The So-and-So Profiles casts a spotlight on Jose Daniel Figueroa, a Los Angeles-based Meisner-trained actor, print model and commercial artist branching out into other areas of production in 2012.
1. When and how did you decide to become an actor?
When I was in fourth grade, I played Beast in “Beauty and the Beast”. It consisted of me having the mask on. I thought it was so cool that you could pretend to be in love or have this façade of being with someone and it was just acting. You could go back to it and just pretend.
I had a couple lines as Beast and I would roll out of the way and then the prince that I would be was this fat kid that got the part. He would roll out and it was so funny. It was such a great experience.
I also did some theatre in high school as well – just a little bit here and there, but it was just enough to get me to want to do it.
I explored being in architecture and in business but for some reason it didn’t pan out. I didn’t like it. So I came out to California in February 2009.
2. Where does your focus lie -- stage, film, TV, print, internet or either?
My main focus is to want to be in film. I would love to be on TV. I go out for commercial auditions all the time. I love them. [And] print is fun.
3. What is your dream role or type of role?
I would like to be an action hero. That would be so fun -- to be in an action movie. That would be something I’d really want to do.
I really like doing drama and being emotionally available.
I would totally do comedies that portray me as something else as long as it’s done in a lighthearted way.
4. Would you like to win an Emmy, Oscar, Tony or Grammy?
I would love to win [an Oscar] but I just want to do my best and hopefully that’s enough to get people to notice and see me worthy of a nomination. Even if you get nominated, that’s amazing. There could be people that go fifty years that are accomplished that don’t get anything. They don’t get nominated.
I don’t know the process but I hear they just pick people because it creates a buzz for the whole system. If that’s the case, that’s unfortunate. Still, people win that deserve to win. Whether it’s indie films or not, people are getting picked that deserve it.
5. Who do you think deserved it and won?
Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. That was a tough role. He really deserved that one and won.
6. So we’re winning an Oscar. What would you say in your acceptance speech?
I would have to thank God. I would thank my parents, friends, people that helped me out during trying times. I’d like to thank them for staying with me and having faith in me.
And obviously the fans. I would like to just thank everybody.
7. How do you approach a role?
It depends on what you’re trying to portray.
If you’re supposed to be sad for a certain scene, create a storyline. Have every part of that story filled out in your mind of why you’re sad so you know what’s going on with your emotion [and] you’re supposed to deliver a line.
If you’re just reading lines and you’re just trying to get by, people can see that. People can see through the fakeness if I’m trying to be sad and I’m just doing sad actions.
I was always taught not to just bring stuff from real life because something that happened ten years ago is irrelevant to you now. You have to have a creative mind and then have something that’s going on right now to bring you to that place.
8. What role has been your favorite to play and why?
I had a couple of funny roles in college. There was one where I was a bully in a short. That was fun. I really liked that.
I haven’t really done one that I’ve totally dived into or been able to showcase yet.
9. Have you ever felt pigeonholed into a particular type of role or work or persona?
Not in a negative way so much. I feel like thus far a lot of people look at me [as a] cop [or a] cop hero. They don’t get villain from me. When I’m talking to people, I’m not an asshole. I’m not full of myself and I joke around, but I’m never very serious. I have played a lot of the bad guys because I have short hair [and] strong facial [features].
All they want me to do is Spanish commercials. They want you to play the happy Spanish-Mexican type of role [but] not in a bad way. I am Puerto Rican. It’s just another way of being a different side of me that I can play.
If you want to break a typecast you break it. If you want to keep going with it, people have a choice. They don’t have to be in something. A lot of people saw me as the muscular guy and then I lost 30 pounds. Some people still might say that they think I’m a muscle person but I’ve lost a lot of weight.
And it was on purpose. On screen I looked too big. Then I had to stop working out as much, not hitting the weights at all -- just hiking, doing a lot of prison workouts where you just do pushups [and] pullups. It’s a totally different work ethic.
