Vicente Gil, Tomas Taborda, Claudio De Castro: The hidden gems of Portugal’s cinema

Embarking on a journey to Portugal, DA MAN uncovers the uncharted talents of its cinema and sat down with three talented actors: Vicente Gil, Tomas Taborda and Claudio De Castro

On Vicente (bottom): T-shirt and pants by Hibu; On Cláudio (right): T-shirt by Andrez; Sneakers by NIke; On Tomás (left): Pants by Hibu; Sunglasses by l.a. Eyeworks

For decades now, the faces of performers on screens small and large that we become familiar with come mostly from Hollywood. Yet, there are so many immensely talented actors from all corners of the world that also deserve the spotlight shined on their works. Take, for example, Portuguese cinema, where a rich array of outstanding performers eagerly await recognition.

As we delve into this unique corner of the entertainment biz, we set out on a journey that introduced us to three incredible Portuguese actors. Beyond their artistic abilities, these individuals offer us a glimpse into a captivating world of storytelling and creative talent; reminding us that true skill knows no limits and should receive the worldwide acclaim it has been missing for quite some time. Meet Vicente Gil, Claudio De Castro and Tomas Taborda.

Vicente Gil

DAMAN: Can you tell us about your journey as an actor, from the theatrical field to your debut at the Venice International Film Festival?
Vicente Gil: I wanted to be an actor from a very early age, which is why I started doing theatre at the age of twelve. After starting studies in theatre, in the acting course, the opportunity arose to make my debut in cinema in the film “Cães que Ladram os Pássaros,” directed by Leonor Teles. After making this film—and after the premiere in Venice—my relationship with the profession grew and changed my perspective, creating in me a career dream much bigger than what I had. What defines my experience before and after my debut is that the desire to be an actor and the goal of wanting to stay in the industry has grown and has been growing with each experience I encountered.

DA: How did your education from ACE Escola de Artes and Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema contribute to your development as an actor?
VG: At ACE Escola de Artes, they taught me that an actor is like a sponge. This means that you must constantly be absorbing everything you can, so that your knowledge of the world deepens. I always believed and wished that I could become a reflection of multiple realities. I know that it is impossible to live the reality of a character because they do not exist, but it is possible to be the closest possible reflection of their world. Like in real life. We are not able to experience a person’s reality, happiness or pain, but it is always possible for me to approach their perspective. In this sense, I believe that studies, whether academic or self-taught, are the greatest tool for the actor. It is by studying, reading, seeing or listening that we learn the most and reflect the most, and that is where the actor grows, in the deep knowledge of reflecting the most diverse realities on stage or on camera.

DA: You are currently filming “Morangos com Açucar,” a new series for Amazon Prime. What attracted you to this project and what can viewers expect from this new series?
VG: I often say in a joking tone that the models of television and cinema are totally different; that’s why they are different jobs. It’s my first series as a lead, so I have a much bigger responsibility than I’ve ever had on television. I am very happy with this series because it gives new life to one of the most iconic Portuguese series. It’s exciting to work for something so cherished by the Portuguese public, but also to try to artistically and technically elevate a project with a gigantic legacy. I hope the series is well received and exceeds the public’s expectations, which is apparently huge.

DA: Do you feel that your cultural background has influenced your career in any way? If yes, how has it shaped your perspective and approach to acting?VG: Our origin defines much of who we are. Following on from what I was saying about how our perspectives and experiences shape us, being a Roma brings a lot of positive things to my work. I feel an immense need to create new perspectives in the characters I work with; I try to show them new ways of seeing the world and propose different ways of existing. There is also the fact that I am a naturally political body, as roles are rarely written for gypsy identities and very few gypsies manage to work as actors in Portugal. In that sense my presence on a set or on a stage is an addition to the plurality of the teams. A diverse group brings new ideas.

DA: Are there any particular actors or filmmakers who have inspired or influenced your work?
VG: Wong Kar Wai, Grace Passô, Al Pacino, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Andrea Arnold, Vince Gilligan, Claire Denis, Romeo Castellucci, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Pina Bausch, Juliette Binoche, Francis Ford Coppola…

DA: And how have they impacted your artistic journey?
VG: These are just a few artists that I observe, study, learn from, fall in love with and try to reproduce. From theatre, dance and cinema, they are geniuses that inspire my work as an actor. They are my first artistic references, the ones that follow me every day of rehearsal or filming. All these artists have in them the sensitivity and profound technique that I intend to achieve as an actor and artist—whether it is in terms of presence, versatility, good taste or intelligence.

DA: What are your future aspirations and goals as an actor?
VG: I never know how to answer this question. I intend to have interesting roles and work with worlds I don’t know. There is something Kafkaesque and metamorphic in the actor’s process that I intend to achieve and that comes with the possibility of transforming our body, our physicality, our voice, our way of being and thinking. It arises with the shock that happens to my reality. But for that you need good scripts and good direction, which are rarer than you’d like. It’s what I work for and will work for, I run after it. I will always fight for this.

