Interview With Actor/Writer/Producer Bobby Del Rio

By Ruth on September 5, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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About a year ago, I reached out to an enterprising industry professional named Bobby Del Rio, and I was quite impressed with all the exciting things happening for him at that time. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am only now able to publish this fascinating interview with an independent filmmaker and actor whose success continues to rise with every passing day.

RH: Why did you choose to become an actor?

BDR: I guess I kind of always have been an actor ever since I was six. I vaguely recall playing an animal of some kind, perhaps a woodchuck. And I guess it stuck. I was always offered the leads in all my class plays. From my earliest memories in school, the teacher would always get me to play the biggest part. It’s just something I always did for fun, but I never really thought it would be a job.   I guess it was my dream, but it wasn’t until University when I realized your life can become your dreams. I was in an economics program at University of Toronto, and I was really unhappy. I started skipping a lot of classes, but I noticed I was showing up ten minutes early for rehearsals for the plays I was doing at the university.  Then something clicked, and it was like, “Oh, dude!” And now I do as much as I can in the entertainment industry.

As I looked through your IMDB works, I found I wasn’t as familiar with much of the work you’ve done, but I’m assuming that is because you are in Canada and you’ve done a lot of independent films.

That is correct. Up here in Toronto, we do a lot of Canadian productions or lower-budget shows that may appear on the schedule at odd times in the States, but I have been a filmmaker, producer, and writer for almost twenty years in Canada. I also did theater for about ten or fifteen years. It’s really only been the last five or six years that I really focused my attention on making films and acting in web series and TV shows.

I did read that you had a good playwright career, and of course, I’m not always going to know that down in here in the U.S. since you’re doing most of that up in Canada. 

I did have a reading in New York City where I won a North American playwriting competition. So I did a lot of plays across North America and many in the US as well. But again, if you’re not really in the theater scene, you’re not gonna know.

Well, since I live in the country and don’t live near a big city, I don’t always get to see theater either.

You know, I think that’s why the web series scene is exploding right now. I think a lot of its success is due to the fact that anyone can access them.

You are exactly right, Bobby. I actually happened upon you through the web series My Roommate is an Escort.  I’ve tried to reach out to as many as possible who have been involved with the project.

Oh, thank you. That’s very nice of you.

You’re welcome. And then I noticed that according to your IMDB, you’ve done a little bit of everything in the business. And that seems to be what independent filmmakers do–a little bit of everything.

Yes, that’s very accurate. Interestingly enough, we have a web series now that we sold to television. I served as the creator and the showrunner and I directed every episode. But I really do feel like after twenty years in the business, it’s the first time that I got to use every single one of my artistic skills on one project. I got to act in two episodes, I wrote four episodes, I’ve directed twelve episodes, and as the showrunner, everyone’s accountable to me. I wouldn’t have been able to do that job, I don’t think, unless I had experience and familiarity in all the different departments.

You know, I’ve noticed that a lot of actors, even well-known actors, seem to be going back and doing a lot of independent films. They do their big-name TV or movies, but then they want to do something like a passion project of theirs and something they have more control over or something that maybe they’ve always wanted to do that the industry doesn’t necessarily let them do.

Let me give you an example that demonstrate why I love doing independent work. Even more than mainstream work, lots of time. I mean, obviously, if someone wants to make me the next Spiderman, then I’ll go ahead and do it. But I remember particularly how I was shooting an American series. I was on it for a few days, and on one of the days, I was on set with all the leads. We all were just sitting and waiting for the day to go by. We were in these nice comfortable chairs, and they were feeding us fancy food. We were also getting paid really well. I remember five us in sitting in a semi-circle in the same area. We were not looking at each other. We were either looking at our watches or our phones, and we were just waiting for the day to end. Now, I understood that I was on an American show, and I was getting really well-paid. And sure, it was a great cast. But….I don’t know. It’s not like that on every project. But so often, you don’t get to invest as much of yourself in shows like that.

Whereas for IRL, the show that I created, I got to play a journalist in a film noir. We shot it in black and white. We watched all these movies from the 30’s and 40’s to get the style right. Now, if I were to play that role in the mainstream, generally I’d have to be like a fiftysomething white male. I’ve got the male part, but I don’t have those other things. I’m half-Chinese, half-Italian, so I get cast in very weird ways sometimes. But in this case, I was like, “You know, let me play a role that I would never ever get a chance to play,” and I loved doing that! It was so creatively satisfying.

Now, let me say that I’m sure there are some mainstream jobs that are very satisfying. I would love to get something really challenging in a big film or series, but I’m very happy doing really interesting roles in independent work. I was a lead in a short film called Reservation that played the festival circuit. It was a great role. It was a fifteen-minute film. It was me and a guy who is a veteran of the Stratford Festival, which is one of the biggest Shakespeare festivals in the world. Although he’s an older actor, he’s an excellent actor. The whole film is basically me and him in a restaurant doing these speeches and monologues. It’s a strong piece of work when you get to work with someone like that and do such an interesting role. You  definitely grow as an actor.

Going back to what you were saying about challenging roles in the mainstream–I know those do exist, but often times they go to the bigger names rather than the working actors. Usually, the working actors get cast in the minor roles, and that is sometimes how they spend their entire career. Not that that is a bad thing. Some people like that, which is fine. 

Yes, it’s a lot more difficult when you don’t look like George Clooney. But you’re right, there are a lot of roles out there, but it’s also very competitive. I can’t complain too much. I’ve had a very visible career. I’ve always gotten lots of work, and I have been interviewed many times. And I’ve always been signed by really good agencies. I have basically done the projects I like to do–both Canadian and US.  But it’s a different path for everyone. If you’re chasing wealth and you’re chasing fame, my recommendation is: “Don’t be an actor.” But if you just love acting, and if that’s your passion, then this is the greatest industry in the world.

I find it so interesting that you say that. I hear from practically every actor in all walks of life that if you want to be a celebrity, don’t become an actor. But if you are in it for the right reasons–because you love it and can’t imagine doing anything else–then this is the career for you. {pause} Speaking of your independent film career, what do you consider your first major indie film?

Well, I made a lot of short films years before I made The Market, a film sometimes people consider my first major independent film. We’re talking about the turn of the millennium. In those films, I did experiment with different things. It was almost like film school for me because I didn’t actually go to film school. I started working for a place that at that time was one of the first internet television companies in Canada. It was back in 1998 or 1999. One of my friends and I were cast as hosts of a movie review show. Every two weeks, we would watch three movies, and then we would go on the internet, and everyone was like, “What are you doing? You’re filming a TV show and putting it on the internet?” It seemed crazy to do that at the time.

Through that, however, I became the director of program development at the company. And here I was at like twenty years old, and my job was to create. While it was a small company, I had a lot of opportunities to make, edit, and produce stuff. I made pilots and different kinds of shows. It opened my eyes to just how many options there were and are on the internet.

I also did a lot of mainstream acting–small parts on American shows and big Canadian shows. And I was doing a lot of stuff in theaters, but I was always like, “I want to just make one feature film.” Then I worked at a film festival called the Real World Film Festival here in Toronto and I worked there for five years as the Canadian feature film programmer.  My job was to pick the best Canadian feature films from across the country and program them for the festival. Arguably, I watched more Canadian feature films over a five-year period than most people in the country do unless you work at TIFF or something like that.

Through watching so many films and having to critique them… I had to pick them, which means I had to have a set of criteria. And through that, I had this growing desire to make my own movie, and it got larger and louder.  I was also making friends with all these filmmakers and I was doing the Q&A time. After every screening, I was the guy interviewing them–kind of what you’re doing now–and most of the time the questions were “How did you make this film?” After five years, I had interviewed so many people that I knew quite a lot about filmmaking.  I hadn’t really made a film in a long time, and then I decided, “You know what? I’m just gonna make my own feature film.”

Last year around this time, we made our US premiere of The Market in Kansas City. We played India, and they really loved it in India. We played Italy, and Kansas City was the third festival we took it to.

Another interesting note here is that The Market was also my best play. I did it as a play in 2010, and I must have had fifty to a hundred people tell me that this had to become a film. It’s basically about gangster traders. It kind of like a thinly veiled allegory for capitalism and very similar in its sort of basic conceit to the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008.  I did a lot of research about Wall Street, just out of interest because I went to school originally for economics. I kind of like that stuff. I ended up learning so much about it and then I was like, “Wow, these guys are like modern-day gangsters.” And with that, it clicked in my head. “Oh, what if they actually were actual gangsters?” Yes, it’s fiction, but it’s very much rooted in reality.

Okay, well that helps fill in a lot of the blanks, Bobby, so thank you. I feel like I understand a little more about you and your career path in the industry.

I’ve had a very circuitous path, and it might seem somewhat random. But I do think that my career, more than a lot of people in Canada I think…it’s hard to pin me down. I’m always doing different things. And it’s just out of interest. I’m the kind of person who really enjoys learning. I was an excellent, straight-A student my whole life. I like learning new things. I like being challenged. What I like about this industry is that there’s always a new way to do something. So I guess I’m always looking for the new way.

I definitely appreciate that perspective because I have a similar outlook. I was a good student like you, and I’m always trying to find new things and be challenged. I get bored if I focus on just one thing, style or genre. 