10. You’re not an ugly man. Do you feel that your looks can work for you or against you?
I don’t see how it would work against anybody. I haven’t had a feeling of whether or not it holds me from not doing something.
I am not ever going to play an emo character or skinny-jean type of role where I’m super thin. I can’t play those types of roles because I’m not that body type. I don’t feel that that’s anything against me.
It’s never been an issue so I’ve never really thought about it.
11. What was/is/will be your struggle in pursuing acting full-time?
Everybody at one point has a little doubt sometime. You just have to believe why you’re doing it – whether it makes you happy to be portraying a different role or going out and just getting involved in the character or just the process of creating something.
Back in the day, I was working as construction. Just the whole process of making a foundation [and] making a house -- that gratitude that you get is like when you’re done making a film [or] when you’re done making a show that you’re proud of. You feel happy. That just keeps you going.
The only struggle I feel people get is not having patience. [For] some people it happens right away, [for] some people it doesn’t. You hear that 20,000 or 30,000 people move to LA every summer and then at the end of the year almost all of them leave -- people that are looking for that quick break.
Everyone struggles in life. At anything. You just have to keep at it.
12. So what keeps you from giving up?
We just finished our feature film. I helped executive produce a feature film. That in itself. How many people get to do that everyday? I guess out here, quite a bit (laughs).
That’s a sense of accomplishment. If I can do that, what else can I do? If it’s that attainable to do this, why can’t you just keep going? Why can’t you just keep thinking of new ways to get out there to promote yourself?
13. How do you describe your style of acting?
I’m very emotional. I can convey my emotions on camera. I tap into that. That goes back to where I went to school in North Hollywood. It was the Meisner technique. Playhouse West. And they were very adamant about tapping into your emotional side.
Growing up in my household, when I would get upset or anything, I would really express my feelings. I would really put them out on my sleeve. It was difficult because I was pretty tough. I would get in fights and do all that stuff but I would still be emotionally there. If you hurt my feelings, I would let you know. I would probably cry because it hurt my feelings but I would kick your ass afterward.
A lot of times people get in the way of themselves. They’re thinking about the words. They teach you it’s not about the words, just get the point across. Try to get the point across first. Listen to the other person.
Have your emotions ready to convey whatever – even if you’re just listening to someone. It’s so difficult. People think that’s easy, but it’s hard because you know what line’s coming. You know how you’re supposed to feel. You’re looking at them. It’s Take 15 and I’m supposed to be sad.
You just have to wear it out there.
14. What has been your greatest career experience?
Working on Coldwater (forthcoming independent feature). I PA’d, I set designed, I did stunts [but] just a little bit of acting here and there because the storyline was just around one person in the house. The whole process of doing all that and being part of a team and having people rely on you and coming through.
I did stunts falling down the stairs. I’d never done it before professionally. That’s on my resume now. I can do that stuff. It’s just seeing that side of yourself when you actually try to tap in and do that. That was really satisfying.
15. What has been your worst career experience?
I did a couple of things where I was just too big. I was way too big. I thought I could get away with it. I thought it didn’t matter.
In certain roles you want to relate to people. You can’t relate if you’re jacked out of your mind.
For my height and size, I cannot weight more than 170 pounds and not look awkward. If I was six-foot-two I could get away with it. I could be one those big guys and obviously certain roles you can get away with it but I don’t want to be pigeonholed.
After doing a couple things when I was that heavy, I was disgusted. It took awhile to change, like a year-and-a-half or so. I’m happy now.
16. Who are your professional inspirations?
Robert Downey, Jr. He’s amazing. He really dives into whatever character he’s in. You just have to have some kind of respect for that type of person that can just go balls to the wall.
[And] Johnny Depp.
They’re character actors but that’s something that I would love to work on -- character acting where you just dive in. People might laugh at you but you’re doing something that you’re not. So you’re not used to it. And the only way to do it is to just jump in because if you just go halfway it’s going to look awkward.
I also like Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s a really good actor.
[And] Ryan Gosling. [He’s] very subtle, but he delivers his message across with emotions that he brings.
