Interview: Francisco Denis

From the interview archives.

Fans of Narcos know Venezuelan actor Francisco Denis for his portrayal of Miguel Orejuela and he’s additionally been seen in El Comandante and The Liberator, amongst many others. VULKAN caught up with Francisco to talk about the recent developments in the Narcos series which was renewed for a fourth season and his passion for directing. 

What’s your favourite part of playing Miguel Orejuela?

To work with a real character, who was part of the history of Colombia, is very attractive. It is not about what really happened but how these events tell a story. The way you interpret the character becomes sort of a parallel reality. The real person and the character you create, merge into one. That is very appealing for me as an actor.

What is one thing you’ve learned while working on “Narcos” that you were surprised about?

I was surprised by the fact that Colombia was a country entirely controlled by the mafia. Police, Judges, Congress, and even Presidents.

Which of the Orejuela brothers would you say you’re most similar in character to?

I would say both. I am very observative like Miguel. I never stop thinking things over, but for sure I am less obsessive. On the other hand, I consider myself to be more daring. I could say Miguel is more cautious in all his acts.

What kind of tips and tricks would you give another actor who has to speak in an unfamiliar accent for the first time?

Just don´t be a stereotype. The unfamiliar accent will be part of your role, it is not just an accent but a whole culture, rhythm, silence, humor, etc.

You’re also a director. When did you fall in love with that artform?

I created my own theater company because I thought that only by taking that step I could find the kind of theater I had imagined.

How does Francisco the actor differ from Francisco the director?

As a director I don’t hesitate about exploring different ways to make a scene. I push to the limits of the actor’s resistance. As an actor I love forgetting about the responsibility of the whole, and just focus on the details of my character. I can be more creative because the boundaries are clear.

Who’s your favourite director, perhaps one that you haven’t worked with but would love the opportunity to?

David Lynch, Alejandro González Iñarritu, and Jim Jarmush among others.

Is there a story you think needs to be told right now, or that you’d be interested in telling?

I have written various scripts.  One of them tells the story of the men recruited by Francisco de Miranda to free South America from the Spanish empire. They were twenty-year-old kids who were hired as soldiers in a New York port but that were meant to become the first South American independence army. Most of them ended up dying inside Cartagena´s dungeons awaiting to be rescued by the US.

What’s one difference you notice in the film industry in Venezuela from the United States?

Venezuela doesn’t have a film industry.  After years of shooting films, we are still far away from having an actual industry. The thing is, a film that opens in Venezuela or any other medium-sized country never reaches the box-office that would be needed to invest in a new film project. That is also why we need government funds to be able to make a film. I think we’ve done very good films but as I said, we are still far away from creating an industry. We have to make cheaper films but with a high expectation in terms of artistic quality.

What’s one place you’d recommend first time visitors check out while in Venezuela?

Venezuela is a very beautiful country with a geography of great diversity. Jungles, beaches, mountains, etc. But among all of this, there is La Gran Sabana, a magical place that is part of the wonders of the world.

After the tragic passing of location scout Carlos Muñoz Porta, will “Narcos” continue, or are we still unsure?

I am not very aware of their current decisions.

Does that event make you apprehensive about travelling for your work?

I know Latin America pretty well. I know how to tell where to go and where not to get close to. You need to know the places in which not even the police can enter.

What compelled you to get involved with El Comandante and what has been your experience working on that set?

El Comandante was a very good experience.  Being from Venezuela I have my personal and political opinions on what is going on in my country, but this might not be the place to talk about that. The fact is that it is very compelling to be part of a show about the current situation of one’s country, a situation that is affecting each and every one of us and from which we cannot get away from. In many ways I do not agree with the approach given by the show, but unfortunately the actors are not a part of the writing process.

Who, today, is one of your personal favourite actors to watch?

Christoph Waltz

Do you have any other projects we should keep an eye out for in the new year?

In the Director territory, “KUEKA, When the Stones Speak”, my first documentary, is opening on October 27.  In the Actor one, I have a number of proposals that are close to be confirmed between Mexico and LA.  It is still early to say.

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