It can be a long road to acceptance, particularly when it comes to who you are.
That sentiment is what drives Robin Williams’ character Nolan Mack in the Dito Montiel-directed indie film “Boulevard.” The 60-year-old bank officer has led a lonely life despite his long childless marriage to his wife Joy (Kathy Baker). The couple lack intimacy, not for a lack of love but because Nolan is gay -- a fact he has spent most of his life repressing.
Mexican-American actor Roberto Aguire comes in as Leo, a hustler whom Nolan pays for companionship, not sex, as he tries to come to term with his sexuality. The 27-year-old actor spoke to The Huffington Post ahead of the film’s nationwide release on Friday. Aguire opened up about what it was like to work with Williams in his final dramatic role and why he feels Latino actors shouldn’t be limited by the ‘Latino’ label.
“Boulevard” deals with Nolan trying to come to terms with his sexuality after a lifetime of suppressing it. And you portray Leo, a character that becomes a catalyst for all of this. What drew you into the script the most when you first read it?
[Screenwriter Douglas Soesbe] has a beautifully fluid way of writing dialogue that almost sounds like poetry. So when I read the script, immediately it captured me. I thought it was a story that had to be told.
There is so much of this topic, especially right now, that’s prevalent in America. But it’s also very hidden in America. I think if you talk to anybody they know a person or they have an uncle, a brother, a son, a cousin who is in a later stage in their life who is coming to terms with who they really are. I think that story has to be told, it has to be shown that it doesn’t matter if you get to a later stage in your life, you can always make a change. You always deserve to find happiness, so that was the second thing that drew me to the script.
And Leo also kind of suppresses the reality of being in the dangerous world of male prostitution.
Leo is this beautiful character who is so complex and so complicated within this dangerous world that he lives in. I don’t think he’s a run-of-the-mill hustler [laughs], to put it that way. He kind of sticks out because he has this innate and hidden sensitivity into life, and almost like [a] childlike innocence that when you see him you just want to give him a hug, you just want to tell him that it’s going to be OK. You just want to tell him to get out of that situation.
But for some reason, he’s stuck and he can’t get out -- very much like Nolan’s trapped in something that they’re just not happy with. But I think in Leo’s case it manifests itself in a physical danger and an emotional danger that he’s had to shut down in order to deal with.
“Boulevard” was Robin Williams’ final dramatic performance. It’s been almost a year since his death on Aug. 11, 2014. When the news broke many who only knew him through his films mourned him like the loss of a close friend. As someone who had worked closely with him relatively recently, do you recall how you felt the moment you found out?
Yeah, I was in my apartment in Los Angeles and I just remember feeling numb. I think the way you just described the general reaction to his death, which was "the mourning of a close friend," is a testament to who he was. He had this ability to be able to touch people through every character that he did. Whether it was a dramatic role or a comedic role, after you watch[ed] one of his movies it was like you knew Robin Williams, you knew who he was.
The great thing about Robin is, after you had the chance to meet him, that’s exactly who he was. He was this kind, generous, enormous soul who loved to interact with people -- be with people, to show people who he was. I think it speaks so highly of him and his humanity to see the kind of reaction that people had. Everybody around the world just united in this outpouring of love for Robin, and that’s beautiful to see. I think it’s so sad that we all lost such a genius of our time and such a humble and beautiful human being. But it’s beautiful to see how much people loved him, both the people that were close to him and the people that only knew him through his movies.
Robin had a very long and successful career both in comedy and drama. What was your biggest takeaway as a young actor working with such a legend?
So much. [laughs] It’s like a young writer saying, "I sat down with Ernest Hemingway and I learned one thing." It’s like, no way. There’s so much -- just to see the level of dedication was amazing. You’d think that a veteran actor working on a small independent project shooting over 22 days would maybe say, ‘you know what, I can maybe phone it in’ or ‘I can take a step back and cruise through this.’ I mean he could have easily with his talent; I think the movie would have still been great. But he showed up 120 percent in every single scene, there wasn’t a single scene that he wasn’t blowing everyone away with his performance. It didn’t matter how small the scene was or how emotionally trying the scene was.
That’s amazing for a young actor to see, that drive [and] that dedication. I think nowadays there [are] a lot of young actors who are very lazy... celebrity-dom has made them lazy because they don’t have to be much of anything to just get in front of a camera and be a personality. To create a fully formed character full of life, struggle and humanity is tough. It’s not easy, and to see someone like Robin do it so effortlessly yet so meticulously precise[ly], it’s truly inspiring.
As a young Latino actor it can be particularly hard to get your foot into this industry. Many find great roles in indie films, like Gina Rodriguez in “Filly Brown.” Where do you hope this opportunity will take you in your career?
I hope that it just opens more doors. It’s interesting, I think as a Latino actor the biggest challenge is being called Latino because immediately the world has a perception of what that means. A Latino actor can’t play this and a Latino actor can’t play that because they’re Latino. Well, no. And I think Gina Rodriguez is a beautiful example of it. We can play anything we want to play. Just as an Aussie can play an American or a Scot can play a Frenchman or a Peruvian can play the world’s leading neurologist, I think Latinos can play anything. We can be anything that we want to be; we can be any role.
I can tell you the huge difference between a Latino and [puts on a Scottish accent] a person from Scotland is you’ll never think that person from Scotland can’t do anything. I put on a Scottish accent and people are like ‘whaaa happened?!’ But it shouldn’t be mind-blowing. Latinos can do anything. I think that’s the biggest issue we’re facing right now, it’s Latinos being labeled as Latinos and being limited by it, as opposed to being labeled as Latino and being empowered by it. I hope that “Boulevard” is able to open a door for me to say, "I’m a Latino actor and I can be a chameleon, I can be anything you want me to be.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.