ATM: What went through your mind when receiving the Director of Entertainment Partnerships & Co-Productions & The Acquisition title for the film Socio?
DA: I was thrilled. I have been acting for so many years and built up a huge list of credits, but to have my writing and producing talents realized was exciting. I’ve learned that you can’t go through Hollywood by being just an actor. You have to find more ways to be creative. You have to become a filmmaker. I have always been a writer. I went to film school to learn how to direct, edit, and produce some of my own projects. It’s great to be recognized for this. Anything that I write will now be looked at by Media Distribution Partners, and hopefully produced as well. I’ll give my opinion on other writers who submit their materials. People have sent me scripts in the past, and I helped spruce them up by ghostwriting or doing detailed script coverage. It’s good to be recognized for this more than for just being a person who acts in front of the camera.
ATM: What does your new leadership title as Director of Entertainment Partnerships & Co-Productions at Media Distribution Partners mean for your acting skills?
DA: I’ll always have a role in our projects that we produce together. This position means that I can create my own scripts, produce them, and act in them if I wanted too. I no longer have to only wait by the phone for other work opportunities on other projects. Don’t get me wrong, I am still extremely grateful for all my opportunities, auditions, and whatever I get called in to read for whether it is through my own connections or my agent submitting me or making calls about different projects. Being a filmmaker means you have more options.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have received straight offers over the years, which is very gratifying to know that someone saw my work and trusts me enough to want me to be a part of their project. I’ve now gotten to act in projects that I have written, and that was pretty great. Having my words be brought to life by my performance because of my vision. It’s all great fun. My favorite is to be able to cast friends in other roles in my projects and have us work together. Often I had spoken to people who I wanted to work alongside with, and never got the chance, but now with my projects, I can do exactly that. My work opportunities and fun have expanded, and I am very grateful for this.
ATM: Express your approach to the writing style you put into your scripts.
DA: Having watched movies since I was very young, I’ve gotten to understand what draws people in, and what causes them to lose focus on what they are watching. I know what moves me, makes me laugh, stirs my emotions, and try to take a little bit from of these elements from some of my favorite writers of the movies I have seen. I do lots of research and study techniques and writing habits from many of my favorite writers. The writing process is enjoyable and heart wrenching for me at the same time. I like to do a small outline about what the story is about, but my main focus is understanding who my characters are, and what their goals are. That helps me to tell a better story.
I wrote a six-episode miniseries titled “Socio” that Media Distribution picked up. In it I had a clear understanding of who the main character, Hannah, was. This helped me to fully flesh her out as a person as I kept writing more episodes. There were times I was not sure where to take the story, but because I could see Hannah clearly, it felt like my hand was guided by her, and instinctively knew what came next in the story.
All my characters have a distinct voice. I can hear them speak when I write the dialogue. This guides me when further developing the story, but because I do have an outline and a solid idea where the story is headed, it is great to have the characters play out the scenes in their manipulative ways.
On the days where I am stuck in the creative process, I’ve learned to simply trust that it will work itself out, and let it go. I meditate, and or go for a jog. Listen to music to decompress. I may think about the script or not. I know that in no time, my creativity will become aligned again because I put no pressure on myself. It may take an hour or day or two or longer, but I always find myself back on track and writing.
When I first wrote season one “Socio,” I was averaging writing about 8 or 9 hours a day. I was so into what I was doing, that time flew. The rewrites can take me longer, cause that’s where the script cleanup happens. Removing elements that did not work such as bad dialogue or story plots. It can get tiring, but it was also great fun, and in the end, I have discovered my Media Distribution Partners.
ATM: From the 1st draft until what was approved, what did you learn about yourself in this process of staying up for 8 to 9 hours?
DA: I learned that sometimes when writing the first draft that one can write too much. It is okay because then on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th draft and beyond, you edit, edit, edit and clean up long explanations that are not needed or adding the right amount of detail in places that are vague. The process is like running around in a track. Each lap is a rewrite, and before you know it you’ve done 7 or 8 laps or more over a period of days or weeks.
There are times when I find myself laughing out loud to something that I have written that the character has said or done, and that’s when you know you may have something special. I also discovered that I talk to myself a lot asking out loud if certain scenes or elements in the script make sense, or what should come next, or would certain characters say that. When I start to answer myself is when I will begin to worry. Lol.
ATM: What elements did you feel should be more expressed while writing the female protagonist?
DA: Hannah, the character for SOCIO, is an awesome character. She speaks her mind and lives her truth. She is very intelligent, confident, and has a successful career. She has a complex backstory and secrets that no one else knows. As smart as she is, she has a twisted dark aspect to her. She sees things differently and is not afraid to vocalize it. This is done be her talking to herself, or by her breaking the fourth wall and talking to us the viewing audience. It is a very juicy character with a fun message. Perhaps this is why when Media Distribution Partners read the script they said: “We are digging this script a lot. We love this character.” They also gave me some wonderful ideas on how to further expand the characters and story. I ran with these ideas and had a great time implementing them in my rewrites. I look forward to seeing who is going to play Hannah when the time comes to cast her. It’s a great role.
ATM: The psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud believed human beings expressed ourselves in two ways with everything. These two ways are either in a violent way or in a sexual way. I would assume these two ways are related to your female protagonist.
DA: The Hannah character definitely has a violent nature but subdues it expertly in her everyday life. When Hannah explores this violence, there is also a sexual release that comes with it. This side is revealed only with people she absolutely trusts or with her intended victims. She lives an extreme life. Nothing is done casually. When violence or sexuality is there, then it turns ultraviolet or ultra-sexual. It’s a combination of these elements and her intelligence that makes her so successful in her business. Her business is secretly motivated by violence and sex.
