ABC’s Scandal often paints characters in a negative light, but for the actor Ricardo Chavira, it’s an opportunity for the audience to see him in a very positive and multi-faceted spotlight. Chavira may be well-known for one specific TV role but that’s only a fraction of what he can do – and how memorable he is both on and off screen. LA Fan Cultures Examiner spoke to the actor to discuss what brought him to Scandal and what else he’s accomplished recently.
Chavira had spent 2015 on film and on stage, starring in the National Theatre of London’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherf**ker with the Hat. Then Scandal came calling and he was intrigued by the role of Francisco Vargas – because of everything that it wasn’t.
“I knew about the show,” he told us. “It was familiar territory being on ABC. [Series creator] Shonda [Rhimes], [her production company] Shondaland, those are all pluses. Then I read the character material they sent me to audition with on camera. These don’t come along that often.
“Network television has us Latinos portrayed as drug dealers, playing service roles, or first generation immigrants. With the accent, broken English, not a great deal of education necessarily,” Chavira continued. “So to be able to be playing a second or third generation Latino that is US born, that has made a life for himself with a political career and aspirations, [these] don’t come around often in our industry. I was like, I can do this. I know this guy. Had I not become an actor, this may have very well been the life I had chosen.”
That’s what makes him stand out. How many actors concern themselves with the meaning of a character or the message that may or may not be sent out by their existence? Some do and some don’t, and Chavira falls refreshingly into the former category. Here’s someone for whom acting is not just the next job or even a career – it’s something that he takes seriously, and thoughtfully, and about which he respects the much larger picture that goes beyond just the finished product. When you see him in a role, he’s never going to be that person who just dials it in.
You could call Scandal familiar territory for him. He spent eight seasons portraying Carlos Solis on another ABC series, Desperate Housewives, which like Scandal was known for an inordinate amount of dramatic happenings. Having now appeared on both shows, which one would he say contains more drama?
“I’d have to say Housewives because I was a series regular on that show,” he told us. “I had a regular storyline working with Eva Longoria. I love her to death. She and I had a great time with the stuff that we were doing. [With] Scandal, I am a recurring guest star on that show. My storyline services Jeff Perry’s storyline. So it’s a different thing.”
But to look at Chavira’s resume just based on what we know him for would be narrow-minded. His career spans decades and it also spans all forms of the arts. In fact, television is only a fraction of what he’s been able to take on. Ask him to name his favorite roles and he’ll point you in another direction: his sizeable and impressive stage career.
“There is stuff that I have loved, but it’s not television. It’s theater,” he told us. “I did A Streetcar Named Desire at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis about five or six years ago. I got to play the Stanley Kowalski role. That was something that I absolutely cherished. The next role that I did that was the most challenging was the one I just finished at the National Theatre in London of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherf**ker with the Hat.”
It takes a certain class of actor to be able to handle some of the biggest roles on stage, and Chavira is that actor. If Scandal has shown us anything in his episodes so far, it’s his remarkable presence. He can hold his own with some very talented folks who have their own impressive resumes and make it look easy. We’re seeing a completely different side to him than we have before, and that’s making us realize that we haven’t really given him his due just yet.
Who are the artists that move him? “Some of my favorite actors are Raul Julia, Omar Sharif, recently I love Chris Pratt. Television actors, Chris Meloni I have always loved him and what he brings to a character. When he was on SVU, and now this new show Underground – I’m interested to see what he brings to his character.
“I have an appreciation for Benicio Del Toro. Daniel Craig, I think he is flawless as James Bond. Idris Elba is also someone I really, really like. Forrest Whitaker is someone I have loved for a long time, not just as an actor but also his choices for directing,” he continued. “Women, it would be Diane Lane. I’ve always thought she’s made some really great choices. Emily Watson. [And] John Cusack. I think he has always made great choices, especially as he has gotten older.”
That’s what Chavira is doing now, and has always done. He’s making choices that continue to push him beyond the boundaries that pop culture has unintentionally set for him. He’s changing the way that people look at him as a performer by taking roles like that of Francisco Vargas which enable to the audience to be aware of him through more than just one lens. This is an actor not only of incredible talent, but versatility and who is also incredibly thoughtful and hard-working – and honestly for him the best is likely still to come.
Though everyone will always recognize him from his past role, Chavira is an actor capable of much more – and he’s ready to show the world what else he can do. “I can only go from where I am now and move forward,” he concluded. “Part of that moving forward is moving on to another great ABC show that is Scandal. I’m very thankful for it. Hopefully it will lead to the next bigger and better project.”
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.