Photo by Farrah Aviva
During YV Media's interview with Alexander Nunez, we found out his greatest challenges as an actor and a screenwriter, his Top 5 favorite actors/actresses, and we talked about his role as 'Saint Sammy' in the CBC Drama series, Moonshine.
What exactly inspired you to become an actor?
Growing up, my family watched all kinds of shows and movies together. My mom is also a huge fan of Broadway plays, so I got to see plenty of musicals as a kid. Watching, I developed a deep sense of intrigue about the performers and how their actions would make me feel. It seemed like such a powerful thing to be able to affect people so deeply by playing pretend. I would think, “this looks fun! I think I could do that.” My parents never thought acting to be a practical career choice (and they aren’t wrong), but I had a really great elementary school teacher named Chana Machado, who saw something in me and begged me to find a way to entertain for a living. She told me, “Performing is what you are meant to do. You have what it takes to do this and thrive.” In times I didn’t feel I had the confidence to go forward with an acting career, I would think about her belief in me.
Currently, you're cast in the CBC Drama series, Moonshine. Can you share some details with us about the show and the character you play?
Of course! Moonshine is a crazy tale about the Finley-Cullen clan; a family of half-siblings fighting for control of their ancestral home and business, the Moonshine summer resort. The Moonshine lodge business is a mess, even on its best day. Everything’s breaking apart, the staff (aka the Finley-Cullens) sucks, there are years of back-taxes. With all of that in mind, the Finley-Cullens do some pretty desperate and questionable stuff to keep their business — and themselves — alive. I play Sammy, the “smart” one. He’s adopted and lovingly nicknamed “Saint Sammy” thanks to his role as the family’s emotional rock. He’s extremely dedicated to his parents. So much so, he’s willing to keep a huge secret from his favorite older sister, Lidia, to keep the peace. In our first season, Sammy displays superhuman levels of patience while trying to maintain peace in his family. In our upcoming second season, Sammy begins to wonder what life would be like if he didn’t waste all his potential on this crappy resort and his overwhelming family. He was fun to play in the first season. He always had a sense of coolness, and he was definitely a Moonshine’s strong silent type — but I can’t wait for people to see the direction we’ve taken Sammy for our upcoming second season (coming spring 2022).
Greatest challenges as an actor/screenwriter?
When you have experience acting and writing, the biggest challenge is sticking to the job you’re getting paid to do! I’ve been acting for longer than I’ve been writing. Now that I have some screenwriting experience under my belt, the way I take on acting roles has shifted. My main concerns are now; is the story good? Line count/screen-time aside, how is my character affecting the plot? Do their decisions matter? Are things happening to them or are they enacting change, whether it’s for better or worse? I love these questions because they aren’t actor-centric. My intention now is always to help better the project as a whole. You do, however, run the risk of overstepping and causing friction with your writing team, your director, and your showrunner. You never know how people are going to take critiques like “Why am I doing/saying this?”, or “this is a contradiction,” or “this doesn’t make any sense.” Sometimes being respectfully direct with your concerns creates a collaborative experience that elevates the project. Sometimes you’re told to shut up and speak lines that you don’t agree with. Every set is different. I’m finding that my greatest challenges now are finding the confidence to be selective with my projects, and knowing when to speak up, especially when it’s for the good of the project. Thankfully, Moonshine has been an extremely safe and collaborative set. Our showrunner, Sheri Elwood has continuously provided a safe environment to share ideas and concerns.
What is your method of research when approaching a new role?
It really depends on the role! I view most characters as an alternate version of myself. Sammy and I are similar in so many ways. We are both natural emotional caregivers as a result of our family dynamics. In general, and when I see fit, I tend to adopt traits from the people in my life when I believe they fit a character well. Hand gestures, expressions, accents, walk... I take these from friends, family, even strangers I see while I’m out. My time studying psychology and sociology at the University of Toronto has also proven to be very useful. It’s helped me to create a few shortcuts on getting to certain mindsets and emotional places. Of course, it’s also important to do your homework on the setting, the character’s backstory, and their relationships with other characters to get a full picture of who that character is.
What do you feel is more important… an actor's raw talent or training?
Training! Training, training, training! Raw talent is nothing unless it’s nurtured with training. I’ve seen so many actors try to go it with talent alone (myself included), but it’s never enough. The ability to act is a muscle. You might be naturally athletic but you don’t get to look like a superhero unless you go to the gym, right?
Which do you enjoy more, acting or writing? Or do you equally enjoy both?
I enjoy them both equally, but for very different reasons. There’s a certain quality about acting that I like, in that it’s a single task that requires meditative focus. You are given words. Then you try your best to speak to them in the most convincing way you can. That’s all you need to bring to the table, along with the ability to adapt to redirection. There is very little that you control outside of your character, but you get to own those characters once you embody them. I love that simplicity. I memorize, and then I only have to focus on being in the moment. Writing is great because it allows you a little more control — a sense of authorship. You’ve made the rules for the world. I’m currently in production for the second season of an OutTV series called 'Avocado Toast'. This year, I was in the writer’s room and it’s been surreal getting to hear dialogue I’ve written come to life.
If you could spend a day with another popular actor or screenwriter, whom would you choose and why?
Issa Rae, and I’ll continue to say her name until it happens! There are so many amazing black creators that I look up to and would love to meet. I’m still praying to be in an Ava Duvernay film, or a Spike Lee joint, or to act with Viola Davis. But it was especially meaningful to me to see a young black woman so close to my age making things happen for herself. 'Insecure' premiered at a low career point in my life when I really needed to see someone like her succeeding. I watched that show and thought, “she got there, and so can I.” It’s also a damn good show and I’m DISTRAUGHT that it’s ending! I’d definitely insist on taking her out to lunch or something.
What do you consider to be some of the most common traps for aspiring writers/actors?
Not attempting to create your own content! How’s anybody supposed to know you’re talented if all you’re doing is sitting by the phone waiting for your agent to call!? How are you supposed to even get an agent if you’re not putting something together for potential agents to watch? Go make a short. Or a YouTube video. Damn, go make a TikTok. And, especially for the writers… you’re never too good to take a class. You need criticism. It’s scary, but it’ll make you better, I promise. P.S. Agents only get paid when you do.
What is the one thing you want the world to know about you that we don’t already know?
I know a scary number of things about DC and Marvel comic books. I’d be amazing at comic trivia. I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. I know everything there is to know, and I’m talking movies. The animated show. The books. The prequels. The sequels. The interquels. Gimme a lightsaber. Gimme a blaster. Put some alien makeup on my face. I will. Be. In. A. Star Wars show.
Top 5 Favorite Actors
Only five!? Fine. In no particular order, and with many many honorable mentions in my head: Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Mahershala Ali, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci.