By Katie Jackson | November 12, 2015 | People
We caught up with Colombian actor Juan Pablo Raba on his latest role in the highly-anticipated film The 33, how he felt about working with Antonio Banderas, and what he loves most about living in the Magic City.
Juan Pablo Raba.
A starring role in a Netflix hit series? Check. Stints in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Check. Handsome and undeniably passionate? Double check. It’s clear Colombian-born actor Juan Pablo Raba is on the brink of mega stardom—and his latest role in The 33, a film that exposes the story behind 33 men who get trapped in a Chilean mine, may just push him over the edge. Raba, who also plays Pablo Escobar’s cousin and right-hand man Gustavo Gaviria in Narcos, takes on the role of Darío Segovia, an alcoholic forced to go through withdrawal during the miners’ entrapment. His performance has already been heralded as immensely inspirational and thought-provoking, proving there isn't an acting feat he can’t conquer.
With the movie set to premiere on November 13, we caught up with the Miami-based actor about how he prepared for his role, what advice he would give to aspiring actors, and why he loves living in Miami.
When did you decide to become an actor?
JUAN PABLO RABA: It was a very fortunate accident. I came back to Colombia when I was 19 years old because I wanted to study to be a pilot. That wasn't going well, and a friend of mine said to me, “Why don’t you take acting classes?” I said, “No, I’m not interested at all.” Then one day she said to me, “Can you come with me to a class? I have to prepare for an audition.” So I went to the class and the teacher asked me if I could help [my friend] run some lines. Then he asked me, “Hey, haven’t you done this before?” He thought I had talent for this, and that he’d like to audition me for his school. I went for this audition, he put me through some exercises, and I started feeling things I had never felt before. That’s how it started.
Tell us about your character in The 33.
JPR: It was an amazing role to play in so many different ways. If you’re lucky enough to not suffer from any kind of addiction, it’s difficult to understand because you feel that it’s a lack of will or just a bum component. Once I started doing all of the research and really started to understand what a terrible disease addiction was, I started feeling and understanding these characters, and really feeling the compassion. I think that was a huge change for me in the way that I approached my relationship toward anyone who suffers from any kind of addiction. I gave it a lot of thought and tried to understand how I was going to interpret that idea. Then, I came up with this idea that I was going to make my whole journey on forgiveness. I was going to learn how to forgive myself as a character, and forgive the rest of the people that I thought should be forgiven. But what I really needed to learn was that I had to be forgiven, too. This character has a beautiful art—he goes in as one person and comes out as a completely different human being. That was very, very exciting to play.
What was it like working with stars like Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche in the film?
JPR: I always say that if you’re lucky enough, if you’re disciplined enough, if you work hard enough, you will eventually get to know your idols. And if you’re even luckier, you get to work with your idols. Antonio, for me, has always been an idol. I grew up watching all of his films and he’s always been someone to look up to. He’s not only an actor—he’s a director, a screenwriter, a poet, he composes music, he’s an amazing athlete—he’s one of those guys who does everything. He’s just an amazing energy. Juliette Binoche has always been one of my favorite actors. In an interview six years ago, they asked me who I would dream of working with, and I remember saying Juliette Binoche. Now to be playing her brother—wow, what can I say?
You’re starring in Narcos, appearing in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and in The 33—you’re a busy guy! How do you balance it all?
JPR: The balance always comes from your real life; [it] comes from understanding that it doesn’t matter how amazing [the job] is and the lives and souls you get to touch—it is only a job. The important things are your day-to-day, and your relationships with your wife and kid. That’s it, that’s the balance. There’s nothing more to it. You really have to learn how to be a good human being in life because your character can be one thing, but in real life you have to be another. There are very exciting moments, like the premiere of Narcos and The 33, but all of that is just a couple days in life. Your regular day-to-day is so much more important.
Who inspires you as an actor?
JPR: So many people. Sometimes I get inspiration from regular people that I get to meet [every day]. I’m constantly inspired by my wife, by my kid, and by the memory of my father because they are the real people.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
JPR: I would say to have a lot of patience and to have a lot of courage, will, and faith. But I think the greatest advice that I would give to any actor would be to really understand that it is just a job, and to get a hobby. Once you start acting, you get to work on something you absolutely love, that you’re extremely passionate about, that’s artistic, and you get to know amazing people every day—you start thinking that this is your hobby because it’s your passion. But I always say to find something that is going to move you even more than acting. Find another, greater passion, because that way when you’re not working, you’re not going to go crazy [...] Get a great hobby that you love, something that will move your soul, heart, and your life forward, even if you’re not acting.
Do you have a favorite place to eat or hangout in Miami?
JPR: I love to eat at a place called Novecento, it’s an Argentinian and Italian restaurant. That’s my number one choice when I’m in Miami. I love to eat over there.
What do you love the most about living in Miami?
JPR: I love where I live in Miami. I live in a little place called Key Biscayne, and that’s a great place to be with my kid. I’ve found Miami to be fascinating in the way that it’s growing, and how it belongs to everyone. It’s just a beautiful city. I love how it’s evolving, too with Art Basel and the concerts. I miss the mountains because my thing is mountain biking, but Miami has the beautiful weather and the warm ocean. Sometimes I’m with my kid, it’s 8 p.m., and we’re just swimming in the ocean, and I’m like, “Oh my God, how can I be so lucky?”
photography by Imeh Akpanudosen