Interview With Filipe Valle Costa | Persistence Of Happiness
When we have the persistence to trust in ourselves and enjoy our journey, we will have the opportunity to discover unconditional happiness. We always wait for certain events in our lives to feel good and to celebrate, but what’s the point if we do not allow ourselves to savor and appreciate each moment. Anyways, there is no one dream, there are new dreams and desires one after another, it never stops, it’s our natural human evolution.
Portuguese actor Filipe Valle Costa who can be seen as Pedro on FX’s series “Snowfall,” is living his dream. Filipe moved to the U.S. as a teenager on a tennis scholarship to Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. After, he followed what he wanted the most, and attended the University of Florida where he earned his Master of Fine Arts in Acting.
Filipe says: ” I never quite loved tennis the way I love acting. But it is my sport, and it has taught me so much: Discipline. Building inner stability. Relaxed concentration. Trusting the self. Learning to live without judgment. Yielding control. Learning that failure is actually the most important part of the journey. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.”
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Filipe Valle Costa?
I am a Portuguese actor working in Los Angeles, most recently known for playing Pedro on FX’s “Snowfall,” and also the founder and co-artistic director of Saudade Theatre. I’m passionate about telling stories, my work, and my family.
- You are originally from Lisbon, Portugal and currently, reside in Los Angeles. Did you always want to live in the United States? If so, why?
I grew up loving Hollywood movies, but I could have never imagined that I would actually end up living here. I had dreams of becoming an actor from a very young age. When it all clicked at 17 years old, I told my parents I wanted to come to the United States and further my chances of becoming an actor. They encouraged me to apply for a tennis scholarship so I could study acting with a student visa. It’s been fifteen years now, and I can’t believe I am still here.
- Tennis was the sport you played professionally since you were very young. Do you remember the moment that triggered in you to say: “I want to be an actor?”
I remember the exact moment. I was part of a theatre company in Lisbon for a year. Halfway through my process of working with them, I wanted to quit. Between school, tennis and the play, I began to feel overwhelmed and perhaps wasn’t listening to the voice whispering that this was the thing I loved doing the most in life. One day, I approached my teacher and director and told him I needed to quit because I was exhausted. He took a pause, looked me dead in the eye and said: “Shut the fu*k up because you’re in love with this.” And then he walked away. That was the moment I decided I would never quit my passion.
- You moved to the U.S. when you were 17-years-old on a tennis scholarship to Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa; then you attended the University of Florida where you earned your Master of Fine Arts in Acting. What was your path to become a permanent resident in the United States?
During my first year of grad school, I applied for the Diversity Visa Lottery, which awards up to 50,000 permanent resident visas annually and is aimed at diversifying the immigrant population in the United States. I didn’t hear back the first year, so I applied again in his second year of school knowing this was my best shot at staying in the country. At this point, I had spent seven years in the US in schooling for a career I wasn’t guaranteed I could even have in this country. Not to mention, I’d incurred lots and lots of attorney’s fees. But after that second application, I was selected. I couldn’t believe it. I was granted a green card and moved immediately to New York City to pursue a career in acting with full force. It was all really serendipitous. Trump is using the Diversity Visa Lottery as a talking point for fear surrounding immigration; if it weren’t for the Diversity Visa Lottery, I would have had a minimal chance of staying in this country. As an artist, as a person from a small country, and without any existing family residing in the US. I am so grateful.
- How was your transition from being a tennis player to doing acting full-time, and how does tennis enhanced your mindset to thrive to be a better actor?
I never quite loved tennis the way I love acting. But it is my sport, and it has taught me so much: Discipline. Building inner stability. Relaxed concentration. Trusting the self. Learning to live without judgment. Yielding control. Learning that failure is actually the most important part of the journey. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.
- While living in New York, in 2015 you launched a project, The Saudade Theatre which celebrates, supports and gives voice to Portuguese arts and culture. What did inspire you to create this project and how does it contribute to the entertainment industry?
When I arrived in NYC, I quickly became aware of the absence of knowledge regarding Portuguese theatre in the United States. I could not find a play by a single Portuguese writer, not one. I decided to launch Saudade Theatre because I felt a part of my identity was not being explored, and I began to wonder how many Portuguese artists must have felt out of place as well. The company’s mission is to develop original work grounded in the Portuguese experience, as well as translating Portuguese playwrights. We explore the politics of love, compassion, and revolution through the lens of the Portuguese consciousness. I believe any company dedicated to contributing to the diversity of the entertainment industry should be welcomed and supported, especially today.
