Four-time Tony Award-nominee Raul Esparza is one of Broadway’s brightest stars and my personal favorite Broadway actor. Lately, though, he is also gracing both movie and television screens.
We chatted on the phone at length in what became one of the most fun and relaxed interviews I’ve ever had. We spoke, for example, about how we both got goosebumps when we saw “Spring Awakening” on Broadway — a show that starred Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff of TV’s “Glee” — and how we hope shows like “Glee” and “Smash” will help make stage musicals more popular. (Read my story about season two of “Smash.”)
Speaking of “Glee,” Raul told me about the time he ran into Matthew Morrison (Mr. Schue) — at Target of all places. I told him about the article in which “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy said he would love to cast Raul. Lea Michele even mentioned Raul’s name in the Jan. 24, 2013 episode. (Time for a letter campaign? Who’s with me?)
He also mentioned how proud he is of the cast of the new musical film, “Les Miserables,” especially Anne Hathaway, who played opposite him in “Twelfth Night” at Shakespeare in Central Park.
But mostly, we talked about his recent screen work, including his recurring role on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” his part on a not-yet aired NBC series based on the Hannibal Lecter stories, and the evil character he plays in the independent film, “Trouble in the Heights.”
In “Trouble in the Heights,” Raul is Nevada, a Latino drug kingpin in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. (Watch for my interview with the film’s director, Jonathan Ullman.)
Raul is a Cuban-American, but he has often been told he “isn’t Cuban enough” for Latino roles. This is one of the reasons he was interested in the role of Nevada.
“I never get cast in a Latin role ever, so that intrigued me,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s an easy sell to see me as a Puerto Rican or a Cuban in the Hollywood stereotypical way. And I liked the script. I liked the writing, and I thought it had potential…. Here was a role that had intelligence that was also fun and had qualities I could play around with that was more than just a street corner thug. It was a little bit of seeing if I could maybe do that.”
Another attraction to the role was the freedom that an independent film affords an actor as opposed to a studio movie. “The best thing about a low budget independent film that you’re doing kind of ‘on the fly’ is that you can learn a lot,” he said. “It’s very different to drop into a massive film. I’ve not done a lot, but I’ve done one or two, where there’s a machine that takes over and you can’t ask questions. You’d just better know the stuff, jump in, and do it.”
Trouble In The Heights is available on iTunes, Amazon, Redbox, Select VOD and On Demand outlets as well as the Trouble In The Heights site.
Check out: http://troubleintheheights.com/