Exclusive: OFF THE MAP’s Nicholas Gonzalez Interview

Nicholas Gonzalez
Nicholas Gonzalez grabbed the attention of television viewers when he starred as Alex Santiago in Showtime’s heralded drama series Resurrection Boulevard, and he has since worked steadily in both television and film. He starred in the short-lived FOX drama Mental and had a recurring role in the Melrose Place reboot. Now he’s joined ABC’s OFF THE MAP as Mateo, a mysterious stranger Lily met in a cantina and later had to treat for a bullet wound.

Daemon’s TV recently talked to Nicholas about Off the Map and how he almost missed out on the role, what he looks for in a role and why Mental was such a disappointment.

Your character in ‘Off The Map’ has been really intriguing so far –

Nicholas Gonzalez: It’s been really fun. I’m actually here right now. We’re shooting our final episode.

So I guess then that you’re on the show for a while?

Nicholas Gonzalez: Yeah.

We don’t know much about Mateo other than it seems he might be a bit of a liar. How would you describe him?

Nicholas Gonzalez: It’s funny, I wouldn’t have described him that way. I’m trying to think about what I can say to describe him, but as you’ll come to see he’s a law student, which is true. He’s very big on his family, and as you can see, protects them at all costs, but he’s definitely a family boy and you’ll see that he’s a momma’s boy in the best way, meaning that he has a lot of respect and love for his mom who’s going to be coming in as well pretty soon.

How does Mateo get folded into the show more?

Nicholas Gonzalez: Well, there’s more that happens with the plot and the script and everything, but definitely as the love interest of Lily. That will continue to grow.

Can you tease anything that’s coming up?

Nicholas Gonzalez: I would imagine that it’s all hush-hush. I think the thing about his mother coming on is information that they gave and I don’t know if everyone really knows, and we have a fun and exciting name who’s going to play the mother’s character and she’s someone that I worked with years ago.

How did you get this role?

Nicholas Gonzalez: Through the usual channels. They were interested in me for it and they brought me in. The drama of it was really after getting it being able to do it because I was shooting a pilot in Atlanta with Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Sherry Stringfield, and I had like three days on the pilot because they put all of my scenes together. I was a regular on the show, but they put all my scenes over three days and then the last day that we were shooting was the one day that they needed me for ‘Off The Map’, when Lily met Mateo in the cantina, so it looked impossible. I was in Atlanta shooting and they were in Hawaii. They needed me in a couple of days. They even had another actor standing by, but I really just put a great impression on them and they really felt like I was right for Mateo and so they were able to push their shooting. And we actually shot my scene in the cantina during the following episode. The only unfortunate part of that was that I didn’t get to work with Eric Stoltz, the director, which I heard was really exciting.

Well, hopefully he’ll come back –

Nicholas Gonzalez: Yeah, if the show comes back.

What made you want to play Mateo?

Nicholas Gonzalez: I worked on a Shonda Rhimes show before: on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and I just knew the quality of actors you’re surrounded by, more than anything. It’s not always names, but it’s people who are really adept at what they’re doing, which I think is true of this cast. Regardless of whether you like the show or not it’s kind of hard to deny that the main actors are really solid in it and good actors. So I was excited about that and then I knew that I’d be taken care of as far as the story because they’re always pretty well written, all the projects that she’s involved with. It was just exciting from all those different angles.

Now you went to Standford, right? How did you get into acting?

Nicholas Gonzalez: I did. I know there’s already a lot out there about this story online, but pretty much the short story of it is that I was going into investment banking and consulting. I was a literature major, but that’s the direction that I was headed. I started doing a little bit of improv for fun because I had a really heavy course load and then when I took off to study abroad in Europe I came back with the idea that I wanted to do a little bit more of that and I started taking acting classes because they had improv classes in the course curriculum. I started enjoying it and then I got approached to do a play and from that point on I was just being passed around the theater scene in San Francisco just doing everything from classical to queer theater, you name it, anything that I could get my hands on.

I was just really enjoying it. I didn’t really do much at Stanford itself. It’s funny, I wasn’t even in their whole drama school, but I was just doing real work in San Francisco and just fell in love and was finally, like, ‘You know what, I can see me doing this for the rest of my life.’ And like an idiot I moved to L.A. to do theater and then the rest just kind of happened.

Do you still have the time to do theater anymore or are you too busy with TV and movies?

Nicholas Gonzalez: I do, and kind of my plan has been building up a name in film and TV to be able to do better theater. Funnily enough that’s kind of the way that it goes. It’s kind of a backwards thing, that all the really good theater is going to people who can draw an audience.

The last play that I did was, I want to say, about four year, maybe close to five years now with Sharon Lawrence. We did a play called ‘Dialectics of the Heart’ and to not have done theater for quite a few years and then to do it again with Sharon was an absolute delight. She’s an incredible actress, a giving actress and definitely knows the boards well. Theater to her is where she’s most comfortable and I think where she excels. So starring opposite her in a very small cast, we were the leads, was a gift. It was fun. We had great reviews. We had packed houses. And I can’t wait to do it again. I really can’t.

