Santiago Cabrera in

In Land of Women, Chilean actor Santiago Cabrera stars as Amat, a Spanish resident in the fictional Catalonian town of La Muga and the sole male participant in the all-female wine cooperative on which the city’s economy relies. He also becomes an unexpected and much-needed aide to Eva Longoria’s Gala Scott, who, along with her mother (Carmen Maura) and daughter (Victoria Bazùa), crash into his world while on the run from mobsters trying to retrieve the multi-million-dollar debt owed to them by her husband Fred Scott (James Purefoy).

The “Under the Tuscan SunEat, Pray, Love-y” tone of the Spanish-language Apple TV+ series — as Longoria previously described it to The Hollywood Reporterappears to foreshadow a future as a romantic lead for Cabrera whose career has spanned the genres of superhero drama (Heroes), dark comedy (Big Little Lies), crime thriller (Dexter) and science fiction, portraying Cristobal Rios in Star Trek: Picard, a role that earned him a fan in a notable Georgia politician.

“You think it’s sometimes just limited to sort of nerds and Trekkies, but it’s such a wider spectrum,” Cabrera tells THR of Star Trek stans. “You get someone like Stacey Abrams who turns up and says how much of a fan she is of you, and you’re constantly reminded of the reach it has and how it’s affected people.”

Yet Cabrera — who shared in the conversation below that he was almost cast as the DC Comics superhero Aquaman some years back (a role that ultimately went to Jason Mamoa after Cabrera’s 2007 opportunity was shelved) and that he has a role in the upcoming Tim Burton fantasy horror sequel Beetlejuice Beetlejuice — now has his sights set on portraying more villains, particularly after joining season three of Max’s The Cleaning Lady as the cunning businessman Jorge Sanchez.

“I know we should never glorify these things, but it’s fun to play bad guys,” he recalls telling co-star Kate del Castillo on the set of the Fox crime show.

Below, Cabrera talks with THR about successfully avoiding Latinx stereotypes onscreen, working alongside Longoria in his first American Spanish-language series and what’s on his horizon.


When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

Oh, that’s a big question. I did a play for the first time when I was 19. I did a production of Peter Shepard’s Amadeus. I had a scholarship to college and I was studying psychology. So I guess, subconsciously, I was going [in that direction]. But it wasn’t really something I wanted to pursue, and I was a bit lost with where to go. Then a friend of mine who did theater at school said he was doing a play and said, “You should audition, it could be a fun experience.” So I went in and they gave me Amadeus Mozart, and I remember the first time I ever went on stage I did that silly laugh that he’s got and there was a roar of laughter in the audience. That connection, I’ll never forget that feeling. So, I was intrigued. I was like, people do this for a living? I would say that’s when I got hooked and it never left me.

Your television breakout came though British shows. When did the move to Hollywood happen?

I was actually doing the production of Shakespeare’s Othello. I remember I had a mustache for my character, because he was the secret governor of Cyprus, and I had an audition for a show that was about the Roman Empire to play the young Octavius. It was at the same time as Rome was going on at HBO, Gladiator had just come out. And I sent the tape — in those days it was like a VHS you had to send over — and then they flew me to LA to screen test, and I got the part. Suzan Bymel, who was my manager back then, flew over to London to want to represent me, and she invited me and my agent to dinner, and I was like, “I don’t know what’s going on. What, Hollywood, what?” I was actually quite stubborn. I didn’t want to move at first, because I’d shot in Rome and I stayed in London for a while, and then eventually did a pilot season and then booked Heroes and that kind of kept me here.

In a prior interview with THR, you talked about people in Hollywood often wanting actors’ “Latin American-ness” to be the main thing about them. How have you avoided being boxed in in that way with the diverse roles you’ve played?

I think it’s a lot of grinding through and trying to get people to see you in a different light. I don’t want to be limited. For me, acting is all about range and transformation, and being able to show different things. What can happen sometimes is that being Latin is what they want the most and, what does that mean? Because we come from very, very diverse backgrounds and a wide range of experiences. There’s a very broad spectrum. I look for things that can break those barriers or stereotypes. If I had to break down my experience as an actor it would be: I’m not who you think I am. I would say it’s a constant battle. And like you say, I’ve broken through it. But it’s not like once you break through, everyone goes, “Oh, okay.” I have to keep going.

You briefly thought about changing your middle and last name to Simon Walker. Have there been instances where people have tried to make you culturally assimilate since coming to Hollywood?

No, but I remember when I had that meeting. It was like, “Oh my God, you can play anything.” Because I would sound English, and I can do all accents. I was told I’m not going to be limited, so I was very excited about that. That was the pitch, “Come to Hollywood. You’ve got so many doors open.” And I came and I was immediately put in a TV. I remember the first time I went to the NAACP Awards for Heroes — which was great, we were nominated. I was with Leonard Roberts, who’s a Black actor and a friend of mine, and we were standing together, and the interviewer goes, “It must be great for the two of you to be here, especially being men of color.” And I kind of look behind [like who’s he talking about?] Now, 20 years later, I go, “Yes, absolutely. That’s very true.”

