(all photos and interview courtesy of Expresso Revista)
Diogo is featured in this week's Expresso revista (magazine), both on the cover AND inside the pages for a new interview and pictures! Yet again, our ever awesome hero Dina sent us the article, as well as a translation, found underneath each respective page below.
(Interview by Rui Henriques Coimbra
Photos by Steven St. John/EPA shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico)
DM: "What we need is to believe."
Diogo Morgado: "I do not need a trailer to do the best I can do."
Rui Henriques Coimbra (RHC) (writer): Has done musical theater, was "Malucos do Riso" (a Portuguese TV comedy), Salazar and even Jesus, a role that catapulted him in to international stardom. On the 27th comes to Portuguese theaters as a homosexual in “Virados do Avesso,” an Edgar Pêra comedy. A candid conversation with the most famous Portuguese actor in the United States.
RHC: It darkens early this time of year in Albuquerque. The lunar surface of the land in New Mexico is darkest. Shadows of addicts quickly crossing the streets seem like groups of the undead.
Suddenly, there is a giant car, all terrain, approaching from the right. I don't think it is going to get around the roundabout without an accident. At the wheel, a boy who seemed precariously retained by the seat belt. Diogo Morgado. Plaid khaki shirt. Camouflage cap. "Come," he says, before leading us by ravines and dangerous intersections like we were in a modern western. In the back of the car, children's toys. Seconds later, at a local restaurant, the actor asks them bring him a delight: a bowl of melted cheese with vegetables, he eats softly with the help of toasted corn chips. Hypnotic eyes, Adonis height, simple and contagious energy, perhaps the attributes that have made Diogo Morgado the most prominent Portuguese actor in the United States, in the world. But there is an extra foundation: his dream-like urgency. It is the energy that he radiates, the step, the gesture, the passion in action mixed with the fury to live, the excitement in the history and the fast reaction to everything that is presented to him. The screen likes and needs it. And Hollywood has noticed this phenomenon. After appearing on the History Channel to play Jesus of Nazareth, in the series "The Bible," he followed what fate had in store for him: went to Morocco to film "The Son of God," a production that 20th Century Fox studios bought and distributed. It was in this role that he received from Oprah the epithet "Hot Jesus," which he hates. But that cemented his fame. Usually he divides his days between Lisbon and Los Angeles in the midst of airplanes, memories, and exhausting work that delights him as much as ever. Diogo is now doing, in the American Southwest, where he welcomed us for this interview, a series that will appear on American television in 2015. It's called "The Messengers" and is one of the most compelling gambles from CBS and Warner Bros. In Portugal, his artistic range comes back on the scene. Next up, on November 27, he stars as the lead in the comedy “Virados do Avesso,” by Edgar Pêra, where, with Jorge Corrula, they play a gay couple. One more challenge.
RHC: How do you fill your days? I know you are a family man who has been transplanted to another country. Are you exhausted or, above all, satisfied?
DM: I am now shooting episode number 9 of the series. We do an episode every week. I feel that this is a point in my life where things are being planted. When in November I return to Portugal to promote the film that I did there, that will only be possible because I could negotiate five days off with CBS. The latest script has 65 pages, of which 38 are of me talking. Dialogue, yes, but also some quite extensive monologues. As you can imagine, I don't have much time for other things.
RHC: When you say that this is the time in which you are planting the seeds of the future, you refer to what precisely? This is the learning phase, to build a career and an image?
DM: It has nothing to do with building images or paths. At all. I’m, every day, at a fundamental point of my work. Since 18 years old I have feel that. All days are the most important. What we do currently is the most important of all. In fact, I never use the word career. That must be very rare. What I have is a route. 20 years from now, maybe I'll have a career.
RHC: Let's talk about it. How were the early times?
DM: My journey began at 15 years old, by nothing planned - not to say, even accidental. I was a little caught up in this thing. I felt that my instincts were good and that I could do it, but it didn’t cross my mind that it would be my life or that this would be my contribution. Still took me seven or eight years to realize this. Only at age 22 that I decided. I had to define myself and, having accepted it, I still had to "professionalize" myself, study and try to always be the best within my capabilities. By 23 I began to do more interesting work. Well, that which interested me.
RHC: The amount of offers or the quality of the work?
DM: People ask me sometimes if I make strategic choices. I do not. If I find myself choosing, the effort will be in order to find something different. I feel very much attracted to that which is radically different from what I just did. There comes a point where this turn in the opposite direction is considered inadvisable.
RHC: You noticed this early on? In what sense?
DM: For example, the moment when I was about to go to Spain to study. At that time would be doing mostly television, but also some theater. I get a call from Parque Mayer (musical theatre.) Across the line I hear a voice that says "I would love you to do musical/comedy theatre." I had to be 24 or 25 years old. The only thought that came to mind was "perhaps I will never have opportunity to do a role in this kind of Portuguese theatre. I know it'll be a stretch, I have no comedy tone, I was never a comedian. I have no idea how to make people laugh." That, to me, is one of those moments that I find irresistibly attractive. Knowing that it's 80% possible I might not pull it off in the end is one of the aspects that attracts me to the work I do.
RHC: Have you figured out why?
DM: Because obstacles only make us grow. There is nothing more. A person who has a good life does not supersede itself. I know from experience that some of the times that I grew the most were the times when I had more difficulties. They were all situations that at first seemed impossible to overcome.
RHC: How was it to star in "teatro de revista" (Portuguese musical/comedy theater)?
DM: I am so stubborn that, after completing the first year and realized that it hadn't been very bad or even a stretch, I decided to do a second year in a second show. I think that, except for Melania Gomes (PT actress) I am the only actor of my generation who really did this Portuguese (popular) theatre. Not just spent there. Two years of my life dedicated to that. Hardly did anything else.
RHC: I know, however, you continued to develop the language of comedy. Was useful?
DM: One day I get a call from the "Malucos do Riso." As you can imagine, it's seen as the wrong type of work within certain circles of actors. Heard quickly, "Dude, seriously? But isn't that only for an easy laugh?" I was in "Malucos do Riso" for a year and a half.
RHC: Justified the fun in what way?
DM: It's all learning. I learned a lot, including the basic rhythm of the most basic mood - tan-tan-tan-taran! Humor has rules, however ridiculous they may seem, and are important to learn. People who say that it is not hard, do not know what they are talking about. Makes me want to say: “It isn't? Then you do it.” But they will not. And when they do, they are the worst. Today, though I know I'm not a comedian, I am aware of cadences and rhythms that can lead to laughter. That I know that I have. If not I would never have participated in a comedy like "Virados do Avesso" - in which the comedy situations depend on rhythms and own gender influences. Well, these things I learned in those two periods at the beginning of my career, when I was willing to spread myself out.
RHC: How is it that from this point, you moved on to the biographical story of a man named António de Oliveira Salazar (PT dictator)?
DM: Another call, another unbelievable task. It would not be only a film about the life of Salazar. It would be about his personal life, I saw at once that would be impossible. The first thing I asked the production team was: why me? They explained - because they were looking for someone who could become a 15 year old but also an older gentleman who eventually died. It is much easier aging an actor than making him look younger. Until then I thought well. That's logical. It did not seem a crazy proposal. Even so, I knew that stirring up a subject like the life of Salazar, would trigger more concern than praise. Would be more likely to beat me than to praise me. The figure is controversial. Loved by some, hated by others. Once again I voluntarily entered into a project that, for me, was only 20% chance of success. But these are risky odds that motivate me. The possibility that it rarely happens is what I believe in. It has always been so. If my practice was different, I would not be here.
Photo: Modest. Does not like using the word "career", and assures that it becoming international was not planned. "It was never my intention, [it] just happened," he says.
RHC: I assume that in the films you played Jesus Christ, the determining factor must've also been your focus on the unlikely happening. It took time to for you to accept the role?
DM: Yes, in this case was 5 or 10 or 15% probability. That's when I said "so here we go. Strength." My strategy is to not have a strategy. Following that for the time being I think I will grow as a professional and then also as a person. This is what I teach my son.
RHC: How is he doing here, so far? How old is he now?
DM: He's great. He's five years old. He's just impeccable, in his heaven. Speaks English better than I do.
RHC: How long does your child spend in the United States?
DM: He and his mother, Cátia, just are not with me when there are very intense shooting situations or complicated locations. In all of the filming of "The Bible" and "The Son of God," the work was being done in remote, difficult, hostile areas. It was my duty to be highly focused, with no distractions, protecting me so as not to get sick. If I was somehow unable to stay it would be a disaster. I've been there and I know that is all terribly complicated. When I was four months in the Amazon filming “A Selva,” with Leonel Vieira, I caught a fever. There is nothing worse than having to work sick, especially when a person is required to work with their mind, feel the things that are said. However, the work remains there waiting. In the end I got two injections of penicillin and moved on. But it can be very physically hard. I do not want to expose my family to circumstances of this type. In short or very tough periods, my son is not with me. Otherwise, always. As long as possible.
RHC: You said that his English is already very good. He learned through television? Or he already has a social life in New Mexico?
DM: He is very good at English, though occasionally could be better. Can express himself beautifully, especially when he wants something. Currently he is attending a kind of pre-school here in Albuquerque. He plays. It has recreational and learning activities. Learning the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and displays a great ability to interact with others. Daily life is marked by a perfectly normal routine as he would have in Portugal. It's me who has to adapt myself to a series made in a weekly rhythm, as each episode takes between five to seven days to be shot. When it happens like this, they give me 38 pages of script to learn, I still have to do three hours of studying on Saturday. When the calendar is not as loaded, we do things in this area. We can go to Santa Fe, or stick around to visit the city. We spend days in museums. We have been to the Science Museum. Already went to see the cave paintings. We did not do more because we've only been here a little while. Even when I’m not shooting, it's a work day. I have to prepare myself.
RHC: How do you prepare yourself?
DM: I look at the material and see just how long I will need to prepare each block of scenes. Set rules and follow them methodically. I have in my room 38 scattered pages. I know, from here to there, I have to memorize everything until Monday. From there to there until Tuesday. We, the Portuguese tend to do that thing of leaving it to the last minute. For my part I try not to do so. Things, to become in fact, have to learned. Nothing can be gotten by force. It must inhabit us first. This is why I prefer to plan ahead. In this aspect know I'm disciplined. Work during the week but I'm preparing myself eagerly for the next week. There is no way a person gets what they want it to be if there is no discipline. This is what distinguishes the pros from the amateurs.
RHC: Have you ever worked with a long-time professional for whom improvisation was the soul of the business?
DM: Well, there are also noted cases like that. There are actors who are naturally talented. Marlon Brando, for example. He was hard-headed. Terrible lack of discipline. Even a little twisted. His father was a drunk, his mother and the rest of his family messed up. But because he was a nice guy and, ultimately, a very good person, he could bring all that energy and conflict into a role. I'm a fan. I still remember reading the only authorized biography that was published. The man sometimes only studied on the shoot. No one put up with it, except Elia Kazan. Two geniuses there. For my part, I know I will not be like that. I have to work. I want to be with a clear conscience and to make sure I did all that was necessary - even if, then, in theory, I don't use all the preparation.
RHC: All this tenacity comes from where? Pressure to get bigger budget projects? To counteract Portugal? Learned from your parents?
DM: I think that it comes from several things. But trying to counteract Portugal, has nothing to do with it. It would be a huge waste of energy on something that would never happen. I only play when I have chance to win. Surely this comes from my parents. The work, discipline. My father had two jobs. Quit one, came home, slept 3 or 4 hours, showered and went out again for the other job. I remember finding it fantastic. Damn brutal - though his admirable routine came at the expense of not being able to spend more time at home. I know his work hurt me and our relationship. If we are not closer, it has to do with that too. But the integrity and ethics were always there. Whether it was to sweep a floor, handle a safety bar or supervise one of the entrances to the Ponte 25 de Abril..
