From a drug dealer in the series El Reemplazante, a young Mapuche man in the big production Sitiados; giving life to strong characters like the boxer Martín Vargas in Martín, el hombre y la leyenda, or the second lieutenant police officer in the fiction La Cacería, Gastón Salgado has gone along demonstrating that he’s a multifaceted actor with a career on the rise, and has known how to construct roles that are today part of the collective imagination.
From his start, which took place in 2012, Salgado has set out on a trajectory that includes ten series, a dozen short films, and at least seven feature films, among which are Chameleon and Some Beasts, outstanding works directed by Jorge Riquelme. In addition, there are those currently in development, in production, or awaiting a premiere, as is the case with five films starring Salgado that will be part of the 2020 edition of CinemaChile’s International Film Catalogue.
We spoke with the actor via Whatsapp in order to explore how his career has evolved, his perceptions about the future of the audiovisual industry, and how he projects his career for the coming years.
1.- I understand that each shooting experience is different, and you’ve said what you like about acting is its anthropological side. What would you say are the main differences in how one works between series and films? Is there any distinction in how you prepare the characters that you’re going to play?
I say that acting has an anthropological character because, in interpreting any character, you not only play that person, but you also show a context; a moment in history; an artistic moment, you also go through different processes at a personal level. Plus, there’s a study of human behavior in each of the characters that you do, so I think that’s why I’m so passionate about acting.
I respect the differences between audiovisual formats. I think the big difference is the time and budget, because a series shoot can last 4 to 6 months, so you have more time to prepare a character and you also see more of the character’s nuances because there are more episodes. In film, there’s less time, you shoot 3 or 4 scenes per day for a month, so there’s less time for preparation.
I think that in film, a tone is required of the actor that is different from that of a series. They’re similar, but I think that for film acting, or characters, there has to be a labor of emotional support, of totally getting onboard the film project, and you understand that you’re a gear in the story being told, while in series the characters are narrated and structured from other characters, through their journeys, their evolution. Maybe it’s a more archetypal language, although they always represent reality or something plausible, but in film something more spiritual is required, something of a commitment. Each film is a historical document that will remain in the history of humanity, so I think another importance is given to cinema, plus, one does fewer films compared to series, which is a more massive format.
2.- You had the opportunity to work on the Colombian-Chilean series Sitiados, co-produced by Fox. What was your experience working at that level of the industry?
It was quite intense because it was my second job at a professional level and on television, and the first on a co-production with an international channel and big international actors. It meant a learning experience because the process of the character I constructed, who was a Mapuche man, was very tough. His name was Nehuén, and to incarnate him I had to shave my head, I was also asked to gain weight… It was a super tough phase as far as the physical element, and as far as training, too.
I learned how the industry works abroad, how they shoot. Although the production crew was Chilean and the directors were Chilean, (Nicolás Acuña and Juan Ignacio Sabatini), it was a gigantic-level production. In fact, a city was built in the former airport and we had to shoot in the south of Chile. We spent a month filming in Pucón, Curarrehue. Likewise, there was a big job of art direction that was marvellous for being able to replicate the era.
I think that in each process, you start to find a methodology and technique, and I feel like that character bestowed me with many tools as far as interpretation, understanding how an industry works, and learning to manage communications as an actor. I remember that on this series I was one of the protagonists, so we had to work on marketing, we had to film catchphrases, but I feel like those things were more uncomfortable for me, more than for other actors who had already done work with foreign production companies.
3.- The role of Claudio in El Reemplazante marked a precedent in your career. Do you think that more representative, less elite stories are gaining ground in Chilean society?
I don’t know if more stories are being made that are representative. In fact, that story stopped being made (“El Reemplazante”); they stopped shooting because it was no longer being financed. I think there are few directors who take on these themes because perhaps they’re not their own themes. Cinema has to do with authorship in your work, so in general, directors put a lot of their biography, of their lives, and perhaps the stories of the elite are the stories that most represent them. However, I think there’s a new litter of directors trying to show what no one has shown before, films of more modest people, the stories no one wants to tell.
I think these stories are appearing bit by bit because they’re part of a Chile that people had wanted to hide for many years. In particular, I try to participate in these stories because I feel that they adapt better to my casting profile. As an actor, I think it’s easier to bring a character to life who’s closer to where one was born or one’s social stratum, or what one has gone through.
I think that after the social uprising, and after the pandemic passes, there will be a boom of films that represent and show a bit more of a world that’s “of the people”, a more marginalized world, more from the outskirts.
4.- How would you describe your experience in “Some Beasts” and attending the premiere at the San Sebastián Film Festival along with the whole cast? How do you remember the audience’s reception (who, in large part, stayed for the Q&A)?
It was totally worth it to be there, despite the long flight and the fact that I didn’t go for many days. People really liked the film, and no one was indifferent, because it touches on a very potent theme and has a particular twist that really surprises people. It was also nice to be with Allfredo Castro and Paulina García. They’re already very recognized actors at an international level, so they carried most of the weight in terms of communications, press, and interviews.
