Robin De Jesús at all times exhibits up.
The three-time Tony nominee has quietly made a reputation for himself as one in all Hollywood’s and Broadway’s hardest-working actors, and he is unfailingly delivered.
The Connecticut-born actor of Puerto Rican descent has seamlessly shifted from display screen to stage in films like Ryan Murphy’s “The Boys within the Band” and Broadway exhibits like “La Cage Aux Folles,” “Within the Heights” and “Depraved.”
After starring in “Tick, Tick… Growth!” with Andrew Garfield final yr, De Jesús charted his subsequent course with Hulu’s true-crime drama “Welcome to Chippendales,” in regards to the famed all-male strip membership, the place he performs Ray Colón, the right-hand man to founder Somen “Steve” Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani).
De Jesús effortlessly pivots from loyal assistant to grasping, distasteful man. He delivers a deceptively easy efficiency that anchors the sequence’ most risky moments that ultimately result in Banerjee’s downfall.
“Months earlier than the audition, I used to be engaged on a self-tape and went to elevate my pants up, and I observed that my posture modified, and I requested myself, ‘Quién es ese,’ (‘Who’s that’) and it felt like a obtain,” De Jesús instructed NBC Information. “After that, I spent months obsessing over taking part in a gangster in the identical vein as Joe Pesci, as a personality actor who can also be a shorter man.”
He was proper to nurture this concept, as a result of “Welcome to Chippendales” turned the challenge the place he may channel Pesci. The sequence is, on the floor, an immigrant story the place Colón appears to Banerjee as a task mannequin to climb the socioeconomic ladder.
However lurking within the shadows are extra insoluble questions and odd conduct — and nobody is completely harmless on this world.
De Jesús, 38, was first drawn to his ambiguity since the true Ray Colón did morally questionable issues — together with his involvement in a murder-for-hire — to earn Banerjee’s belief and approval.
“The massive factor for me with Ray, as soon as I realized extra about his real-life story, with out giving freely an excessive amount of, I seen his story as a narrative of a person in search of forgiveness,” he stated.
Reaching this conclusion, nonetheless, wasn’t with out hesitations, De Jesús defined.
“With or with out my consent, as a Latino actor, even with my gentle pores and skin, I find yourself being the consultant of my particular demographics: Latino Puerto Rican, working class,” the actor stated.
He in the end latched on to what’s a centering pressure in his personal life: humanity.
“I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t simply somebody who was only a villain,” he stated. “Oftentimes, when white of us play villains, there are all these advanced causes for them doing what they’re doing or one thing that attracts individuals in and makes them just like the particular person or perceive them. That nuance is lacking for individuals of shade after they play villains, so it was essential for me to provide him some softness.”
By the point De Jesús filmed the final two episodes of the sequence (out Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, respectively), he was extra excited than anxious about his most vital scenes, and he had turn into the present’s secret weapon.
“Kumail is somebody who’s additionally pushing boundaries, and this present can also be one thing very completely different for him, and we’re each making a press release,” he stated. “It helped me make clear who my character was and his intentions.”
That is the perfect alternative for an artist keen to indicate his vary whereas concurrently warping portrayals of masculinity, the present’s different taboo. At a time when the present’s varied representations of masculinity may be at odds with newer generations, De Jesús challenges them by merely current as a homosexual Latino artist.
“I’m a really lucky actor that I get to do actually, actually lovely work, however I’m nonetheless in my come-up,” he stated. “I’d be mendacity if I didn’t say to you that after I noticed these scenes, I believed, ‘I lastly get to indicate what I can do and what I’ve been hungry to do for a very long time.’”
It’s his candid ruminations on poisonous masculinity that resonate essentially the most. “I nonetheless have moments the place I’m stunned by how a lot I’m nonetheless battling it. I’m superb and dealing on it,” he stated. “The way in which I current is totally affected by masking after I was youthful. There have been situations at school the place I used to be teased,” he stated, including that rising up he observed that “in Latino sketch comedy you’re allowed to embrace femininity and mock it however not ‘do it’ outdoors.”
He, like numerous Black and brown members of the LGBTQ neighborhood, has misplaced elders to financial crises and epidemics, however moderately than specializing in sorrow, he needs to concentrate on neighborhood care. “We’ve been attempting to turn into the leaders that we by no means had, the tíos (uncles) that we didn’t get to have,” he stated.
For all of the strife and heartbreak that present enterprise and these conversations carry, De Jesús nonetheless considers them unparalleled presents. “Every thing informs the whole lot else,” he stated. “It’s a privilege to do such nice work that enables me to push boundaries.”
De Jesús stated he is been irrevocably modified by “Welcome to Chippendales” in a means that hasn’t occurred with different roles. The need to play extra characters which are free to be “uncooked and ugly with out being stripped of their humanity, particularly in the event that they’re working-class individuals,” predominates as he readies for what might be considerably extra recognition following this function. His frank evaluation of the longer term is also a reminder that there’s room for reflection, therapeutic and duality in an artist’s apply.
“Conversations for individuals of shade and different underrepresented teams within the enterprise exist round us, round oppression and all of the work now we have to do. It’s heavy, and it’s actual. We’re all consciously attempting to heal, and that’s one thing I take into consideration usually,” he stated firmly.
Breaking his momentum in a second of pensiveness, he paused. “There’s additionally a ton of magic and therapeutic and a lot that’s price collaborating in,” he added. “There may be energy in exhibiting up.”