By BRUCE DENNILL
Latin-American actor Rico Torres is recognised for his roles on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and HBO’s Ballers, in addition to international fashion campaigns and national commercials. From a shy teen diagnosed with anorexia to becoming a hotly tipped face to watch in Hollywood, Torres releasing his new, self-published book Know Your Norms, sharing his story to inspire other young people. In addition, his main goal is to help readers be aware of how society limits their creativity and to encourage them to explore more than what was thought to be their “norms”.
Can you distil what it is that you love about film or television, acting and modeling particularly – over other types of performance such as theatre?
The whole process of working with a team during the project. Receiving direction, correction, critique, opinion and perspective, all part of the craft of acting, film and modelling rather than working with a live audience where nothing can go wrong. It is challenging to perform for a live audience and I love that. However, I really enjoy the creative process during a project; allowing others to instill their unique ideals and allowing me to perfect my craft. I have performed in front of a live audience before and it’s still fulfilling, but having a whole team during the process flows more easily.
Film and television can involve an enormously lengthy creative process, with months or even years passing between coming on board via auditions and the premiere of the piece. What’s that like emotionally as a performer – investing heavily in something and then having to wait?
That’s the beauty of it. The process. I love it. All of it. It affected me mentally and emotionally in the beginning. However, once I gained control of my mind, I never allowed that whole process to take a toll on my body, mind and spirit. Now, I give it my all and don’t expect anything in return. If I can receive recognition and impact others with my work, that’s amazing. If that doesn’t happen, I am not going to cry or let it defeat me. I have other projects I fully commit to, because I won’t just sit on one thing I did and hope it works out. I no longer wait for work, acceptance or anything like that. In the beginning, I feel everyone does that and allows it to affect them tremendously. Eventually, as you grow, you’ll learn to continue to persevere through it all.
How important is a message for you in terms of the types of stories you prefer to get involved with? Are you part activist (and if so, for what causes), do you want something that primarily presses artistic buttons, or is it a matter of simply working first and foremost? (Perhaps it’s a mixture of all three…).
It is the root for everything that I do. Everything in life begins with a vision. Then, it’s the telling of a story. Everyone is storytelling in their own lives, whether they are conscious of it or not. Some become aware of that and then add more creativity to telling their story. For example, a normal person who is living their life goes through an array of difficulties and satisfactions. That is a story that is being told as you live it and speak it. Those that become conscious of it,then go on and use creative outlets to extend their storytelling to the world for others to become aware, like them. I am an activist, yes. I care about each and every cause. So most of the time I base my decisions on if I can awaken others by telling a story that aligns with a cause. Minorities, gangs, hate speech, suicide – these are only some of the many causes that get under my skin.
What do you need from a director? Conversely, what won’t you put up with from a director?
What I need is full transparency, no matter how great a personal connection we have or how introverted or hesitant they are to share their opinion on a scene or the way I interpret it. I’ve come across a few directors that enjoy thinking and creating in their mind, but won’t say much out loud. I enjoy collaboration. I thrive on the sharing of ideas that in return generates more ideas and also the direction while adding my own style to it, of course. It’s all a collaborative process. While some directors like to fully control the scene, it’s best to share perspectives to create something magical. It’s not necessarily something I won’t put up with because at the end of the day, as an actor, I am being hired to bring to life the vision of the director and producer, but I’d prefer a more collaborative work field. I wouldn’t put up with abusing the power of directing. It is directing, not dictating. Most directors aren’t that way, which is great, but it does make it difficult to complete a job when people are not on the same page. I would never sacrifice my time being unpleasant for a paycheck.
Does the way a film or show is distributed make a difference to you – the impact of the big screen and epic sound in a cinema versus a film or series being watched on a laptop or phone? Please answer as both a performer and a fan.
As a performer, I love the work itself. It doesn’t matter to me how my work gets distributed as long as it is being seen and impacts many. That’s when you know that you truly love what you do. When you can be okay with certain things like how it gets distributed, negative reviews and so on, knowing that you’ve given it your all and working on the next project, letting everything in your life will progress mentally, physically and spiritually. As a fan, it’s pretty cool to watch it on the big screen with the epic sound as well, but I don’t feel it has any difference in the impact the actual film or series makes. I say this because I am conscious of how TV and film gets made and can put myself in the character’s shoes, director’s shoes, and so on. A regular person might perceive the big screen to be more impactful, but that is because they aren’t aware of those things.
You’ve appeared on Penny Dreadful and Ballers in addition to several fashion campaigns and commercials. What were these jobs like and what have you learned?
Amazing experiences! They’re all stepping stones to where I am going in my career. Working with these big names in the entertainment industry only strengthens my skills and confidence. Being in a massive production opens my eyes to more. More, more, more. That’s what we thrive on as a society. I perceive each job as an opportunity to learn and progress rather than to indulge my ego. The commercials and fashion campaigns are so much fun. I don’t even consider that work. I meet so many different people and again learn from all these creative teams trying to share unique and powerful messages. It is such a beautiful experience.
Tell us about Know Your Norms and why you decided to self-publish this book?
This book is written with the view of society and social norms that deems one to be a defined ‘normal’ human being. I incorporate my personal life experiences along with the social norms and deviances to substantiate the arguments proposed in each chapter. The book aims to help readers to become aware of society and how it pushes a person to act in a certain way, limiting their creativity and exposure. The reader will, I hope, feel a paradigm shift; be relieved of averageness. It will make the world aware of the simulation that they go through daily so that everyone can break free from it. I decided to self-publish this book mainly because I enjoy having complete creative control of my work. I also have to work twice as much to get my book to as many hands as I can, which means I am invested in my writing and its message, rather than not lifting a finger and having no control over anything in the process.