"I wasn’t mentally prepared to have a love scene with another guy"
Juan Felipe Restrepo has been playing in theatre and movies since he was 14-years-old.
Recently, Juan won Best Actor award at several film festivals, including Top Shorts, for his lead role in Prodigal Son (which he also written).
We asked Juan to join us for an interview, and met not only a talented actor but also a fascinating person.
Juan, you have such a fascinating background. You were born in Colombia to a surgeon father and an engineer mother! Yet you ended up in a very different field... When and how did you first get involved with the arts?
I was always drawn to arts, I drew, painted, learnt how to play the guitar, wrote some fables and short stories that later on went to competitions, etc. My parents were always very supportive of me taking such an active part in the arts, besides, my mom has always been a sculptor/painter on the side (nowadays that’s more her passion), so she was always motivating me to participate in every art field. Acting came to me when I was 7. I did a few small plays back in Colombia, then my school cancelled the theatre program and replaced it with just crafty arts like drawing and painting. However, when I was 12 a director came to my school to help with presentations and events, from there he started making a little theatre workshop open to students of all ages. At first, I was very shy and decided just to watch them, but a year later I joined, and in little time a became one of the most invested ones in that group. From there the director created the theatre company “La Maleta Roja” and we started doing bigger performances for bigger audiences, which consequently allowed us to perform outside the country.
When did you fall in love with acting? What were some of the actors/movies/theatre plays that sparked this interest?
I fell in love with acting when I was around 10, I just loved watching T.V and movies. I would drive my parents crazy because every Sunday I would drag them to the movie theatre to watch anything, and also, because whenever I saw a movie for the first time I would immediately memorize most of the dialogue, so the next time we were watching it, I would be reciting the lines until someone in my family told me to let them watch the movie in peace. It was a really fun way to mess with them and at the same time exercise the memory. Also, it was 3 that passed without me acting on anything, and I really missed it. The actors that motivated me in the beginning to do acting were Johnny Depp, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise and Anne Hathaway. with movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Devil Wears Prada, Goodfellas, The Godfather, Meet The Parents, MIssion Impossible, X-Men, etc. I have to say, I would watch a lot of animated movies, I would have VHS copies of all the Disney classics, and watch Hercules at least once a month, is my favorite animated Disney Film from the Golden Era.
Minor Soul Music Video - "Million Pieces"
At the age of 14, you became a member of the theatre company "La Maleta Roja", and performed in international festivals. That must have been a wonderful experience that shaped you as an actor! What are the main things you took away from working with the company?
Yeah it was a dream come true to be that young and start performing in other countries. La Maleta Roja taught me all the basics about acting for theatre, and also the style for acting in Spanish. It varies whether you are doing a Hispanic Play than a European or American one, but generally I will always take with me the fact that whenever you are doing a play, is all about teamwork. You can have your character developed and labeled down for every scene, but you are working live with at least one more person on stage or offstage and you have to really listen to what they say and how they say it to you. Actors for theatre, in my opinion, are there to work off each other during the performances, you can’t plan a performance, there’s no take two on theatre, if someone misses a line or a cue, we all have to work together to keep the play going and maintain the dynamic and the reality.
Another thing I will always remember my director “Piero” say is that you have to step into the character, there was an exercise we would do before every performance where we would visualize our character in front of us while breathing, and slowly we would take them from in front of us and “Dress ourselves with their skin” as a way of getting into character from that time on until the performance ended. I’d love this exercise because it would transport me to a different world in my head, I would completely forget about the nerves, the audience, the fact that this was a play even, and I would become the character I was playing, it was really incredible for me to go through this and take it with me to every performance I do nowadays.
In addition, I will never forget how everyone is important in a play, “There’s no small parts”. Everyone is the way they are for a reason, everyone deserves the same amount of respect and must be treated with professionalism always. When you step on the stage, you are now a family, you are there to support and motivate each other, to collaborate and create a great story to be told to the audience, there’s no me, only Us.
Attending to Outfest 2017
Is theatre one of your passions, still? Are you currently involved in stage productions, or do you mainly do visual media nowadays?
Funny you ask that, I decided a little bit more than 2 months ago I wanted to do theatre again. I’ve been only doing film and T.V for almost a year now, and I already miss the passion and the blossoming emotion that theatre provides to me as an actor. It all started with theatre for me, so I will never get tired of doing it, of being on stage, in front of an audience, telling a story, using your entire physicality, voice, mind and emotion as tools that run the machine our bodies are. It doesn’t mean I will stop doing T.V and Film, but now I feel I am in a point where I have to do both so I can get the best of both worlds.
Right now I am going to perform a play at the “Stella Adler Studio of Acting” in Hollywood called “Syria”, written and directed by Shvan Aladin, is a play based on his life growing up during 1998, when he and his family were trying to leave from Kurdistan to Sweden in order to get asylum because of the war. I am playing his oldest brother in the play and am really excited and honored to be part of this and being trusted to tell his story.
I also recently booked a play for the renown “Nirvana Theatre” group from Mexico, The play is called DesAfecto and is being produced by Jorge Duran, and includes names from all over South America like Romina Peniche, Stephanie Gerard, Carlos Arrechea, Dive Assad, Gerald Fillmore, Cesar Di’Bello, Paulina Gamiz, Rubén Guevara and Marcela Macias. I will be playing “Feliciano” one of the leads on this story. We already started rehearsals and the play starts tour from August 24th 2018. Tour January 11, 2019 to June 1st, 2019.
Ignacio Val Music Video - Solo tu
Why did you decide to write and produce the story of Hijo Prodigo (Prodigal Son)? Is it inspired by true events from your personal life?
Is a project that comes from the bottom of my heart and has a special, personal meaning to me. It was the very first project I wrote and produced. I wanted to work on this because is based on the actual life of my older brother,