ATM: So, this theory was correct.
DA: Yes, it was. Hannah does express herself through violence and sex. Much like how Freud described.
ATM: Express her communication through her sexual and violent behavior.
DA: Hannah is a woman that enjoys sex – there is nothing wrong with this. She is a free and liberated woman. She is a woman who also enjoys committing violence, and this is what I think is the hook. That she is witty in her banter with lots of smart and snarky remarks makes her fun to watch despite the terrible acts she commits. She comes across like a very normal and successful businesswoman, but the secrets and darkness run deep in her. It’s these elements that I hope will have an audience root for Hannah despite the dark things she does.
I am currently acting on a television show right now called “Sangre Negra.” It’s not that my character has any of these super specific tendencies like Hannah, but he does have a dark quality about him where he uses sex as a weapon to get what he wants. I might have taken a little bit from this when writing Hannah. This helped me to further flesh out what I was writing when it came to her character. I take from a lot from different places and of the truths of my life that I have seen in other characters.
ATM: Society puts stereotypes on women who dabble in sex. For any gender, women or men, there should not be a gender bias when it comes to sex. Sex is sex and sex is natural.
DA: I completely agree with this. I enjoy writing female characters and treat them as equals with any other characters that I write. I do not try to write gender specific things. I write from a place of equality with a focus on the story. The character’s backstory, what they went through as a child, their experiences growing up is what in life is what made them the person he/she is today. This is with all characters regardless of gender. We as humans are all characters in our own stories. We all may respond and react differently to things, but we are so similar because we are human with all the same emotions. I use this not just for my writing, but when acting as well. When on set in front of a camera, I am pulling from many different things when developing my character.
ATM: What is Hannah’s interaction with the other female characters in the series?
DA: Hannah’s character is superior in knowledge and in confidence. She thinks everyone is inferior to her. She does not have anyone who is close to her, except for her personal assistant, Evie, but even that is a one-sided relationship. We dive into Evie’s character a lot this season to find out why she is here, and how she is connected to Hannah. We see Hannah’s character as more of a loner, but because her business keeps her in the public eye, it’s her thoughts that keep her separate from the realities of society. Hannah breaks the 4th wall often, so her true intentions are made clear to us. She sees all men as inferior. She does have a brother, and she is forced and has to tolerate him because of the family aspect. That is an interesting dynamic when I write for both those characters.
ATM: With raconteur being a synonym for the word “storyteller,” express the emotions that flow through the storytelling world?
DA: I am writing on a human basis. I am not a female, so I would not presume to have the full answers of how a woman thinks. Based on the research I had done before, and also the experiences I had in my life with females being girlfriends, mother, nieces, family members or friends, I put together these story elements. I would give what I wrote to many female friends I trust for feedback. I did ask them questions about how they would truthfully respond to a situation. I have had many moments when I have written something, and someone said: “This is not really realistic about what a woman would do.” My response to this was: “Thank you for telling me,” and make the necessary changes. I’m all about not having certain characters I write sound clichéd or stereotyped. As an actor for many years, I have experienced this in the early part of my career and try to steer clear of it in my writing and producing.
ATM: Express the attributes and elements raised in your upcoming project Sangre Negra.
DA: In English, the title means “Black Blood”. Veteran actor Erik Estrada from “CHiPs” plays my father. The antagonist is played by Eric Roberts. It is a Latino based project, but all the characters speak English or Spanglish. The character I play is named Detective Christian Santos of the LAPD. Ricky Santos is the middle brother, and the dark sheep a.k.a. “bad guy” of the show who is involved in the mob. My oldest brother is Guillermo Santos, who is a criminal defense lawyer. An oversimplified explanation of the show is that my character goes to arrest my brother, Ricky. Ricky then hires my older brother, Guillermo, to defend him in court. So, as a result, we have this huge family conflict going on. Ricky has a child with a very beautiful former Miss America. They are no longer together. In the story, she is my fiancé, and I am raising Ricky’s kid. So, there is plenty of drama to keep audience members interested and the opportunity for some great writing.
ATM: In your project Sangre Negra, what similarities could you reflect on the family lifestyle in the Latino household?
DA: The writers are African-American and Latino. They understand the nuances of how a Latino family works. They are also willing to hear takes from the actors on our characters, and that is very open and generous of them. They trust me and listen to how I see my character, and the traits I feel he has.
My character, Detective Christian Santos, is a very loving individual who is affectionate to his fiancé, and to his stepdaughter. He believes in justice and wants to see people who break the law suffer the consequences. He is smart. He is intense. He has his flaws. These are all human qualities that have nothing to do with being Latino or any race in general. We are all equal. Being Latino means that there is a certain flavor that I can add to my characters when acting or writing.
In the show, the Santos family may be Latinos, but they are written like every day normal Americans. The show’s story could work with any race or culture, and I love that. This is the thing people do not seem to grasp, especially some writers. Just because a certain culture is being written about, then many times it is felt that the stereotypes have to be included in order to give it authenticity. Not true at all. We as Latinos are just like everybody else, and there is no difference. In the show, my father is a former Senator. Maybe a few years back it wasn’t something that many perceived possible. A Latino in the Senate or doing any high-profile jobs, but thankfully today things like this are becoming the norm. There are no color lines. We live in a very diverse society, and I like to see my TV and movies represent that accurately, which I feel Sangre Negra does amazingly well.
Look out for Sangre Negra on the EL REY Network this summer.