Interview With Miguel Ángel Silvestre | Revealing His Authentic Nature
Miguel Ángel Silvestre is a Spanish actor who embraces his authenticity and spontaneity, molding his own dreams into reality while enjoying, playing and having fun. He was born and raised in Castellón de la Plana, Spain where he initially wanted to become a professional tennis player, a passion he pursued during his childhood. In his early twenties, his eagerness to help others led him to study physiotherapy, until one day his aunt introduced him to the world of acting. Since then, Silvestre has performed in several series and films of diverse genres in Spain. That includes the motion picture I’m So Excited! directed by the iconic Spanish screenwriter and producer Pedro Almodóvar and the hit show Velvet. His exuberant enjoyment for life is reflected on screen reaching international audience through signature Netflix series Sense8 and Narcos. He extracts the best of his personal and professional experiences letting the natural expansion of his path unfold on its own.
- Please, briefly introduce yourself. Who is Miguel Ángel Silvestre in your own words?
I am Miguel Ángel and I am here to give the best of me.
- When and how did you decide you wanted to become an actor?
In my early twenties, around the same time when I was studying to become a physiotherapist, my aunt, who is a theatre director was about to release a new play. I watched one of her rehearsals and all I could remember was all these people speaking loudly to each other. It reminded me of my grandfather’s house, where as a child I would often pass by while riding my bicycle, hearing noises like someone was having a big fight. I found out shortly after that it was my sister, who was rehearsing for a theatre play. Since then, curiosity has slowly sparked in me and I knew that I wanted to give it a try. I was committing more and more of myself to acting and it has developed into a passion and career. I guess in the beginning it was sort of a childish decision, but the truth was as I got to learn more about acting, the more infatuated and complete I became. In that sense I noticed that it was actually making me really happy!
- You are currently based in Los Angeles. What inspires you the most in this city?
First of all, I am really happy here because of my dreams. This is the city of Film and TV industry where I get to meet people who share the same passion as I do. What I like about United States and Los Angeles in particular is that ideas become reality here. I come from an industry that is very unique and it takes a while to foresee a project, but here things really do happen. It is great to live in a place where everybody´s dreams could eventually come true.
Besides that, I love surfing! I would say nature is what probably gives me the most joy. While growing up near the Mediterranean Sea I was always wondering how it would be to be in a place where I can surf all the time with great waves. Despite the fact that I miss my family in Spain a lot, I can surf and do auditions as much as I want to follow my dreams here in Los Angeles. It’s an incredible scene where amazing things happen, such as going to the art gallery opening or concert of the band you always wanted to see jamming in a live session. Los Angeles is full of great artists and that is what I think is very thrilling about this city.
- Working in the TV/Film industry in the USA must be quite different to working in Spain. How is the combination of both experiences influencing you? What are you learning from them?
In Spain we don’t have much money to do productions so what you get there in a way is a lot of creativity when you are trying to make things happen with less money. Sometimes because of that you get very, very good films, and as a result very artistic films are born. That’s why I think Spain has great artists and some brilliant directors.
On the other hand, U.S. is the leading field for development of a new generation of films and the way they are done. In that sense, Netflix is opening doors to many independent and international directors as if you get picked up by it, your work will be broadcasted across the world. I think this inspires many Spanish directors and producers for collaborative co-productions and that’s a great thing for the industry, so we can showcase our work to the whole world.
- Despite the fact that the performing arts industry in Spain is in need of more support from the Government, your career as an actor is very successful over there. Many people thrive in difficult times and many people suffer in thriving times. Why do you think this is happening, particularly in the performing arts industry?
This is an interesting question. I think things are changing in Spain. We are learning from the Americans not only on making good quality films but also how to make entertaining films. We are learning how to make movies that target a very specific audience that truly enjoys entertainment. That’s why films in Spain are making more money now and that affects us as actors in a positive way. I am very lucky that in Spain, people are very passionate and we appreciate and support our artists, perceiving them as part of their families.
I think it’s incredible how when we come from a different country we just start to make things happen. We know we are privileged to be working in a foreign country that gives us opportunities. Also, thanks to many incredible famous Spanish artists like Pedro Almodóvar, Federico García Lorca, Rafael Nadal, Pau Gasol, Antonio Banderas, Pablo Picasso, Penélope Cruz among others – every time you knock at the door here, people welcome you. As an immigrant here, that is a priceless feeling to have. When you are in a new country and you feel vulnerable at times, it is amazing to have the kind of welcome and embrace that we get. I am so thankful to all those Spaniard artists who represent our country so beautifully.
- Eventually you worked with acclaimed Spanish film director and producer Pedro Almodóvar in his film “I´m so excited”. What did it mean to you to work with him?
It meant a lot! I grew up watching his films, with huge admiration for his work. When I started to study acting, he was one of the directors to learn from. Pedro did amazing things for Spanish Art – he was the pioneer of the “movida malagueña”, a movement of artistic innovation, freedom and celebration of authenticity. He also influenced our culture to educate us in equality. So, in many ways I was already admiring Almodóvar, before he offered the huge opportunity for me to be directed by him, from understanding the way he works, to understanding how he welcomes mistakes and the spontaneity you can get from mistakes. All of those lessons and experiences were priceless and I feel very thankful, grateful and privileged that I had the chance to work with him.
- Becoming someone else is part of your routine as an actor. What do you feel while you perform? How do you transition from being yourself to being someone else, and the other way around?
Every time I approach a new role, portraying a new character, I always keep in mind that whether I admire or hate it, I have to speak about it and insert life into it. It’s easy to do it with characters you love, but not so much with the ones you don’t. No matter what characters I get I know I have to approach it with respect and an understanding of where they come from and what kind of wounds or experiences they have from being a good or bad character. That is one of the privileges of an actor; you can really work on your empathy. Often in discovery of the character you can find out that you are much closer to it than you originally thought.
