The actor, born in Connecticut to Puerto Rican parents, was nominated for a Tony Award last year for his performance in the Broadway play “The Boys in the Band.” Now he repeats this character in the version that has just been released on Netflix. (Supplied)
“Two teachers changed my life forever,” said actor Robin De Jesús , who this week celebrates the premiere on Netflix of the new film adaptation of ” The Boys in the Band.”
“The first teacher told me to forget about my dream of being an actor. That that would be impossible for a short, ugly Puerto Rican ”, explained De Jesús with the extroverted honesty that characterizes him.
“As an adult, you realize that this type of comment has nothing to do with you. That is a trauma that she tried to pass on to me. “
Fortunately, that didn't happen, because another teacher insisted that I audition for an independent film that has a summer camp for all kinds of teenagers interested in musical theater as its dramatic hook.
“I was about to believe the story the other teacher had told me, but it was as if the universe was telling me: 'No, that's not for you. Turn left and see everything I have for you. '
The first thing that manifested itself was a leading role in the film “Camp.” The acclaim for that film has given De Jesus a steady career on both the small screen and the big screen. However, the actor has been more successful on Broadway. His first opportunity was to join the cast of “Rent,” followed by a key role in “In The Heights” and culminating in his third Tony nomination for his work on “The Boys in the Band.”
During a brief but pleasant virtual chat with El Nuevo Día , the actor gave the details of adapting his role in Michael Crowley's play to a new medium and why the material is more urgent now than when it was held on Broadway two years ago.
Your performance in the play was celebrated with a Tony nomination. How was the process of calibrating what you did in the tables for a different medium?
RD- For me, the interesting thing about transferring the play and transforming it into a film is that it was an exercise in humility. Because when you do a play on Broadway, you know that character from the inside out after playing him eight times a week. So there was the possibility of thinking that the work was already done for this movie. But with a camera there is no way to retain the same dynamics. That created a new configuration for everyone. And it was genuinely exciting. Because that gave the space to discover new things about the material or the character.
What was something new that you discovered about Emory?
RD- (Sighs) Oh, Emory. (Laughs) You know what? I was thinking about that yesterday but still hadn't had a chance to verbalize it. On this show, Emory constantly receives hateful words. The work works with the way in which homophobia is internalized and I have to participate in a physical aggression. When I was doing it eight times a week, my body fell into a routine that allowed me not to have to internalize that trauma. Doing the play I never stopped to think about all the things that happened to me as a homosexual child. Or later as a Puerto Rican man who has a problematic relationship with the construction of what is masculine in our culture. I did the play thinking that receiving those words every night was not affecting me. But during filming when it came time to shoot that scene, it seems to me that it was having to do it over and over again for different camera angles. At the moment, I felt like a vibration in my body. And it was increasing until I lost control and exploded into a cry that even I could not explain myself. I hadn't realized that I was still carrying all that unnecessary trauma. The movie was a way of literally taking it out of my body and letting it come to the surface. That definitely added a twist to this rendition of Emory.
To move forward it is good to look back. Especially with what is happening now in the United States
”Robin De Jesús, actor
The plot of the play takes place in 1968. Do you think the theme is still relevant now?
RD- I know that it is. And whoever differs from me, we are going to have to have a deep and complicated conversation. I believe that our film serves to remind us of what has changed and what has not changed. The challenges in our community have evolved, but we continue to have to fight. But that intense experience and the violence that comes with it is something that was real in 1968 and still is. It is important to listen to all those words full of hatred and poison to keep in mind that we do not want them to become normal again. So to move forward it is good to look back. Especially with what is happening now in the United States. We have a government that literally wants to leave us without rights. We are living a momentous moment. I think that makes the film and its subject matter more relevant now than when we staged the play on Broadway two years ago.