Periodically, you might see an actor in a film or TV show and stop and marvel, “Where have I seen him before?” Thanks to our beloved digital age, we often have instant access, and it does appear that “character actors” are making a resurgence in recent times. And oftentimes, actors who class themselves in this genre have more works than we ever dreamed, and so it was when Paulino Nunes popped up in a recent Hallmark feature, I went on a mini-investigation. In my unending pursuit to highlight those who are inadvertently overlooked by the general public, I was overjoyed when he agreed to answer a few questions about his career, his works, and his general outlook on the world of entertainment itself.
RH: What inspired you to become an actor? What kind of training have you received?
PN: I can’t remember any particular moment or person that put the idea in my head; as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an actor. My earliest memory of this was around four or five years old, performing a little sketch in my kindergarten for our parents and families. Since then, it wasn’t a question of whether I’d do it, just when and how.
Of course, I took the obligatory drama courses in high school, as well as acting in three school productions every year. Then I attended York University in Toronto and completed four years of theatre training before I started working professionally.
You have played such a wide variety of roles throughout your career. Do you have a preferred genre or type of role?
I really love playing comedy, although I don’t get much opportunity to do so these days. I did loads of gigs with a sketch comedy troupe in the early 90’s, and it would be great to do something like that again. In terms of types of roles – I do enjoy the quietly powerful types, serious and brooding, possibly even cruel and domineering – because that is quite the opposite of who I am day to day. Also, playing characters that have strong and compelling arcs is something I think every actor yearns to do. Playing a “Walter White type” would be a dream role.
Over the course of your career, you’ve probably had plenty of favorite roles. Can you share a couple of your favorites and why they are favorites?
I played a wonderfully messed up insurance adjuster named Gord Papo in the series Cra$h & Burn, a darkly funny show, who I enjoyed quite a lot because he was a good guy who meant no harm, but had demons that kept getting him in deep trouble. He ends up accidentally setting the company spokesman on fire during a drug-fuelled party at a corporate retreat.
I also had a lot of fun playing Frank Giordino, the head of the CIA, in XIII: the Series. He was ruthless and smart, and I got to play with some very intelligent, talented actors in that show.
On the light side, I had a great time on the indie feature End of Days, Inc., playing a very odd supernatural being. It’s a highly stylized film with a wonderful wacky sense of humour, and the cast just had a blast having fun with it.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with Hallmark. What was that experience like working for them?
My experience working for Hallmark was nothing but wonderful. I’d actually gone to university with the director of Snipped in the Bud, Brad Walsh, but this was the first time we’d worked together. Everyone from top to bottom was warm and friendly on set; you can’t ask for much more. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brooke Shields, who is incredibly down-to-earth and gracious. So much of the good vibe on set trickles down from the star of the show, and she is by far among the most generous and welcoming of the stars I’ve worked with.
Do you have any other upcoming works you can mention?
Up next, I’ve got the season three of FX series The Strain premiering on August 28th in which I play the vampire-slaying Frank Kowalski. The CBC series Shoot the Messenger starts here in Canada in early October – I can’t reveal what my character is up to in that one. A very gritty and dark film I shot a couple of years ago called Kidnap Capital is making the festival rounds right now and hopefully will get some kind of release soon. And I hope to get shooting very soon on the second season of the Freeform series Shadowhunters.
As a family man, how do you balance your family and career life?
The truth is that I have far more time than most working parents to spend with my family. My work days are indeed long at times, but they’re usually concentrated in shorter bursts, so I’ve had the pleasure of being a big part of my kids’ early years. I also had the luxury of booking a couple of months off after the birth of both of my children, so I never felt like I was “missing” anything. And from time to time, I’ll take my son along to auctions, which is always fun!
Any plans to write and/or direct one day?
Yes, very definitely. In fact, I’ve got a few projects that have been lingering for the past few years because I simply don’t have free time to dedicate to writing right now. With my son off to school this year, I hope to get back to it soon. I’ve always wanted to direct – again from childhood. It’s a matter of finding the right opportunity to dive into that world at this point.
While every role is different, what are some of the things you’ve had to do to prepare for them?
I definitely like to do a lot of reading when it’s helpful for a role – when I need to understand a different way of thinking or being for a specific character. When playing a Bosnian Imam in the mini-series ZOS: Zone of Separation, I did a lot of research on Islam and the origins of the religion as well as educating myself about the history of the Balkans. I also grew a fairly giant beard for it (during a time when beards were not as hip as they are now :). Mostly, it’s more of a subtle thing. I begin to take on the “skin” of the character in my day to day – not in a totally immersive “charactery” type way, but I try to see the world through the eyes of that person – so I kind of sink into it rather than diving, if that makes any sense.
As rejection is a big part of this career, what is your advice to young people, especially in the business who have to deal with it regularly?
This is a very important thing to get a grasp on if one wants to have any longevity in this business. My advice is this: Your goal at an audition is to do the very best you are capable of doing. Period. Your goal is not to book the job – that will come. If you walk out of the audition room and can say to yourself, “I nailed that as best I could, I was prepared, I was relaxed and I was present,” then you’ve WON. That’s it – the rest is out of your hands and there are a thousand reasons that you cannot imagine for why you might not book a job. Focus on what you can control and forget the rest. If you messed up, figure out how you can fix that next time and move on. Be prepared, be professional and be punctual. The rest will come.
I made myself a rule: I was allowed to mull over what happened in the room (and what might happen next) for the duration of the trip home. Then it was out of my mind. Now I’ve done so many auditions over the course of a couple of decades, that I might forget what happened before I exit the building:)
As one who doesn’t seek the glory of the limelight, but thoroughly enjoys every job and is always learning from each experience, Paulino is one with an impressive resume as well as a kind heart. He is constantly on the move and often juggling many things at once, but he knows where his priorities lie. He is a family man first and foremost, and an actor secondly. With each role, he sees it as an opportunity to show a different side of his varied talents, and no matter what, he keeps himself grounded and positive in spite of the fact that he is in a profession wrought with rejection and criticism. On the flip side, he never lets his ego get over-the-top, and he is cognizant of the fact that if he is not continuously honing his craft, he may lose out on the next role to an actor who has invested the necessary time. I salute actors like Paulino, who have no problem remaining in the background when necessary, but when a lead role is offered, he is up for the challenge. I invite all of you to check out his vast works and be sure to follow Paulino at the links below, for he is one who never fails to produce a performance to the best of his abilities.