RHC: Where did your mother fit in this dynamic?
DM: My mother is the creative one. She has always been a hairdresser. Still is. I grew up in the middle of the hair dressing, in the middle of the conversations of women, gossip, singing in praise when they saw me - "Oh so cute." I grew up on those two forces, a fusion between creativity and ethics. Good base for what would come next. What came next? A very happy path. I was lucky to find the right people at the right time, and I have been told the right things at the time I was ready to listen.
RHC: What were some of these major influences?
DM: So far, the strongest fingerprint was a gentleman named Armando Cortez. I still remember. Was 15 and made me his grandson. That, for me, was staggering. Stood open-mouthed before so much talent. There is a day he grabs my arm. Hurting me. Pulled me behind the scenes. "Say your lines." I said them all very well. He: "Breathe! This is something, that is something else. Do it again." I go back and say everything quickly. He stops me again and explains "First you have to tell the first thing. Breathe. Close it. Only after this is can you tell the second thing. Go, try again." To so many I was already crying. The man was squeezing me. Then he says, "Stop crying. I'm telling you this, because I think you are worth it. " Even today, when I think about it, all of me shivers. It changed my life. An amazing thing. It was a validation that I never had before. The goal was there. It was he who showed me.
RHC: Why did you see this praise as a transformative moment?
DM: I was a 15 year-old kid. From the south bank. Every day I caught the bus to the ferry. The ferrywent to Lisbon and when I got there, I caught a bus to Vialonga. Worked all day and studied at the same time. Having someone like him to tell me that, that way, struck me as absolutely remarkable. I began to look at him as a God. Just thought: "I want to be this man when I grow up. This is what I want to be. Exactly that." I still remember his relationships with the rest of the team, how he treated everyone. It was a lesson. I think he was a man meant to have 60 years. He sat at the table and seemed to fall asleep. After some time had been a tech say, "Armando, let's shoot now." Woke up immediately and was alert, ready to say his part of the dialogue. Action! Said everything impeccably, huge phrases. Cut! It’s good! I was amazed to see it all. At 15, was hard for me to be able to say two lines!
RHC: Who else gave you useful advice at the right time?
DM: After that I had another big influence: Virgilio Castelo. He was my first director of actors. I had never studied drama and it was he who pushed me to calluses. It made me see that this is a profession. Learning what would be necessary to find employment. Would not be enough to have a pretty face and say things. There were many tears that shed. Then I met Nicolau Breyner. I worked with him many times, including in the production of this comedy. What he gave me was equally precious: he said not to take ourselves too seriously. He is one of the most natural-born talents I know. May not have the Spartan side of the discipline I saw in Armando and Virgilio, but he has an immense humanity and joy for it. For him, maybe tomorrow we will all die of a heart attack. What matters is that we are doing this now and we're sitting at the table now. Tomorrow? We'll see. Laughs at counting things for a funeral. I laughed with him. But there were other influences. After debuting me at the Teatro Maria Matos, did a piece on the Open Theater, called "Skylight", a complex thing where I played an orphan. On stage there was João Perry and Margarida Marinho. Two and a half hours. I had to then be about 18 or 19 years old, young, but on stage to play David Hare and working with João Lourenço - another master. That's why I tell you that I've had incredible luck. I picked the right people and learned from them the best they have to offer. These are things that have stayed with me to this day.
RHC: You choose movies or series or different pieces just because you’re a father? Do you feel a new perspective or responsibility?
DM: No, although I have been offered several plays that I could not do. Would have to be out and about at night. I'd rather be with family. My son won't always be this age. Though I know he will surprise me sooner or later with a "No father, it's fine. Go do it!" At that time I'm sure I'll think, "Yes, it just so happens I feel like doing theater again." For now I’m with my family if I can be. It is thinking of them that I make my decisions. They are always in the equation.
