Freddy Miyares: "My dream is to get to a point where everyone on camera or stage is seen as human."
Alice Gee | 18/07/2022
Freddy Miyares is a man making his mark. Having shot to fame having starred in Netflix’s When They See Us’ he joins me on Zoom from overseas Calabasas to share his love for acting, his desire for a film industry built on diversity and behind-the-scenes secrets behind his role as Skel from HBO’s DMZ.
HATC: Where are you calling from LA?
Freddy: I’m in Calabasas. About a 45-minute drive from LA. I love it out here. I don’t see why more people aren’t living out here. You’re closer to the hiking trails, it’s quieter and has way more space.
HATC: LA can be a little bit mad. Malibu is lovely.
Freddy: It’s lovely. I was there this weekend. It’s a never-ending coastline. So beautiful. I love being by the sea. I went surfing recently for the first time in Hawaii last November. All I could think was I can’t even get on a skateboard. We got this like surf instructor to teach us and within maybe 30 minutes I was up on the board.
HATC: I don’t think I’d be any good at it but maybe I’ll find my stride. But onto business, how did you find your journey into the film industry and your roles compared to what you imagined?
Freddy: You know, I really had no expectations early on. It’s interesting because in hindsight I have a completely different perspective now it’s been long enough, but I studied acting from third grade all the way through until college and then graduated. I was always in an academic setting when it came to acting. By sheer virtue of the history of theatre, there weren’t many roles that catered to me. Most of them are, Eurocentric in a way where, you know, a Latino man from Miami. A lot of the time I felt I didn’t fit in those plays. But I never saw that being an issue, because it was always an educational experience.
But the difference was when I became aware that livelihood was at stake. It was then I started noticing that I was only getting sent in for specific roles. And none of those roles were ones that I particularly want to play, like cartel members, or, you know the hot Latino boy. I was just excited to audition and book a job and start my career that way. Sure enough, I was auditioning constantly but there weren’t many roles that I resonated with. And therefore, I just wasn’t seeing the light of day because nothing, was sinking in which meant the product wasn’t as good.”
HATC: It must have been elating when you got the role in When They See Us, something you felt so passionate about?
Freddy: When I got the audition for When They See Us it was the first time where I saw the material, I saw the character and I knew I had to play it. It was something I needed to sink my teeth into. There are not going to be that many opportunities like this. It just resonated with me in a way that others hadn’t. So I’ve dedicated a lot of time to that one, and it paid off. It reminded me there has to be a reason why I do it. I’ve sort of made it a point of intention, doing roles that either show people of colour or minorities in a light that hasn’t been seen. Roles that aren’t side characters, or villains.
My dream is to get to a point where everyone on camera or stage is seen as human. That’s it. We still have a long way to go. I’m just fortunate and grateful that I’m in a position where I can cause a little ripple effect towards the direction that I want it to go. I’m realising now more than ever, that the only way to do that is to take control of your career. Whether it be writing it or pitching ideas where we’re being represented. And I say we as in like, the Latino community.
It’s great to see better representation, and alongside your passion, it’s moving in the right direction. Sadly so many roles in the industry are written imaging white cis males.
It’s rough. I’m kind of coming off of a bit of an instance where I felt very confident. I met with a director that I was in conversations with to play this character, and then I hear back that it didn’t go my way because I didn’t look close enough. To then see their choice where the main differences were complexion was brutal. I’ve put a lot of work into it. It really does come down to political minutiae. I’m someone who likes to have some control in my life. But it’s kind of an ironic situation for me because there’s so little I can do.”
HATC: The privilege so many of us have is so often forgotten and taken for granted. It’s heartbreaking to hear and I can see how much the role meant to you.
Freddy: You know, there are times where I’ll get an audition, where I already know it’s probably not gonna go my way simply because it clearly doesn’t resonate with me, or I just, I can’t even envision myself playing that character. But I’ve just got to take it as an opportunity to keep working on my craft.
HATC: Sometimes when they say no, you have to keep trying.
Freddy: Can I show you some?
