Three Shows in One Season And on His Future TV show American War Story
From Jesus Christ and Johnny Ramone, to a violently brilliant billionaire and a libidinous priest, all the way to gritty cops, straight laced lawyers, gay hustlers, crooked doctors and razor sharp political animals, Julian Acosta has been a part of some of television’s most talked about projects. And in 2015 Acosta adds three more credits to his resume, working three highly prominent TV series almost simultaneously this TV season. It took a bit of creative scheduling but Acosta shot nine episodes of Amazon Prime’s Hand of God; played the POTUS’ National Security advisor in CBS’ Madam Secretary; and recurs in season three of BET’s Being Mary Jane as Kara’s (Lisa Vidal) love interest.
Developing each of these characters takes time and focus, but for Acosta it was a welcome challenge as he is doing what he loves. To research for his role in Madam Secretary he traveled to Washington D.C. to get a feel of the political climate. After the research there is the character itself that needs to be developed. So how did Acosta manage to work on three, almost concurrent TV gigs, each of which require focus and time?
“I am very blessed that at an early age I learned the importance of discipline and hard work so my work ethic is pretty strong. The downside of that for me is that sometimes I am very hard on myself. It took me a while to learn and accept that much of the nature of my nature was part of that disciplined hard work and not laziness,” Acosta explained. “What I mean by that is the daydreaming I have always been chastised over is a powerful tool in using time wisely to focus on the lives of characters I play. I also find that being involved in the world, in service, in family and friends allows for a passive learning that is essential in keeping things focused, energized and fresh.”
In Madam Secretary, Acosta stars alongside Téa Leoni, who plays Secretary of State McCord and with Keith Carradine who plays the POTUS Dalton. He plays Craig Sterling a security advisor who is intent on undermining the work of Secretary McCord. In Amazon Prime’s Hand of God, Acosta is Guy Guillet, a tech developer who puts up obstacles to block the morally corrupt judge (Ron Perlman) who believes God is compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice. In lighter fare, Acosta joins the cast of Being Mary Jane on the third season of BET’s hit series as Gael Montoya, Kara’s love interest.
We were curious to hear Acosta’s thoughts about his work on these three distinct characters and where he sees himself in this industry in five years. We find find he not only wants to act in great projects, he also wants to create them.
LatinHeat: In Hand of God you butt heads with with a judge. How does Guy Guillet, a tech developer impede the judge from doing what he feels he has to do?
Julian Acosta: With brilliantly underhanded and meticulous planning as well as execution of a secret agenda that is manipulating and controlling events behind the scenes in ways that will send shockwaves through our audience as the show progresses. (Hand of God can be streamed on Amazon Prime.)
LH: How are you similar or different from Guy Guillet?
JA: Guy and myself are very different people. I never judge characters I play so it is very difficult to talk about ’negative’ aspects of Guy without somehow feeling like I am betraying him as I am always on his side. I would say that what we have most in common is a drive to succeed and unapologetically advocate for the things we hold dear. Where we are most different is the ways and means by which we go about that advocacy.
LH: What’s the most challenging part about playing Guy?
JA: The most challenging part of playing Guy is finding and staying in that sweet spot of charismatic indifference that he projects while staying nimble enough inside the man to allow the interaction with other characters to send him in unexpected directions. That’s the challenge in any role I think – honoring, illuminating and giving life to the values, judgements, motives, dreams and aspirations of a character while allowing the unfolding of events and the inertia of the interaction with other characters to continually affect, question and re-direct your character.
LH: What is your take on Pernell Harris (Ron Perlman)? Do you believe he’s crazy or is he really talking to God?
JA: I think Pernell Harris is a man who is grieving the loss of his only begotten son. Whether he is crazy or really talking to God is irrelevant. He believes he is talking to God. That’s what matters. His belief that God revealing himself makes him question and address his own shortcomings while at the same time offering him a sense of righteousness that justifies his actions. Ben Watkins did a phenomenal job in creating that dynamic within his protagonist. It allows for all kinds of contradictions in action, motive and emotion. That is what makes great characters and great television.
LH: On Madam Secretary you play an ambitious new National Security Advisor. How is this character different from Guy in Hand of God, aside from the obvious job duties?
JA: I play Craig Sterling, National Security Adviser to the President. He is very different man than Guy. Is he ambitious? Absolutely, but when did ambition become a four letter word? His ambitious nature is the result of an inherent philosophical and political difference with Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, played by the amazing Tea Leoni. Craig is a patriot. He is a man who is championing what he believes to be the best course of foreign policy action in light of the events that are unfolding in the world. Craig is much more transparent in his motives than Guy. He calls them likes he sees them and isn’t afraid to take a direct route, speak truth to power or risk push back out of fear of being liked or otherwise maligned.
LH: Why did you go into acting?
JA: I wasn’t conscious of why I became an actor when I started acting. I think the reason that drove me to it was need. A need to say something. A need to tell a story. Story telling is everything to me. How that story is told and how that story is shaped by the choices one makes as an actor is a very intoxicating and powerful feeling. It is most satisfying when in collaboration with other artists a story is created out the many, many bits and pieces that each artist chooses to bring to the table. That subconscious need is most definitely fulfilled when I get to tell a story.
LH: What do you see yourself doing in 5 years in the industry?
JA: I want to be telling my own stories. One is an anthology series entitled American War Story. Each season is anywhere from 8 to 13 episodes in length. It will feature a new cast, circumstance, geographical location and time period, thereby traversing America’s longest raging declared war from the perspective of those who are doing the fighting and the dying on both sides of its front lines and exposing the consequences of the political machinations that are behind the battles huddled under the umbrella of the now 44 year old – War On Drugs.
Our first season is titled Hunters of Men. It is based on the true story of a rogue US Marshal who kidnaps a billionaire fugitive cocaine kingpin, only to become a fugitive himself — all while his family is torn asunder. Subsequent seasons take us from the streets of Juarez to the jungles of Southeast Asia on to the deserts of Southern Arizona and behind prison walls in Northern California. Through our company Broken Toy Works, television producer/director Nina Lopez-Corrado and I are actively pitching this project and several more so I hope to come back and answer some questions about what it’s like to be telling your own stories.