Henry Zaga first appeared on television back in 2015 then gained recognition for his role as Josh Diaz in “Teen Wolf.” From then on, he started appearing in increasingly bigger titles.
Zaga played in Netflix hit show “13 Reasons Why” and was casted as Marvel superhero Roberto da Costa aka Sunspot in the “X-Men” spin-off film “The New Mutants.” After a long and winding road, the film is scheduled to be released this August and we can finally witness Zaga and his new, shiny power.
DA MAN: Hi Henry, nice having you with us from all the way over there. How are you doing?
Henry Zaga: Oh, you know… The world is burning, we got a martyr for president and no clue when we’ll be over it. But all things considered, I’m alright…I think.
DA: Are you still in self-quarantine?
HZ: Yes. Been cooped up in Los Angeles since March.
DA: When things are uncertain like they are now, how do you stay positive?
HZ: A positive is that I don’t fully suck at cooking. I thought I did until recently, and look … maybe I still do. But my food became more edible since this whole thing started, and now I’ve gotten really creative in the kitchen, making desserts and duck with fig sauce. So, I think that’s a positive. My dogs haven’t complained about my food, so it must be a sign.
DA: We learned that you were born and raised in Brazil. What was it like there and when did you move to the U.S.?
HZ: Brazil is wonderful. Unfortunately, it’s also ruled by a martyr at the moment, or as we say it: “Tropical Trump.” But, without getting political, my country is inequitably beautiful and home to the warmest people. I moved to the U.S. when I was 18 to pursue acting, but always try to go back and see my family as much as possible.
DA: You begin acting roughly in 2015. Tell us more about the early days of your career…
HZ: It’s weird to think of it that way: the early days of my career. I feel like I’ve barely started. It was exciting though, I was finishing my first year in college and landed a role in an indie movie. But the trick was, because of my visa I had to choose between my degree or the gig. And I did what any reckless hungry actor would. I picked the movie and luckily I’ve been working consistently ever since.
DA: Is acting something that has always been your passion? What is it about acting that you love?
HZ: Well, I got the acting bug in high school after I played Wilbur Turnblad, the 60-year-old dad in “Hairspray.” You can tell I was a real popular kid, but that really gave me a push to keep exploring. I was already obsessed with movies and to tap into the acting side of it meshed the two passions together and started this whole thing.
DA: Let’s talk about “The New Mutants.” The movie is filled with young bright actors and actresses, including yourself. What was the casting process like?
HZ: It was long, painful and also rewarding. It took nearly 10 months until I finally had the offer. [Director] Josh Boone and I clicked since day one and he told me I was Sunspot after just our first meeting together. It was crazy because I knew how tough these jobs were to get and how many auditions some actors go through. And with me it was no different, but I’m incredibly grateful it worked out.
DA: Filming for “The New Mutants” actually began back in 2017, right? Any memorable moments you can share with us about those times?
HZ: Many. There was a time around fourth of July that the five of us got an Airbnb in Boston for the weekend and just played music and talked forever … and may or may not drank ridiculous amounts of wine. But we earned it. We were rehearsing and training before filming for three weeks and that was the time we finally got to chill and get to know each other.
DA: After plans for an April 2018 release, which was then pushed back numerous times with plans for reshoots being mentioned one time, “The New Mutants” is now scheduled for release this August. How excited are you?
HZ: The real question is how many times can one be excited about a release date? I am and always will be incredibly excited for when our movie comes out. But I can’t deny that it’s been a bummer when the release gets pushed again and again. So when it does … I will be the first one out the door. With a mask on!
DA: Tell us a bit about your character, Roberto da Costa aka Sunspot. What are his powers and what is his role in the story?
HZ: Roberto is mad cocky, always hiding behind a shameless confidence that really comes from his fears and insecurities. He’s been traumatized by his own powers. I would too if when I “turned” everyone around me went up in flames. So, he goes on a journey of self-discovery with the other mutants to overcome their fears by honing their mutant powers.
YOU CAN TELL I WAS A REAL POPULAR KID, BUT THAT REALLY GAVE ME A PUSH TO KEEP EXPLORING
DA: “The New Mutants” trailer hints at a horror-like movie. Is that something that the audience can look forward to?