But my experience in South America is not that. Now I understand how important the work of the NAACP is, because of the history of this country. You need the awareness. You need to put up the fight. But when you come from abroad and you don’t know America, you kind of go, “Why is everyone making reference to color all the time?” A lot of groundwork has been gained, and I think great strides have been made and there’s a lot of positives. But specifically with Latin Americans and Latinx characters, there’s still a lot a lot more to do and show.

Santiago Cabrera and Eva Longoria in Land of Women.

Apple TV+

You had roles in Salvation, Star Trek: Picard, The Flight Attendant, Neon. And then you joined The Cleaning Lady. What was it like coming into season three of that series?

It was great. It was a really good bunch of people. They are a very tight-knit group and family out there in Albuquerque. They’ve been together for two years. But I felt very welcome from day one, and arriving with Kate del Castillo as well, it helped to be the two new people. We got along really well. We had time to work and build our relationship. And I enjoyed it, it was a different kind of character. I feel like, if now the bad guy’s coming my way, if it’s a new phase, I’ll take it. At one point I was doing a scene with Kate and there was a dead body in front of us — and she’s done Queen of the South and all that kind of stuff — so I kind of turned to her and I went, “I know we should never glorify these things, but it’s fun to play bad guys.”

You told THR that set was the first time you were able to just sit around and speak Spanish to another cast member. What was it like then coming into Land of Women?

That was great, because I was playing a European Spaniard and that was almost like a role reversal. Because a lot of the time, it’s the Europeans that come over and play everyone else, and I got to be the South American to go over and play a Spaniard. That was very exciting and very intimidating as well, because I’m in front of Carmen Maura, who’s a legend there. And it’s a very thick, different accent from my Chilean accent. I love accents, I’ve got a good ear for it, and I love working on it, I find it’s a real way into the character. So I had a lot of groundwork to do, because in Chile we eat all our vowels and consonants, and we don’t pronounce much. And Spain is very old Spanish, very classical. So I had to work. I’d do tongue twisters before every take, literally, just to get the jaw warmed up. I had so much fun with that and being in a beautiful part of Spain with that story.

Eva Longoria told THR she was extremely nervous acting for the first time in Spanish, particularly speaking Castilian Spanish. Did you give her any tips?

I felt like I was very much sometimes the middleman. I’d lived in Spain for a year when I was 14, so that’s why the accent came a little easier to me. But the director of the first and last two episodes was Carlos Sedes, who’s from Galicia in Spain, which is the northern part of Spain, and they have a different accent from the Madrid accent. Same as Ramón Campos, the writer. Carlos speaks really quick. Really quick. And he’s very passionate. So he’d stop and he’d come up to me and go, “What are you saying?” And I have no idea. I don’t understand him either. So, we navigated that together. Obviously, I had an accent [to learn], Eva had a whole new language. I met her 12 years ago. We’d been in a movie together, and I was so impressed. She didn’t speak Spanish when I met her 12 years ago, so I was like, “Wow.” It was incredible. And then she upped her game even more with the character of Gala.

You said you’re enjoying the prospect of playing more bad guys. But this role feels like an entry into a rom-com lead. How would you feel about that?

I’ll take it. Why not? I love the fun stuff. [Land of Women] feels, to me, like a good or an elevated rom-com, and it’s definitely an antidote, too. Listen, I love a good drama and a good harsh reality-like depressing show, because I feel like a lot of that is gritty humanity coming through. But you need an antidote too, especially in these times. And I think Land of Women is just perfect. It really hits that spot, and I think people are appreciating it for that reason. The more I do this the more I feel like you start to appreciate how much fun the job is as well. So if rom-coms come my way then yeah, why not? I’ll take it.

Having also dipped your toe in the superhero realm with Heroes, would you answer the call of the Marvel Universe or DC Comics if the opportunity presented itself?

Technically, I was Aquaman in 2007 when the writer’s strike hit. Just before, we went to Australia, I was with George Miller — I’m just such a fan, I think he’s phenomenal. And I had a little communication with him. My friend Tom Burke, who was fantastic in Furiosa, which I just loved, he was like, “Hey, George says ‘hi.’” It was a feeling like, would you like to be a superhero? The strike hit, so they put [Justice League: Mortal, which remained shelved] on hold. But just being in his world, I went to Wētā, Peter Jackson’s FX company, where I tried the costume on. So it felt very real for a second there. But at the same time, it was like: Don’t do these things. In this business, until it’s all out there, until you’re at the premiere and you’re talking about it like I am now, it’s never real. Clearly, I was excited for that one. So if anything came again, I feel, why not? I’d love to go into the villain territory though, I think I’d enjoy it.

Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have said a third season of Big Little Lies, which you appeared in, would be made. Have you heard anything?

I’ve heard nothing. But hopefully it is and if they want me back, I’d go gladly. I’d love to work on that.

What else is coming up for you?

I haven’t shared it yet, but I had a really fun experience last year in London. I got to play a small part in Beetlejuice Beetlejuice coming out in September. I can’t say more on the role. But just to be a part of Tim Burton’s world and in his playground — and meet him and play with him, and see how the whole thing is done — was incredible. I see the trailer coming out now and I’m fanning out on it. I would be excited for it regardless. It’s the first time I’ve ever been a part of something that I was genuinely an enormous fan of, because I watched that movie as a kid like seven or eight times. It was one of those on-repeat things. So this was very exciting.

Land of Women streams new episodes Wednesdays on Apple TV+.

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