I think that what these experiences do is bestow you with lessons and an understanding of how festivals work. I’d been to two smaller events and now I had to take on this super-festival. Fortunately people really liked the film. With Jorge (Riquelme), the director, I’ve been working on a methodology and certain themes for a while, so I think this was a big step forward in the relationship for what we’d been doing, and in general, we really liked the result. The film is powerful, so it causes a lot of controversy and discussion. The trip was really positive in every sense.
5.- In an interview with La Tercera, you mentioned that you’re “interested in internationalizing” your career, and you also commented that you’ve always sought to become a film actor. Do you feel you’ve been able to tie yourself more into the world of cinema? What factors do you think that growth depends on (besides talent and work)?
My references were always film actors, never many from theater or television. Maybe that has to do with growing up watching films. As a kid, I fed off of that material, and when I grew up, I realized it was my occupation, my profession, my passion, and that it was what I like to do most. I think it has to do with the way I work and the way I am. I never felt very comfortable in theater, and well, I’ve never done television directly.
The work of a film actor has several factors that really resonate with and move me. One of them is the fact that a film remains as a historical document. It also has to do with the fact that few films are made, so when you’re making them, there’s a lot of energy, love, from the director, the director of photography, the cast, the catering [team], etc., and I think that’s practically magic, it doesn’t happen on every production.
I think cinema is the opportunity to create a character who anyone in the world can see and be able to understand their essence and story, something I find really beautiful. Film actors also travel a lot and that’s ideal for me, to become an international actor and tell stories of many places.
I think such internationalization will depend on time, the quality of my work, and the films I do. The more films, the further they’ll go and the more people will see them. The work Jorge (Riquelme) and I are doing is an open door, because people are becoming acquainted abroad, therefore they’re also going to recognize me, as a collaborator of Jorge and his projects, and that’s how you start to build contacts and open new possibilities.
Gastón Salgado with Consuelo Carreño at the premiere of “Some Beasts” by Jorge Riquelme at San Sebastián Film Festival
6.- Regarding the last question: How do you envision the near future of talent from Chile (actors, directors, etc.) and the internationalization of their careers and work? Is there an optimistic environment in the field, or do they feel that the barriers are too high?
I feel like there are increasingly more possibilities to migrate, and I think that’s due in part to the quality of Chilean films being made. There are many young, very talented new directors, and the big directors who are consecrated, they’re already settled into an industry, and I think that sets a precedent for all those of us who follow. It’s like what Alfredo Castro and Paulina García do, they’re our beacons, the ones who show us the path, and those of us that are behind them have to take on their energy and their quality of acting.
In terms of direction, I think a lot of good films are being made that get into lots of festivals, there are a lot of films moving around the globe. I think at a social level, everything that’s happening means all eyes are here, and the world is going to understand that there’s a lot of talent, material, and stories, and I think that bit by bit, a strong industry will be created. I think everything has to do with the quality of the work you do in terms of direction, acting, and the stories that are being told.
I think it’s important to continue to find an identity for Chilean cinema. It’s fundamental because cinema ultimately responds to that, like any artistic movement: a need of the times, to show what’s not being shown, and above all, cinema is a great tool that’s massive and can reach many people. So I think in recognizing an identity, in accepting what we are because we know it, but we don’t accept it… when that increase in awareness happens, and it’s already happening, that’ll give more weight to the material, adding more elements and layers to our cinema, bringing it further.
7.- In the 2020 edition of the CInemaChile International Film Catalogue, you figure in the cast of several diverse projects (varying budgets). How do you decide what to work on and with whom? Where does your interest emerge from and grow in order to accept entering a film?
It has to do with how I connect with the project on an emotional, spiritual, biographical level. I think that if the character and story resonate with me, I’m able to do anything to transform myself. The other factor is a human one, the relationship with the director or how the project was developed, the cast, that the story draws my attention. Maybe now I have more possibilities to take or leave certain projects, which is also part of being an actor. You have to be selective because there are projects that are very draining on a spiritual level. So I try to connect more emotionally with the character, and anyway, I hope that it’s something new that implies a challenge.
8.- In closing, could you let us in on what current and future projects you’re working on?
With everything that’s happening with the coronavirus, the majority of the projects I was going to work on were suspended. I was going to shoot a series called 21 Chromosomes, the national premiere of Some Beasts was on its way; Jorge Riquelme and I are working on several projects, but they’re in the idea stage. I was going to do a theater play, but now what I’m doing is working on my film acting laboratory called “La Cámara”. I’m preparing the laboratories for when normality returns, trying to approach different communities or sectors that don’t have the possibility to see cinema and, in particular, film acting and the audiovisual world. The idea is to take these laboratories to the municipalities, housing settlements, places that lack artistic knowledge, which is so necessary.