HZ: Yes! Even in the “The New Mutants” comics, they have a much darker approach to the mutant powers than your regular “X-Men,” especially since Bill Sienkiewicz came on to illustrate. It’s definitely not for everybody. Some of these traumas are incredibly dark and I don’t personally know how valiant I’d have to be to overcome them, but expect a banger of a horror movie.
DA: Do you do your own stunts, by the way? If you do, what’s that like? Did you have to undergo any kind of special training beforehand?
HZ: I do as much as I am allowed to. I find it fascinating when actors say they do all their stunts. I’m like: How in the world did you convince the producers to not freak out about you potentially breaking a leg mid-scene and halting the production until you can walk again? I have a lot of respect for stunt performers and I train like crazy with them before the shots I’m allowed to do. But I’m only allowed to do so much at this point in my career.
DA: Did you read the comics before landing the role?
HZ: I geeked out, yes. I still have a hundred plus original issues stocked in my house.
DA: Who is your favorite “X-Men” character and why?
HZ: I always liked the badass-ness of Wolverine, but I’m very curious what it’s like to be Mystique and turn into Ryan Gosling for a day. Or someone in the White House that could be doing a better job…
DA: You’re also starring in the “The Stand,” based on the famous novel by Stephen King. Anything you can share with us about this one?
HZ: It’s special and strangely topical. We were freaking out by the end of filming—around March—that we were making “The Stand” during a time when a viral disease ravages the world like some scary omen. I can’t wait to see the show as I’m a huge fan of the book myself. Plus, you had to see how into it everyone was. It’s much bigger than us as a cast and crew, it’s Stephen King’s dystopian bible and we had to honor it no matter what. I think it will be special to people is a very lasting way.
DA: Tell us about your character…
HZ: Nick is a deaf young drifter who relies on people’s kindness and hospitality to get by. He exchanges hard work for shelter before the super-flu hits and is then “chosen” by a godly woman to lead the good people of the new world.
DA: Are you a fan of Stephen King?
HZ: I’ve turned into one by being friends with his number one fan, Josh Boone. I was reading “The Stand” on the set of “The New Mutants”—ironically—and Josh freaked out when he saw it: “Dude, that’s my favorite book! I started writing because of ‘The Stand.’ Why are you reading it?” So, we opened that gate. He told me his childhood story of when he wrote to Mr. King and he sent him a box with his works, and that just made me see him as someone so admirable and thoughtful. A man who truly cares about his readers and how impactful his stories are to them.
DA: What do you do in your free time? Do you work out regularly?
HZ: I really love being outdoors, man. I think we’re so spoiled with the weather in L.A. and I try to make the best of it—even in quarantine! But to answer your question, I’ve always been obsessed with learning new skills, so whenever I fall in love with something, be it the piano or ASL, I try learning everything about it.
DA: What’s your normal day like?
HZ: Every day is different. I started talking to my plants the other day, but realized it’s a collateral of the stay-at-home experience. But through sanity, I try sticking to waking up early and reading as much as possible. Be it books, scripts or anything rewarding enough to keep going. It’s really easy to get distracted with pointless stuff like your phone or random lunch meetings—pre-COVID, that is. So, I try leaving a book over my phone all day long like a nervous tick, so as to remind me to line up my priorities.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN OBSESSED WITH LEARNING NEW SKILLS, SO WHENEVER I FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMETHING, I TRY LEARNING EVERYTHING ABOUT IT
DA: Who are your heroes in real life?
HZ: Jesus. I mean it. I can’t imagine someone saying “turn the other cheek” these days and not being laughed at, as well as having an everlasting positive effect over billions of followers. He’s a teacher that I keep close to my heart. And also, my grandma. If Jesus had a hard time, try raising four kids on your own in the ’40s in a misogynistic Brazil when women had little to no rights. She did it all with grace and perpetual smiles. Now she’s 87 and still teaches me the simplest and most important things in life.
DA: Do you have any favorite quotes or lines to live by?
HZ: Lighten up, get off your butt, work like a nut and do something exciting with your life! I have that line stuck to my fridge.
PHOTOGRAPHY Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
STYLING Kimberly Goodnight at Media Playground PR
GROOMING Nelly Christine using OUAI care at The Wall Group
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