Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2007 Interview with Al Coronel

Al Coronel made my 2006 year-end list for his electric performance in Buon Natale in North Hollywood. He is a frequent guest star on episodic TV such as House M.D. on Tuesday, November 18th.
This interview took place in November of 2007, as Coronel was preparing once again to do Buon Natale.
Q: This is your second shot at playing Luigi in Buon Natale. Had you played a gay man before?
AC: This is the first time, other than when I was studying at the Sanford Meisner Center, we had to do partnering exercises and create scenarios. It wasn't so much the dynamic of playing a gay role...it didn't bother me one bit doing so...it was the relationship between me and my boyfriend in the play, and also the relationship between the father and the son. That's what caught my eye about the role. I'm trying to please both my boyfriend and my father. Basically, I'm walking on eggshells to make sure that I'm guarding my emotions from hurting them.

Q: Is this the most challenging role you've played?
AC: The most challenging one onstage actually was playing a stroke victim. I played a character by the name of Ernie, in At Home with Ernie (independent writer), and my wife was coming to pick me up from the convalescent home; she wanted to take me home and I refused. The back story there was I was afflicted with all these impairments. I felt that going home would be hurting her more because I was no longer the man I once was.
Q: Did you have to work arduously on creating the paralysis in your body?
AC: Oh my God, yes...speech impairment and then physical impairment, being paralyzed on one side of my body. Everyone that saw it said they could barely control their tears. That was one of those roles that when you get on stage, you are completely drained.
Q: Does being from a Latino background help you to understand the Italian familia of Buon Natale better?
AC: Of course. I remember Christmases where my mom would do her best to hide the gifts in the closet. We'd always find them. Come Christmas, they'd try to make us believe that Santa had come. Those moments where family would come together and be up until 4 or 5 in the morning celebrating Christmas...I'm really looking forward to this Christmas, because it's going to be like that. We have a lot of family that's coming in; it's going to be the first time that a lot of family has been together. I completely relate to that in the story - the fish.
(The Bongiovanni family have cod on Christmas Eve; my mom, who was Irish, cooked creamed cod and the Hispanics have their fish too. What a small world!)
I also relate to those who are no longer with us. Memories. We reminisce over the Christmas photos.
Q: What do you apply to your acting that you learned in class at Meisner?
AC: You have to understand things that have occurred in your lifetime and what opinions you have about them. You understand how you can evoke that, given imaginary circumstances, whatever they may be. And...never leave yourself out of it, even when the character as written is totally different from yourself.
Q: Do you prefer the stage or film?
AC: On a personal level, I love doing theatre. It's so much fun, because it can be so unpredictable. Sometimes moments are created during a performance that you never knew were there. All of a sudden you think: WOW! or things happen unexpectedly that create a different moment. In Ed Begley's Cesar and Ruben, there was so much going on. Every night something would go wrong, and cast members were the only ones that were aware of it, but what happened ended up working beautifully and right into the story.
TV... I love to do as well. The money, the exposure, the visibility: work begets work. Chances are that other things will arise from that. If you're trying to do theatre for fame or to make money, you're doing it for the wrong reasons; you're in for a big disappointment.
Q: Being a native Angeleno and Latino, how do you feel about the strides Latinos have made in the biz? Is it enough? Son bastantes los cambios?
AC: Si, han cambiado las cosas para los actores latinos, pero el porcentaje de los actores latinos todavia esta a un nivel que no es totalmente significante. Porque, el porcentaje de los actores latinos al porcentaje de actores americanos es como 4 o 5 por ciento. Hay mas latinos que estan persiguiendo la carrera de actuacion, en teatro, en television y todavia no es suficiente el cambio que yo he visto. Edward James Olmos y Tony Plana, por ejemplo, han actuado por mas de 20, 30 anos y todos me dicen que todavia no es suficiente. Ha pasado mucho que ha ayudado el progreso, comenzando, por ejemplo, con Ricky Martin. Aunque el es cantante, lo que el hizo para los actores, los cantantes latinos, es tremendo. Y se puede ver en muchos programas que si se estan representando mas latinos. Ugly Betty es el primer programa que 80 por ciento de la populacion que ven el programa no son latinos, sino americanos. Hace mucho tiempo programas como Chico and The Man o Good Times desafortunadamente no tuvieron el porcentaje que solia verlos. Perso si, han cambiado las cosas poco a poco.
For those who do not understand Spanish, Mr. Coronel is saying that in comparison to the percentage of American actors, the percentage of Latin actors working is still relatively small, but thanks to shows like Ugly Betty, a larger percentage of Americans are watching it and therefore appreciating the Hispanic culture and spreading the word.
Al Coronel is a survivor and destined to be a winner. He is a very basic, down-to-earth guy that makes the best type of actor, in my book.
To hire him as a personal trainer, call: 949-689-3232.

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