You had a role in one of my favorite shows, ‘Resurrection Boulevard’, and then ‘Mental’ which didn’t get much of a chance. What do you look for in roles that you seek out?

Nicholas Gonzalez: I guess I don’t fall into the trap of a lot of other Latino actors who see themselves as constantly just Latino actors and telling the same stories. A lot of the time it’s what the character happens to be which adds a little color, but it’s not all about that. That’s kind of what attracts me more. I’m going less towards Latin roles that sit there and point and say, ‘Look at me, I’m Latino and this is all that I’m about and I’m going to keep reminding you of that fact,’ as opposed to just putting good, well rounded characters.

For me, a lot of times I get really excited, being a writer myself, about the possibility for the story. ‘Mental’ was one of those things where it had so many possibilities and they really just shot themselves in the foot. We didn’t have a team of writers. The producers tried to do it all while doing their producing duties, a brother and sister team, and it wasn’t what it could’ve been, kind of chintzy on the production value and that kind of thing.

The hard part is telling you what attracts me to something and then what it actually turns out to be. Those are often times two very different things. So it’s hard to, say, look at one thing and tell you what attracted me and have you go, ‘Wow. That’s not at all what it’s turned out to be.’ That’s the problem with being just an actor on a project. But I will say that I’ve always found something about each character, something that I think I can excel at that I get excited about showing or if it’s something that scares me a bit that I want to dive into. It depends on the project.

Now, are you planning on writing your own screenplays?

Nicholas Gonzalez: Yeah. I’ve already written some with some friends, and also, a lot of times what starts as notes on a project that I’ve been assigned to becomes sometimes a soft rewrite with the writer or just the ideas get melded in. I enjoy being a part of it. For me it’s not a matter of boosting up my own part or anything like that, but really a matter of putting the best that we can out there. And sometimes I just have really great ideas. Other times it’s a struggle and it’s a bloodletting and you can sit and try to write something for the longest time, but I seem to have a little bit of a talent for the rewrite.

Since you’re shooting the last episode of ‘Off the Map,’ at least for now, what do you have coming next?

Nicholas Gonzalez: Right now I’m back on the market because the pilot that I did didn’t get picked up. So it’s really just a lot of meetings as soon as I get back to L.A. There’s not really time to relax and vacation here which I had a lot of time to do. I’ve been here since October off and on. Mostly on. It’s going to be good to get back and get back home, but more than anything it’s just going to be a lot of meetings. I don’t have anything firm.

There’s a movie that I have in development that’s really exciting that’s called ‘Columbia Avenue’ with a new writer/director named Mel Rodriguez. That’s kind of our pet project right now and we have some people who are unofficially attached that I can’t say, but that’s been really exciting, working with him and our producing partner Damiano Tucci.

It’s exciting I think when you meet a lot of young people in the business and they’re all super creative because you know that these are the people that you can grow with and you have somewhere to go with. They’re not just one-off projects.

There’s also a DVD release coming out soon of ‘S.W.A.T.: Firefight’, that second installment of the ‘S.W.A.T.’ movie.

My husband loved ‘S.W.A.T.’

Nicholas Gonzalez: Yeah, then it’d be great if L.L. Cool J or anyone else from the first one came to do this one, but it’s the name. We’ll see [laughs].

Are there any TV shows right now that you’d love to appear on?

Nicholas Gonzalez: The shows that I love to watch, ‘Sons of Anarchy’ is kind of a personal favorite of mine just by virtue of the fact that I ride a motorcycle as well. I think that would be really fun. I think that’s always been a show that’s been hit or miss with some really great stories and good action, but as far as what I’d really love to do, there are the shows like ‘Nurse Jackie’ that really intrigue that get underneath the character. I think that’d be really exciting to come onto.

A lot of the cable shows, like, ‘Californication’ I think is one of the smartest shows out there. I’ll watch it alone and will look to somebody that’s not there, like, ‘Are you watching this? This is hilarious. It’s so witty.’ But that’s the kind of show that I really react to. There’s so many more exciting people that are in TV now, too. Hopefully the writing and the confidence of the producers or of the network people to put out things that are a little bit more challenging.

That’s what’s going to be kind of interesting to watch change because there’s a lot of great people coming into the genre now and it would be great to see the genre step up to meet it. I would have to say that there’s a lot of good stuff coming down the pike, too, from what I’ve seen in pilot season on basic cable. Stations like A&E are coming out with really cool projects.

You can watch Nicholas on Off the Map on ABC Wednesdays at 10pm eastern/9pm central.

You can read all our Off the Map coverage here.

Follow me on Twitter @michstjame