RHC: When you're here in the United States, do you miss something that exists only in the motherland?
DM: I miss the food. The food we can do here, but the cod that is here is raw. I miss the dried and salted cod. I miss my family. I miss my brother, because he is perhaps the person who is closest to me all my life. He's about seven years younger than me.
RHC: You decided to do a television series that almost certainly will be renewed for subsequent seasons. You've already made peace with a transatlantic life?
DM: But I did not fight for this place. I am with this series because I had moved to Los Angeles during the promotion of "The Son of God." I was not there purposely to get a series. But, when I was there, it happened to be Pilot season. So my agents scheduled meetings and castings. Nothing was planned.
RHC: Having an international career was not planned?
DM: It was never my intention. Just happened. I made a movie called "Star Crossed," where 60% of the dialogue was in English in an English-Portuguese production. It came here to a film festival. An agent saw it, contacted me. I ended up with a movie, then two, then three. At the end of the third film, Igot "The Bible." I was more exposed, better known. Soon after came other offers. Already in Spain the same thing had happened to me. They saw me in a little role, then gave me a bigger role, and then a leading role. I never thought, "Now I have to branch out." Not even to work. I was always happy and proud to work in Portugal. Never bite the hand that feeds you. There is no ingratitude. But I also respect those who have been forced to seek work elsewhere.
RHC: How do you see your life in the next 10 years? Hope to work with someone in particular? Want to accomplish more, tell the right kind of stories?
DM: I have never hidden that I want to direct. I've done some short films. One of them is up on Youtube called "Break." Other than that, of course, I have my idols. I love David Lynch and Lars von Trier. But I also have another side, more Tarantino. There is a touch of humor and an absurd aspect that appeals to me a lot. But my favorite is still director Paul Thomas Anderson. It would be a dream to work with him.
RHC: Lars von Trier might come with a reputation for being tough on actors. I heard he and Nicole Kidman went to the middle of the woods in order to yell at each other freely...
DM: Have also said that about Kubrick. That he required the actors to do 70 versions of the same scene, but you know: one thing is what they say, another thing is what they do.
RHC: Give us a taste of the series you’re filming now. The network is usually aimed at adolescents and young adults, isn't it?
DM: I like to work for a targeted audience, a niche. There may be many people who do not like their shows, but when they press the remote button, the viewer knows in advance what to expect. In the case of our show, it will be more adult than usual. The network can be known for shows like "The Vampire Diaries", but this story is different. You know how many revised versions of the script I get between the first reading and filming? Five. And the first version was already very good. But it's there where the difference is. There are Portuguese scripts that are written on the train that connects Lisbon to Porto. Here, a script does not have to be just fine. Must be the best possible. It has nothing to do with money or budgets. A good film is made with 10 euros if there is only this money. My trailer for this series, is the size of a house. But I've also changed my clothes in a public restroom. I don't need a trailer to do the best I can do. There are many like me in Portugal. What we need is to believe.
RHC: How so?
DM: "Virados do Avesso" was made in this philosophy. I have many colleagues in Portugal who work without receiving anything. Just tell them "rehearse on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and shoot on Friday. All right?" And they say "count me in." Many throw blame at the system. "Oh I do not know, they cut the subsidies and that's why the cinema is a very poor thing..." Poor thing? "Virados do Avesso" was done without state participation. Done fully by a private entity. I cut my salary drastically in order to make this film. It was I who paid for the plane ticket. But it was a movie I wanted to do. Because I believe.
Another HUGE thank you and big hugs to Dina for making this post possible. And a big thank you to Diogo for giving us yet another amazing, genuinely honest interview.
"Virados do Avesso" opens in Portuguese theaters on THIS Thursday, November 27th, and "The Messengers" premieres on the CW Network some time in 2015.
"Virados do Avesso" opens in Portuguese theaters on THIS Thursday, November 27th, and "The Messengers" premieres on the CW Network some time in 2015.