- Previously you mentioned the value of authenticity. Could you play any character and still be authentic? How do you remain authentic when you constantly have to play new roles? How are all these characters influencing the authentic you?
I think that is something that slips away from you even if you don’t want it. Sometimes you try to portray a character and you try not to let it influence you, but it still happens. It can be interpreted as an acting mistake but sometimes I embrace it as positive thing. Also, the truth is that as actors, we are tools of the director who is designing the canvas. Sometimes, your point of view is not the same as that of the director’s but he is the one you are working for, so you cannot reflect the way you see things for that character. That is one of the frustrations as an actor – you can feel fantastic about your director’s choice but sometimes what he sees is not matching your imagination of the character, so you just have to get over the surprise factor and surrender so he can get inspired and show whatever he sees in the role through you.
- What values do you stand for as a person and how are these values being applied through your profession as an actor?
I think I am constantly discovering my values as I know that some of which I have today, I might not have tomorrow. I don’t think I am a person with a lot of values in that sense. I believe in nature, I believe in authenticity, I believe that desire is something that is in your blood and no one can take it from you. It is a force of nature like the rain, like the wind, like the current of the sea that you can’t change. The way I see it, that force of nature is not possible to judge. No one can judge natural occurrences just like how no one can do it for one’s condition, need or desire for love or passion. That’s the way I see intimacy.
- What’s your secret to stay humble while becoming so increasingly known in the international scene?
I feel very thankful for everything that is happening to me and I know how easily replaceable I am. I know how these things work and that many can do my job as well as I. One day none of us will be here so I try to enjoy every experience that comes my way. I have never been so committed to anything before I started acting. For example, someone may reject my casting tape that I spent three days on, but just the process of reading the lines, acting out the scene is enough to make me happy.
- What do you think about the concept of talent? Is it something we are born with or something that you acquire throughout time?
I believe some things you can develop and some you cannot. I would watch my sister´s game in an attempt to win in our tennis matches and at some point I did. Then I wanted to become a better snowboarder than her but I never did. I do know that sometimes talent can be achieved by time, hours, drive, passion and commitment. As an actor you do the same – you stay committed and with time you get better.
- In Sense8, the television series created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski for Netflix you play one of the main lead characters, a closeted telenovela star named Lito Rodriguez that becomes mentally and emotionally linked to other human beings from different backgrounds and parts of the world. How do you think diversity affects society?
I think it does so in a positive way. I look at diversity as an evolution – when we mix, we evolve and become better. Acknowledging that diversity can bring out the best in us and is one of the things that make us embrace different cultures. Working with people from different backgrounds allows you to get the best from those cultures and can make us great as humans. Learning their culture and understanding their life experiences will bring us together and will eventually better the human kind. Sense8 embraces that message and I also believe in that. Knowing that principle and its nature is when you start to embrace life differently.
- You seem to be very passionate for physical activities and it seems that it’s much more than just maintaining what is considered a good body and to be in shape. How do these activities contri-bute in influencing your life?
My girlfriend, whom I have shared five years of my life with, used to say that life is about gathering good moments and that’s when you know you are living life. I have been playing sports since I was four years old. Tennis used to be my main sport so I try to do exercises that energize me and bring me a lot of adrenaline and endorphins. Nowadays, I do a lot of bouldering, which is the beautiful mixture of flexibility with balance and concentration.
- Your profession, particularly your current roles in Sense8 and Narcos require a lot of traveling. How does being exposed to different places stimulate your personal development?
I like that I can take diversity from these projects and embrace some of it in my life. It is great to go from Amsterdam to Korea, two completely different cultures. This makes me feel privileged – when you travel you get a lot from other cultures and you expand your knowledge as well, that’s why I believe in diversity.
- Seems like with so much work you must have little time for yourself, your family or friends. How do you find the balance between your professional and personal life? What is your favorite ritual to disconnect?
I miss my family in Spain a lot as we used to see each other very often. Here in U.S., I usually disconnect on weekends. The things I like to do are to get a coffee, read a bit and go to the gym. After, I get a chair and some food and drinks and head to the beach to surf and in the evening I go to the movies, eat pizza and of course, a big ice cream bowl. If I can add barbecue to all of that, then it’s really perfect!
- First theatre, then movies and TV shows such as Velvet and now Narcos and Sense8 just to name a few. Your career is a succession of opportunities that allowed you to grow very quickly. What is your secret for your success? How do you envision your future as a professional?
I guess I was very lucky to get an opportunity to work with very nice people on my way so far. I would love to see myself doing fewer auditions and getting more offers as an actor and to get to work with some of best artists in the world, the ones I have been admiring all of my life. One person I always really wanted to work with was Philip Seymour Hoffman, but now, it’s not going to happen. It was always giving me so much joy when I was watching his acting. I would very much love to get a chance to work with Meryl Streep as I have been following her work all my life.
- What do you consider as your biggest accomplishment in life so far? What have you learned about yourself?
Working with Pedro Almodóvar, Lana and Lilly Wachowski, for sure. I find a huge accomplishment to be in those close callbacks. It made me feel that there is something good that I am doing and that I stand a good chance to continue working with them in the future.
- Our motto stands for “You can be, do and have anything you want.” What’s your take on such a statement?
I completely agree. You just have to be committed and you have to put energy into it, fight for it, suffer a just little bit for it but still have lots of joy for it. Anything can happen, and that’s the word I try to spread starting with my niece and nephew – you just have to approach it with humility and modesty.