- You currently star as Pedro Nava in FX’s drama series “Snowfall.” How was the process of auditioning for this series, mainly since it’s filmed in Los Angeles and at that moment your primary residence was in New York?
I put myself on tape for Alejandro first actually. I am guessing that tape sparked some interest because not too much time after I was asked to tape for Pedro. It was an incredibly bizarre and distant process. Because I was so far, I never had the sense that it was at all real. Well, it was, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this show.
- What did you feel when you learned you have got the role of Pedro Nava?
It happened about two years ago now, but I still have such a vivid memory of it. Believe it or not, I got the call that I got the part the same day that Portugal won the Euro Cup. At first, I froze, but when reality sank in, I began running around NYC with my Portuguese flag, my wife, and some of my best friends. We had just come from a Portuguese restaurant and there were so many reasons to celebrate. It was crazy.
- “Snowfall” was set against the infancy of the Los Angeles crack cocaine epidemic in 1983. How did you empathize with your character and its environment to express who is Pedro Nava?
Pedro is the heir apparent of the Villanuevas, one of the Mexican crime families that sells marijuana throughout Los Angeles. On the surface, Pedro is the bravado-filled, traditionally cocky and entitled young man. But as the story progresses, we begin to see another side of Pedro – his ambiguity and vulnerability. I loved exploring what was underneath; his insecurities, ambitions and ultimately questionable actions, are all rooted in his relationship with his dad. He does everything he can to feel loved, to prove himself, to belong. But the tragedy is that he can never meet his dad’s expectations. The idea of failure begins to haunt him, and he ends up compensating… perhaps in all the wrong ways.
- Pedro Nava is the heir apparent of one of the Mexican crime families dealing drugs in Los Angeles. How does Pedro Nava culturally resonate with your roots as a Portuguese?
When I play Latinx roles in the US, I come from a place of respect and responsibility. I take joy in immersing myself in the specificity of other ways of seeing and experiencing the world, representing them with all the dignity, sensitivity, and passion I can muster. At the same time, I also feel that there is a truth within me that enables me to connect with the Latinx experience in an honest way. This is because we have very similar roots and our cultures hold many of the same values and beliefs.
- What is the intention behind the family story of Pedro Nava and what makes “Snowfall” so unique and authentic to watch?
What moves me about Snowfall is that it is just as much about family ties as it is about the crack cocaine epidemic. These characters are not in any way aware that they are responsible for this huge shift in society. They are simply doing what they have to do to prove themselves, provide for their families, and achieve their own versions of the American Dream.
- What was the most significant contribution to your growth as an actor while working with the rest of the cast of “Snowfall” and in particular one of its creators, John Singleton?
The actor who plays my father on SNOWFALL, José Zuniga, has become a dear friend of mine and such a huge inspiration in my life. He has been in the game for a long time, and because of his experience, he has been able to provide me with such great advice on every step of the way. When you arrive at a project of this dimension, a lot of other factors come into play. It can get overwhelming. He said something that really stuck with me: to take it slowly, be gentle with yourself and remember to find the ease in the work. John Singleton is such a gentle, warm soul. There is an ease about him that makes it easy for you to trust him. He is so knowledgeable of the story we are telling (it is his story in so many ways, too) but at the same time, he is able to maintain this childlike innocent energy. It is remarkable just to sit back and observe him at work. Especially in the season finale, being directed by him, the excitement on his part was so palpable. Every moment meant the world to him. It then became easy for me to connect and make the moment count.
- How do you contemplate the idea of being part of a project in your native Portugal?
There are many up and coming film and theatre directors doing such interesting things at home. I would love to reconnect and work there. Let’s see what the future holds.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
I am the kind of person who worries all the time. But I also have a lot of fun. Joy can be a choice. If I go through all the hardships that this career brings, but then don’t enjoy the moments of success to some extent, then why do it? I love what I do and love always comes with a bit of suffering. But joy tends to be underrated. It should not. It takes work, but it goes a long way when you choose to infuse your life and the lives of those around you with a bit of joy.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
Well, we only have one life. I know that sounds generic, but when you really think about it, it gets scary. But it’s also a thought that has allowed to embrace the love and the struggle that comes with it. The way I see it, if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis, you will begin to fade. I don’t want to fade. I want to make it count.