by Ryan Meehan
It all started when actor Roberto Aguire made the decision to attend the prestigious Tisch School of Arts at New York University. He chose NYU because it offered the opportunity to have a conservatory style training in acting alongside a very well rounded liberal arts education. While at Tisch, Roberto spent his first three years there developing the skills the school believed were vital for a well-rounded actor to have –from ballet to singing, and improv to dialect training. He describes the experience as going to prolonged therapy, explaining, “Everyday you’re learning more about yourself and how you behave in a crazy emotional journey in which you get pushed to every single limit possible. Some days you laugh, some days you cry, some days you get confused and question everything you stand for, but the one constant is an unwavering passion you have to grow and succeed as an actor.” The training paid off. After graduating, Roberto moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a professional actor. Unlike many green actors, he soon was taking meetings with managers, agents and producers. He solidified his team and began networking and meeting moviemakers. With a positive attitude, an impressive degree, sheer talent, and an instant chemistry with the film’s director, Roberto quickly landed a role in Chris Colfer’s (Glee) debut film, “Struck By Lightning.” In the film, Roberto plays Emillio, the school’s resident foreign exchange student from El Salvador and consequently, a die-hard womanizer. When we see him at the beginning of the movie, he is really living the life, but there is a surprise twist at the end—and it’s funny. In addition to his acting role in the film, Roberto earned his first major producing credit in “Struck By Lightning.” It was the perfect opportunity for him to get hands on experience as a filmmaker by completely immersing himself in every part of the movie making process. This unique experience gave Roberto another vantage point from which to enhance his own personal abilities as an actor. “Struck by Lightning” screened at the Tribeca Film Festival this past spring and is set for release this January 2013, and Roberto Aguire is our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: How did you first get into acting? Was there a particular performance that you saw that really inspired you to become an actor?
RA: The first thing I ever acted in was a small school play called Ax of Murder by Pat Cook. My character was this rural southern guy, not too bright, who cared more about his truck than his girlfriend. I loved every single one of the very few lines I had and I obsessed over making the character as authentic as possible; I studied the accent, picked the clothes, and rehearsed like there was no tomorrow. And yes we are talking about a middle school play! When we finally performed and people actually laughed at my lines, I started to think that acting was something I could get used to doing. What finally settled me into the path of becoming an actor though was seeing Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. After watching that movie, there was nothing else I wanted to do except act. I was very familiar with the funny Robin Williams that I’d grown to love in so many of his previous films, but when I saw him play this beautifully crafted complex human being on screen, a switch flipped in my mind and I realized what actors do. We get to breathe life into words on a page; we get to create real people from ideas; we get to tell the stories we want to tell. After those facts dawned on me, there wasn’t any other thing I could think of doing.
FOH: You grew up in Switzerland but studied at New York University…were you nervous about getting into such a prestigious school?
RA: Definitely! I remember being in complete shock when I got accepted. I was at my school’s theatre and my mom randomly came rushing in with a thick envelope. Opening it was probably one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life. Actually going to NYU Tisch was mind blowing though. The teachers there completely changed my appreciation for what acting is and gave me a way to understand it. And being completely surrounded by people who were just as passionate as I was about their craft gave me a sense of support that I think is normally difficult to find in this profession.
FOH: In “Struck By Lightning”, you play a character who is a foreign exchange student and is also described as a womanizer. Was there any part of you that was worried that character might be portraying a negative stereotype of individuals who come to America to study and have new life experiences?
RA: I think Chris wrote Struck By Lightning in a very intelligent and particular way precisely to avoid any of his characters falling into that negative stereotype trap. If you notice the characters around Carson (Chris’ character), they’re all basically stereotypes; you have the cheerleader, the jock, the goth, the rich kid, etc. But the purpose they serve in Chris’ story is to show how sometimes society is the one that places unwanted stereotypes on teenagers. All of the kids in Struck By Lightning have been forced to play certain roles in their society, roles that they’re stuck in and that they don’t believe they can ever break out of. There’s a beautiful moment of realization in the movie where Carson has just been yelling at the entire student council for not being able to stand up for themselves. After he storms out of the room Sarah Hyland turns to the others and says, with a little less confidence than we’ve seen her have until that point, “We are not clichés”. It’s the first time any of these kids have realized what they’re being forced to be, and that they might actually have a choice in the matter. I hope more than anything that kids watch the movie and become aware of who they actually want to be as opposed to who they’re being obligated to be.
FOH: I see that you received a production credit for that film as well. What did that consist of? Was it easier or more difficult to work in the production aspect of filmmaking because you were also an actor in that same movie?
RA: I was a producer on SBL and my job along with two other main producers was to oversee the entire project. We dealt with any problems that came along and weighed in on any creative or financial decisions that had to be made. At first it was a little difficult to balance both because I kept trying to do them at the same time. Luckily Brian Dannelly (the director) was able to help me draw a very clear line between when I was acting and when I was producing which alleviated a lot of the pressure I felt at having to wear both hats. The days I came in as an actor, everyone treated me strictly as an actor; the days I came in as a producer, everyone treated me strictly as a producer. It also helped that we had a fantastic cast and crew that were very dedicated and supportive of each other and of the movie. Everybody kept saying that it was one of the most convivial and easy going sets they had ever worked on, and I don’t think it would have been as great of an experience for me playing both parts had that not been the case.
FOH: What would be the best way that you would be able to describe working with Chris Colfer? Is working in television and with television producers something that you have a lot of interest in?
RA: Chris is a bottomless pit of kindness and talent. He is extremely inviting of the people around him into his world, and you can’t help but feel more creative when you’re with him. He has such a vast imagination that manifests itself in all of the creative outlets that he’s been able to take on. I’m very gracious to have worked with him. I’d love to work in television and with television producers! I would probably want to experience the television world as an actor first so that I can get more familiar with it, but then I would definitely make the jump to the production side as well.
FOH: What’s up next for Roberto Aguire in the twelve months to come? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
RA: I have a project that I’m attached to right now but I can’t disclose any of the details yet! I think the producers are going to make an announcement very soon though!
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