DA: Are there any specific types of roles or projects you would like to explore?
VG: Yes. I’d like to work on the essence of the Western, the French Nouvelle Vague—adapted to today’s times, of course—and something in the David Cronenberg universe.

DA: Lastly, are you planning to go to Hollywood?
VG: It’s always hard to aim for Hollywood; it seems unattainable. But I can’t say that I don’t wish and that I don’t dream about it. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of good things, especially series scripts. I am passionate about the old classics and, these last years, of American culture. I like it when I’m surprised by his classics from the ’60s and ’70s and when I’m fascinated by the scripts from the last ten years.

Claudio De Castro

DAMAN: You have experiences in both theatre and television. How do you navigate and adapt your approach when transitioning between the two mediums?
Claudio De Castro: I think that every artistic object is unique and different. Starting from there, the only thing you can offer as an artist, as an actor, is the choices you make about the object. I think acting is acting, you only adapt your tools as an actor to make it work according to the challenge you’re facing. Some choices will work better on screen and some choices will work better on stage. It’s only a matter of deciding what is more fruitful for a specific type of object. It’s a matter of calibrating the tools for each format.

DA: What are the main differences you’ve noticed when it comes to preparing for, performing in and connecting with the audience in television and theatre?
CDD: In theatre you need to work on a more intuitive basis with your audience. Which means you have to have a more energetic approach in order to connect yourself with that specific audience and to make it work not only in terms of creating a specific tempo and energy but also a specific space. Now, screen wise, you also have to do that type of work but there’s the added challenge that falls in how we, as actors, can make someone who’s not present when the action is taking place understand not only the storyline but how we’re feeling and thinking in the given moment.

DA: What do you find most fulfilling about working on stage?
CDD: I think right now, especially as a black actor in my country, I’ve been aiming more and more towards representativeness issues. I think we still have a long path to trail here in Portugal. There’s still a lot of roles to give and a lot of stories to tell. And I think for me, the stage is, and will always be, the opportunity to improve my craft as an actor and a main place for those stories to be told.

Tomas Taborda

DAMAN: Congratulations on your upcoming role in the new series “Morangos com Açucar.” Can you tell us more about your character and what excites you most about the role?
Tomas Taborda: It is indeed a dream come true to live this experience. What is most exciting for me about this project is knowing that we are representing real people. To be able to see any of the characters and think: “I know someone like that.” Or even be a reference for someone who will watch the series and can say: “I identify with this or that character.”“Morangos com Açucar” was remarkable for several generations here in Portugal. Nothing like this, or with such impact, has ever been done. Of course, being part of this return, with the partnership between Prime Video and TVI, is not only rewarding, but also a great responsibility.

My character is so free of any type of prejudice and is someone who tries to make a difference and seek justice in most situations. He is also passionate about fashion; his dream is to be a designer and he also plays the piano. So, I am very happy to soon be able to introduce you to Harry.

DA: You have a background in music; do you feel that it has influenced your approach to acting? Are there any specific skills or perspectives you gained from your musical studies that you apply to your performances?
TT: Music has always been very present in my life. My father sings and plays several instruments, my paternal grandmother also sings. In fact, the whole paternal side of my family is very connected to music. So, I have always been connected with it. As for the skills or perspective that you have acquired from one area to the other… I think they are two very different art forms. But, above all, we communicate in both; and both in music and in theater, communication has to be clear in order to be understood. So, I feel that clarity is perhaps the weapon I use most in both areas.

DA: You made your stage debut in the play “Trouble,” directed by Gus van Sant. How did it feel to work with such an acclaimed director and what were some of the key learnings you took away from that experience?
TT: I have long wanted to debut on stage because, although I have been doing amateur theatre since I was a child, I had never officially debuted. When I heard that I was going to be part of the cast of “Trouble” directed by Gus, I was thrilled! In addition to the unbelievable opportunity to work with a reference like Gus, I was able to make my debut in theater in Paris, which was a complete dream.

In addition to the play being all in English, which required greater effort because it was not my native language, I was able to realize that teamwork is fundamental to any project. We only shine if our counter scene shines together with us. It is never about us but about an ensemble. And in “Trouble” it was very much that. We were all going towards a common goal, which makes all the difference.

Also, because I came in halfway through the process as I was taking the place of an actor who had left the play, it led me to be very demanding of myself. I’ve always been extremely demanding of myself. I think something I can also take from this project is that work is the key to success. Of course, luck is also important; but if everyone involved does their job with the best possible energy, the result will certainly be positive.

Shirt by Andrez
Jacket by Dino Alves; T-shirt by Andrez; Pants by Duarte; Sneakers by adidas
Vest by ELLERALI; Jacket by Hibu; Pants by Hibu
T-shirt by Andrez
Jacket by Dino Alves
Vest by Andrez; Pants by Dino Alves; Sunglasses by l.a. Eyeworks

Production Ian Phillips, Media Playground PR
Special thanks to Manuela Oliveira at Moda Lisboa