Film & Television in Bogota
Sebastian Eslava – An Actor to Watch
Actor / Writer / Producer Sebastian Eslava, who has appeared in many Colombian telenovelas and series over the years, has gained critical and popular acclaim for his gritty and soulful portrayal of the ex-combatant Manuel Monsalve in the Caracol Televisión production La Niña. Eslava’s reputation as a dedicated craftsman in television, film and theater (he also starred as JEAN in The BAT – Bogota Anglo Theater’s inaugural production of Miss Julie) is fully on display in the series which is extremely timely in light of the historical peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC.
Bogota Brilliance caught up with Eslava as shooting of La Niña wrapped up to talk about playing Manuel, the conflict, re-integration and the art of acting:
BB: What attracted you to part of Manuel?
SE: What attracted me the most to the part was that it was a very complex character full of duality, with a very painful past, with a very painful childhood, and the way he was sold by his father to the AUC, having to live very difficult circumstances without wanting to be there. Also what this character represents in Colombian society.
BB: What do you like the most / the least about Manuel?
SE: What I like most about Manuel is his resilience and how he's able to adapt to any circumstance. Also the loyalty he has towards the people who give him love. What I like the least is how dependent and fearful he feels towards the illusion of love.
BB: How did you prepare for the role and how is it different from other roles you have played?
SE: My preparation for this role was very different from many other roles because I was playing a real life character and because of the responsibility that I felt towards the story. So what I did was to talk to many re-integrated people who had lived experiences similar to my character's; to the way he was raised and to how he was forced into these terrible circumstances. Then I did some war training and very intense rehearsals with both directors, Rodrigo Triana and Camilo Vega, but I am a day a way from wrapping the shoot and don’t understand him jet.
BB: What do you hope people will experience / discover when watching La Niña?
SE: I hope people open their eyes to how difficult it is to re-integrate into society after someone has been through war for many years and maybe question themselves on how we see very little fractions of a person in life but we don't see the whole spectrum, so by telling the story in fiction maybe people can identify with these characters and what they have lived, and maybe waken some consciousness about how in Colombia we’ll be facing a tough future by having to accept each other no matter what our pasts have been.
BB: Has being in La Niña influenced you or changed your perspective on the conflict and / or the combatants and victims?
SE: Yes in many ways. I have changed the way I see myself in this society and in life, I have learned that there is people that have been through very difficult circumstances and they've been able to overpass them and become a person who they are proud of. The way I see the conflict now is in a very compassionate way because there are many children forced into war, having to live a life they have not chosen and don't disserve. After playing Manuel in this show I can’t judge any person by what they have lived, but accept myself and everybody else, and through affection, give a spark of change.
BB: How has being in La Niña influenced you as professionally and personally?
SE: It has influenced me in many ways mostly on how important it is to be very rigorous in the way I construct my characters, on how truthful I have to feel in every single scene, on how important it is to listen, listen and listen.
Personally I have learned that we talk and talk about love but there is not many experiencing love in human beings, too much ignorance about our own self’s.
BB: What does it feel like to be in the number one rated show in Colombia?
SE: I feel very grateful and happy because of how the audience has responded to the show, not only because of my career and what it will for sure do to advance it, but also because of the importance of the story and how it can contribute to our society.
BB: As an actor, what are some of the differences between working in film, TV and theater, and do you have a preference?
SE: I think the difference between theater and film and television is the process of preparation, the time that you have to prepare and rehearse. In theater you have four or maybe more weeks to prepare and rehearse and then you have a run of six or many more weeks to grow into the show and the character, while in film and TV sometimes you get to the set without any rehearsals or preparation time. But in essence is the same, serve the story and the director’s POV in the most truthful way through character.
I don't have any preferences between those three, what I lean towards is good material and good directors. I think nowadays television is in its best moment so we are watching long movies on TV, also there is very bad cinema and very bad television being done so all I want in my career is to work on good material, material that makes me grow as an actor and mostly as a human being.
BB: What are you working on next?
SE: I will be working on the development of a movie about the story of legendary bullfighter Pepe Caceres who was my father.
BB: What are some of your favorite things about Bogota?
SE: The people, all the memories that I have since I've lived almost all my life in Bogotá, the nightlife and the food is very nice these days.