And you have everybody else that everybody respects as well. The big names. There’s a lot of good actors our there right now.
I’ve always respected Arnold [Schwarzenegger] -- not because it’s Arnold, but because of what he had to overcome to succeed.
And the Rock, Dwayne Johnson. That’s another one. His progression to being The Scorpion King but then evolving -- playing a gay role on Be Cool and diving into it.
[And] Justin Timberlake. He’s really funny.
17. What do you draw upon to find a character?
It’s a combination between experiences that I’ve had but also creating them into the now. If you’re supposed to be a rapist, I can’t relate to being a rapist because I haven’t raped anybody. I have taken things away from people that people wanted and it upset them deeply. I have had those moments where I was that person.
I have to evolve that. I’m taking something away from somebody that they don’t want to be taken from them and I’m taking it away from them forcefully. How am I supposed to convey that to that person in that energy? I create a storyline in my head – I’m taking something from this person regardless, no matter what.
And you get that energy. That’s a scary energy to have. And you have to convey that and that’s what you draw upon. Obviously, unless you’ve raped someone, you don’t know what it’s like. That kind of mentality that you have is, “I’ll take anything from anybody at anytime and I don’t give a shit. What are you going to do to me? Nothing.”
That’s how I dive into certain things. You obviously cannot always take things from your past. You just have to create a story to what’s happening with you now and have every angle of that story filled out. Otherwise somewhere along the line it’s going to fall apart. Why am I feeling this way? How long have I been feeling this way? Where is it going? What would I do if that person came back? Whatever the case may be.
You just have to have everything filled out. And do your homework. That’s what I try to do.
18. If a production was casting for a "Jose Figueroa" type, what would they be looking for?
A very good-looking, personable character. Strong features. Distinguished, but still light-hearted in an interesting way that could get that feeling across. Still be a powerful presence but at the same time break down emotionally and be available that way.
Obviously Latin-looking because I look Hispanic to most people. Otherwise ethnically ambiguous.
Or if I stay out of the sun, I could be Pasty White Kid. It takes awhile.
19. What is your ultimate goal?
To look back and be proud of what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished, what I haven’t given up as far as morality [and] what I believe in.
To have fun. To be working and be happy with the work I’m doing.
20. What’s next for Jose Figueroa?
Coldwater. We want to get that totally done.
Then this web series is next. It’s a horror comedy.
I have a friend Eric Vasquez, who wants to produce a short film and enter it into the Chicago Film Festival. We’re supposed to meet with the director from New York. I’m excited for that and can’t wait for that to happen.
I definitely want to get out there more. 2012 is about getting more exposure for me. Sell the movie, make money off of that, invest in other projects, get a camera.
I want to dive into more areas of production. I want to start shooting. I want to start writing. I want to get into editing. I want to do stunts as well. Any avenue that I can get myself into is just better for me.
Background: I recently met a guy who was in the process of transitioning from NY to LA. When asked what he was doing out here, he said that he was an actor.
A guy nearby responded, "So what restaurant do you work at?"
The actor took exception to that response. So I asked Jose what he thought of such a response and how he has or would have reacted.
It’s happened to me. There’s nothing you can say but the truth.
I’ve worked on a railroad, what have you done with your life that’s been significant? What have you accomplished? So you’re going to attack me. What do you do?
Most people that come off like that, they don’t like their jobs. There’s nothing I can say but the truth – this is what I do, this is who I am, this is what I want to be, this is what I’m doing. At least I’m trying. Why attack somebody for that? I don’t understand that whole concept.
It’s just funny. People who do that are either very jealous or they just don’t like what they’re doing. Or they’re cynical. Either case, no one likes to be around them anyway.
It upsets you sometimes. It depends on how they say it. If there’s somebody that you don’t know completely, you just brush them off but when I go out and I like to have fun with people, I try not to dive into subjects where I’m always talking about my work with them. If I’m out to have a good time, I’m out to have a good time.
Photo courtesy of I.D. Photography.