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Coffee Talk with Actor Douglas Spain

This business is difficult, but not impossible

By Lisa Zion, contributing writer
Published on LatinoLA: July 12, 2010


Coffee Talk with Actor Douglas Spain


I am sitting in Starbucks in LA with actor/director Douglas Spain.

LZ: Good morning, thank you for meeting with me today.
DS: Thank you!

LZ: What is happening with your career?

DS: I just wrapped a movie with Eva Longoria. The film is "Without Men". This is a story that is both mysterious and comical. It is about a town that has all the men extracted by guerillas and the women have to figure out how to live without men. My character is one of the men that have to go out and fight in the war. This film is based on a book.

LZ: What was it like to work with Eva Longoria?

DS: Eva is a generous star, a giving actor and a person. This is an indie film, which means long hours. She always treated the cast and crew.

LZ: How long have you been acting?

DS: I've been acting for about 20 years.

LZ: Where does the interest in acting come from, was anyone in your family interested in performing?

DS: No one in my family was in the business. This is something I've always wanted to pursue and when I had the opportunity, I did it.

LZ: What is your background?

DS: I am an Angelino and my parents are from Guatemala.

LZ: Do you have any siblings?

DS: Yes, I have an older brother, younger sister and several half siblings.

LZ: How old were you when you began to seriously think of acting as a career?

DS: I was young and my first acting job was a PSA against racism.

LZ: Where did you get your training?

DS: I am from LA and I went to classes here in town. I've always liked to use different types of acting methods. I believe acting is not one set idea; you use different types of approaches. Nowadays an actor may work with a green screen and the type of training you learn in a theater may not necessarily apply to acting with a green screen. I always venture out into different styles, so that when I'm on a certain production I have a variety of tricks in my bag to use as needed.

LZ: I saw you perform in Latinologues and was impressed with your acting. I didn't think I knew your career but once I started research for this interview I realized that I actually had seen your work many years ago in a film called Star Maps. What was that experience like?

DS: That was my first feature film and it was a wonderful experience. I am happy that you didn't recognize me in my other works. I like to be a chameleon. I put myself into different characters.

LZ: I also recognized you in But I'm a Cheerleader.

DS: Yes, that was another character-driven role. I'm game for the most interesting roles that come my way whether it is a supporting role or a leading role.

LZ: Have there been any directors that you really enjoyed working with or someone that you have not worked with yet but would like to?

DS: I've worked with one director twice; I've known him for most of my career. We worked on Band of Brothers. His name is David Nutter. He is just really generous, kind, humble and to the point. I like working with directors who know what they want. They need very few words to express themselves and as an actor you get it. David is very open to ideas, open to questions and he is as specific that as an actor, I know what he wants and I am able to provide the performance that he needs. I trust him very much.

LZ: Did you have any mentors because this is a very tough industry.

DS: I've gone through this business alone. I have many friends in the business and together we grew up and learned what we needed to learn. There are generous actors like Edward James Olmos, who I worked with on Walkout. Every day he would tell us what we can achieve in this business and he is living proof of that. He always pushes you to be better and that is what I like about him. He makes you feel like family and he knows how tough this business can be especially for Latino actors. He is a good inspiration.

LZ: I went to your website and enjoyed watching your demo reel.

DS: Thank you.

LZ: You are also producing films?

DS: Yes, I started a company called Norton Avenue Films with my partner, Sonya Jones. She is the writer and I am the director. We have been creating short films and have had fun gathering talent and making films. Our films have been featured at the Calgary Film festival and Los Angeles Latino film festival. We've won some prizes and had fun. Online was a short film we made.

LZ: Which do you enjoy more acting or directing?

DS: I am married to my acting career but I am having a love affair with my directing career.

LZ: Have you worked in New York?

DS: Yes, I've done commercials in NY, print work. I worked on a print ad for the Gap and this banner was on a building on Sunset Boulevard. It's on my website. I was there last year for an IKEA ad.

LZ: Are you happy with your current agent?

DS: Yes, definitely. He is Latino and I believe he is one of the agents who have understood me the most. He has been in this business a long time. He is from California so there is a mutual understanding and respect. He is a partner with me in my career. I like him for that. I liked how he approached his business, we had lunch and the rest is history. So far we have done good work together.

LZ: We have a mutual friend, David Zimmerman who conducts the Meet the Biz acting classes. I understand you were one of the guest instructors.

DS: Yes, I love to dabble in many different aspects of the business including teaching. I did take a year off to help teach acting. David invited me to be a guest instructor and I enjoyed it. He is a wonderful person and I think it is a true gift to be able to help others and David does that. I was honored to be able to teach this one day workshop. David has different people come in and teach at his classes. It's good to be able to learn the different aspects of the business from different instructors.

LZ: How did you start doing Latinologues?

DS: Rick Najera and I would bump into each other at parties and he would always tell me we are going to work together. And he kept his word. I loved the piece I performed in and whenever I come upon an opportunity that scares me a little bit that is when I jump right into it.

LZ: I saw Latinologues and I thought you and Jesse Garcia were very good.

DS: Thank you for coming out to support theater. Jesse is a friend of mine; we've both been in the business for quite a while. I really enjoyed being a part of Latinologues. I thought the entire cast and crew were great. I'm glad you enjoyed the performance.

LZ: Are you going to come to the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival this year?

DS: I hope to, I've attended every year. One of the films I did premiered there in 2006 and I've become more involved each year since that time. You will definitely see me there.

LZ: Do you have any new films coming out?

DS: Yes, Without Men has just been released and Boy Toy will be released. I am taking some time off and going to NY. When I return I will work really hard. At the moment I have two projects I am working on as a producer.

One of them is called Mission Park with Jeremy Valdes and Jesse Garcia. It is Departed meets Blood In, Blood Out. The majority of the cast is Latino and it is based out of San Antonio. Bryan Ramirez is the writer/director. We have some investors interested and we have good actors attached to work on this project. Producing is a huge undertaking and I want to do it right. I'm looking forward to a little R & R in New York and then I will move forward on this production when I return. I enjoy working with Latinos; it is like being at a family reunion. There is lots of dancing, lots of laughter and good food. We Latinos don't get an opportunity to work all that much so when we do have this opportunity we are very grateful and we have a party. I've had the same experience on Walkout, and on Resurrection Blvd. We have a good time.

LZ: Do you do any writing?

DS: I'm not really a writer. I leave that to my partner, Sonya Jones. She is a really good writer. I am a good editor, I'm good at structure.

LZ: Being a native Latino person, what words of wisdom can you give to our readers who are interested in the acting business?

DS: I always say this business is difficult; but it is not impossible. You must have patience and perseverance. It is a roller coaster ride. For me, you know that I'm Latino just by looking at me. I don't feel the need to promote being Latino because it is obvious. If you accept me than you accept that part of me.

If you are an actor the best attitude is to be an actor and to portray actors who are outside of who you. That is a challenge, an adventure. You discover something new about other people. Never judge your characters because you will never truly understand them. As a Latino, I love my family, I love my culture. I love rice and beans. It is who I am and I am very proud of it. I don't have to question my culture, my heritage, this is who I am.

One of my favorite quotes is from actor Samuel L. Jackson. He said, "We act for free. They pay us to sit around and wait". As an actor we love to work. Not getting paid on short films is not that bad because we are doing what we love to do. And if we get paid, great!

LZ: Well, I have enjoyed our Coffee Talk, Douglas.

DS: It has been my pleasure, thank you!

Photo by John Viscott

About Lisa Zion, contributing writer:
Lisa Zion is an actor, writer and and production assistant @ Movido TV




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