It's bizarre seeing Theo Rossi smile and shake our hand, welcoming us to sit to start our interview with him at PopCon. This man is a supervillian. Well, he plays a supervillain, Shades in Netflix's Luke Cage and does it so convincingly, with effortless technical talent that we have to remember, he's an actor. A very good actor.
Having starred in a variety of very popular TV shows such as Law and Order: SVU, Hawaii Five-O, Las Vegas, Bones, Without a Trace, Veronica Mars, NYPD Blue, to name a few, most people grew to love him in his role as Juan Carlos "Juice" Ortiz on the FX series Sons of Anarchy. The hugely popular show put him on the map and it was a role that only Theo could really bring to life. As a fan favorite underdog, Theo showed off his skills playing Juice as an actor, depicting real characters that we can empathise with. It was a great career move that he chose to take with no guarantees of success.
'I think usually when I go with my gut,' he told City Times, 'even if the project doesn't set the world on fire and it doesn't become the biggest thing, creatively, I feel fulfilled because I made the right choice because it was my choice.'
Following his gut has definitely paid off. His latest role as the villain Shades in Luke Cage is, brilliant. Not only is Theo impressing us with his range as an actor but his understanding of what hooks people to characters and what makes those characters tick is equally impressive. The end result is a compelling performance that we can't help but continue watching.
Theo is humble, down to earth and open when we sat down with him during his trip to Dubai for the PopCon festival at the Dubai Outlet Mall and spoke to him about his acting career, the world of superheroes and villains and following his gut.
First time in Dubai
"There's nothing like it (Dubai). Today I went to the Mall of Emirates, The Dubai Mall and I got to see the Burj Khalifa, by the fountains! I'm in awe of this place. Living in New York city, you hear a lot about Dubai, a lot of people mentioning it in the media and stuff like that but I think that all of that aside, until you see it live and in person it's a whole different experience."
The Acting World
The acting world has changed drastically since Theo started in 2000. He told us where he thinks the future of performance is heading.
"I was not supposed to be an actor, it kind of happened by accident. It was one of those things. Back when I did start in 2000 there was such definitive lines of you were a film actor, you were just that a film actor, if you were a television actor, you were just a television actor. Now we live in a very different business. It's so incredibly different. TV stars are more recognisable and bigger than film stars. When I stared working Sons of Anarchy, it really became one of those shows that had this enormous audience that no movie could ever get, with 15 million people watching a week. So, TV to me is the future."
The Actor's Gut
Initially Theo's management weren't too pleased when he wanted to get involved with Sons of Anarchy as it wasn't clear whether he would have a big or small role on the show.
"I have to follow my gut. If something is going to go wrong, if it's not going to work out it's because I made the decision, not because someone else made the decision for me. In the case of Sons of Anarchy, I was so obsessed with the script and the story. I had gone in to read for other characters and I wasn't right for any of them. But me and the creator just had this relationship and he said, 'I just want you involved in the show but honestly I don't know if you're going to be in one episode or a hundred.' So when I told my management and my agents that, they said, 'you can't do that because we have these other shows that want you.' I said no, 'I want to do this show, I just have a feeling.' And ultimately, it worked out."
Shades in Luke Cage
Theo told us why he was so attracted to his new supervillain role.
"More than anything he's great because nobody sees him coming. I think the coolest thing about him is he's this guy whose kind of floating around the world and ultimately wants to be the biggest villain of them all. He would just be around in the first couple of episodes and make people do things without letting them know they were doing them. Then eventually he's the one standing there in the end while everybody else is gone. I thought that was so incredibly intriguing that cerebral characters end up being the characters with the most brute force."
Villain versus Hero
Is it more fun to be a villain? Well Theo seems to think so.
"I think that you are very limited as a hero. You're always bound by something. They don't take people's lives, they live by a certain code. But villains, their only goal is to move forward and they will do whatever it takes. The most interesting portrayal to me ever in film in any genre is the bad guy. The bad guy always seems to get the juiciest stuff or the best stuff because they are the most three-dimensional. So people like the joker and even bad guys in bond films, those guys are always the most interesting because they seem to. there are no rules, anything can happen."
Theo is in awe of actors that are diverse and convincing in the roles they choose one contemporary actor is Gary Oldman.
"When I first moved to Hollywood, me and a few friends walked into this bar, it was the middle of the day, I probably shouldn't be in a bar in the middle of the day, (laughs). Then I saw Gary Oldman sitting there with someone. I said to my friends, oh my God that's Gary Oldman and they were like, who? I said it's Gary Oldman, from the movies, True Romance, State of Grace!They didn't even recognise him. That's why he's so great! You don't even know what he looks like in real life because he's so used to playing these incredible characters where he literally transforms himself and makes himself be the person you're watching on screen."
"I've been reading comic books my whole life, playing video games . . . when you're a little kid you wear the Spiderman underwear and you think you're a superhero. You play into the nostalgia of something that we've been taught our whole lives but all we are doing now is that we've finally found a way. Technology and Hollywood has caught up to what we've been doing since we were infants when we were playing superheroes. Because of technology we are able to see these things that we could only imagine when we were young on the screen. I think we also live in a world where people love heroes."
By Maan Jalal
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