is going to be that moment when people are asking me constantly.” So I was at this place where either I am going to lie about this from now on or I have to be honest. I can’t imagine lying, now or ever, about who I am. So I just made a decision to be honest. I am sure that it’s really scary here, so I really respect people who really come out and open up about their lives.
Outfit by Burberry London
“For me, I’ve never been in the closet. I’ve always been myself. I never lie about who I am.”
RL: What is the most important thing in your life right now?
GD: Right now it’s this job, working on the show. That’s how my life rolls around at this moment. I have a very chill, calm life and I’m just happy to be working. I also love to read. I love to spend time with my friends here in L.A., while my family are all in New York. I don’t get to see them very often but I get to see them every Thanksgiving.
RL: I’m going to ask some questions that you can answer in just a word or two. What quality do you like the most in a man?
RL: What quality do you like the most in a woman?
RL: What is your current state of mind?
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