Freddy: Since that job, these are all of the no’s that I’ve gotten? (holding up a pile of hefty-looking scripts) It’s kind of hard to see but I hold on to these just as a visual reference. For me, this can pile up to the ceiling, but I’m still going to keep doing it. Because I know that somewhere in the middle of these there might be a potential. One of them will stick. Until then I’m going to continue paying my dues.
I often remind myself when it comes to jobs, the more you see, the higher the chance you’ll find that one because you’re putting yourself out there. Saying that you’ve found a home with HBO for DMZ, is incredible.
I completely agree, the idea that things are meant to be is my personal choice to see it that way. It’s a good way to see things because you can always find a reason for something. I think it’s really normal to be disappointed. You can’t always have it bounce off of you. That’s like an unrealistic expectation. Like some days, it’s going to cut deep and it’s going to feel like shit. You just got to ride through it. I went through it. I’m still I’m coming off of it. I’m still a little frustrated, hence why I’m talking about it. But it’s healthy to talk about it.”
HATC: How does it feel to be part of a series like DMZ, such an amazing role on such a good platform? It must have felt good to put your all into it and enjoy it?
Freddy: I certainly did. I’d worked with Eva previously. It was very reassuring that she offered me a role, based on my work from my last series. Secondly, Roberto Pitino, who’s the showrunner, mentioned that he wanted me in it based on my previous work Rosario Dawson was his vision for Alma. It all worked out that I got to play this character, it’s just a great privilege and pleasure. It was the first time I really had some creative say over a role, you know, developing the backstory prior to shooting the pilot. We were really creating a story from the ground up, and that was really cool for me as a young actor, seeing how Rosario and Ben analyse the script and getting to ask the questions that mattered to them. And it was very insightful. Then the pandemic happened.”
HATC: Which must have been weird, because it is a similar dystopia kind of setting to what you were filming?
Freddy: It was very eerie. The pilot takes place in this assumed world where we’re in a second American Civil War. This is 2020 prior to the election, and the premise is that the current sitting president had refused to leave office. That was the assumption. A bit too similar right? Except it happened a year before what happened. So looking back, it’s extremely weird how relevant it was. I remember shooting the last day of production, before stopping before the shutdown. I remember going to New York where my girlfriend was living at the time and within probably a day of everything shutting down I remember walking in the streets of New York and just hearing echoes. It was just like a ghost town. The show takes place in New York, this sort of abandoned New York City. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen New York this way. It has so much similarity to the world that we were creating. It was crazy.”
HATC: It must have felt good to be on a series that you so clearly connected to, even if it was condensed due to the pandemic?
Freddy: It was supposed to have multiple seasons. But the budget had shrunk down, unfortunately, so a three-season story got cut down to three episodes. But we tried to make the most out of it. I absolutely loved my cast and crew, they are all incredible human beings first off, and incredibly generous actors. There was not a single day when Rosario wasn’t smiling and clapping. She does this thing every time she’s excited, it’s the sweetest thing, she’s a ray of light. No matter what time of day, no matter how long she’s been working she’s just a quintessential leader in that in that regard. So it was really, really fun shooting, a really great experience.”
HATC: It’s an interesting character you play, he’s complicated and well thought through.
Freddy: He’s a dark character. He’s gone through a lot and this show dissects him. We had some emotional scenes, one, in particular, was with me and Rosario, laying it out there. Our director sent me a revised edit of the script where we were screaming at each other before we hugged. It didn’t really feel right so I made some notes and when it came to it he made the change. I feel like the better the show became with the constraints that were already built-in, you know, the budgeting constraints, the now limited series, where you already had a preexisting pilot that was established for a multiple season setup. A lot was going against it. But I think even with all those challenges, we really were able to tell a beautiful story about a mother in pursuit of her son. I do believe that if I hold my integrity then the roles that I do play will have more substance. And hopefully, that will elevate me in a position where I have some stakes in the storytelling side of things.”
HATC: You’ve just got to hold out that hope.
Freddy: I’m adopting that now. I’m gonna go out there, do my thing.
Words: Alice Gee
Photography: Sami Drasin
Styling: Monty Jackson
Grooming: Courtney Housner