Absolutely! And that’s how I’ve always been. Even when I was in theater school. When I was around twenty-one, I remember I won a playwrighting award for a play I wrote called When Children Fall. I couldn’t even go and watch the performance because I had a pretty good role in a work the school was doing. So at the same time a play that I had written and directed was being performed, I had a role in something else, and I couldn’t miss that. In my career, I have always wanted to challenge myself constantly and push myself to do different things.

What’s cool for me is that the industry has changed so much that people who do just one thing are sort of becoming obsolete. We are becoming a very DIY industry…a very DIY world. What I’ve found is that the people who actually end up getting the most attention are “hyphenates.” It’s a more interesting story when, “Yes, I’m an actor in the show, but I also created the show. I wrote four episodes. I ran the writing room. I directed every episode. I’m controlling all the marketing.” As opposed to, even if you just ask the actor questions about their character, I find after a while that well runs pretty dry. Not to belittle or demean people who just act, but I do find the industry does tend to shed more light on people who are multifaceted.

I am one of those people who believes in always asking actors if they are interested in writing or directing. More often than not, they want to do more than just act, but people don’t think to ask them. And sometimes opportunities don’t come their way.

I will add to that. I think that doing other things outside of acting makes you a better actor.  Because when I’m on set, I know exactly the position that the director is in. I know when the director is stressed. I know why the director is stressed.  I know how much time is in the schedule. I know where I fit in. Sometimes when I’m a director, actors can bug you based on their level of experience and awareness. So I know how to be the perfect little actor on set because I know exactly what the expectations are from the director. And all that stuff helps me be a better actor.

So what can you tell me about My Roommate is an Escort?

I am friends with both of the creators of that series, Katie Uhlmann and Trish Rainone. I have known Katie longer which is one of the reasons that I am playing the best friend of one of the two stars. I actually have the biggest male role in the show.  I think I’m in like eight episodes if I remember right. Now, you know this show is going to be a hit; in fact, it already is. It’s a web series right now, but it is so well-organized that I know they’ve already generated television interest. It came out earlier this year online. In my opinion, they are doing everything right and I just think it’s a matter of time before a network picks it up. But that is just my opinion.

I know my experience with IRL is really interesting. It’s funny because while we’re a web series, we actually aired on Canadian TV before airing on the web. We actually launched an indiegogo campaign, which is what Katie and Trish did with My Roommate is an Escort, and one of the biggest media corporations in Canada, Bell Media, took an interest in us. Bell Media owns like a billion television channels in the country. They bought us just from our fundraising campaign.  They contacted me and they were like, “We like your idea. Do you wanna come in for a meeting? We’re thinking of buying it.” I went in for a meeting and everything worked out and I sold it.

Wow, and that’s like the dream to have them contact you. It seems like so many times, the creator of the show is contacting countless people, and nobody shows any interest. It can go on for years and years sometimes. 

I would say even more than a dream. I wouldn’t even have expected that in my wildest dreams. I was just trying to make the best web series I could. I was thinking that hopefully, people would give us money so we could make a good show. And then for television to say that they wanted to buy this show. And when they contacted me on Facebook, I was like, “All right. Who’s messing with me? What’s the prank? It’s not funny, guys.”  But you’re right, it ended up being this sort of dream Facebook message. And right then, my entire career changed since that message happened. I mean, I had meetings with some of the top decision-makers in the country. And when we announced the show, over ten thousand people viewed the press release within a couple days. A lot of people know us, and we’re getting amazing feedback.

Back to My Roommate’s an Escort, it seems to be having the same kind of success. Not trying to be hyperbolic about it, but I knew it was destined for good things. They did everything right with it, and the last time they posted an official update, they had over 1.2 million views across social media. And they only launched back in April. I really have to tip my hat to these ladies. From the beginning, I’ve been impressed with how good they are at what we do. The scripts are hilarious. They are so professional and well-organized. I’m just so grateful to be a part of this series.

Back to your series IRL, where is it available for viewing now?

It first aired on Bell, our country’s biggest network. It was seen across Canada. It’s my understanding that they even had it on demand. The deal was that they had it exclusively for thirty days, and it is a five-year contract, so the plan would be for it to be on that network for five years. But after thirty days, we could sell it internationally. And you can now find the first season online.

I will admit that my career is a bit of a whirlwind right now. IRL has changed things for me in a good way. With My Roommate is an EscortIRL, and then this short that we really believe in, Reservation, I almost feel embarrassed by all that things that are happening right now. I’m just trying to stay humble, working hard, and doing the best I can.

I don’t think you have to worry about that. You’re not coming across as arrogant or anything like that.

I hope not. I’ve just had so much dirt kicked in my face. You can imagine having a twenty-year career in this industry. You know, if I’m a panhandler tomorrow, I think that sounds about right.

So in addition to what you mentioned, are there any other works upcoming you can mention?

Well, look, I’m always involved in many projects. My biggest projects are the ones we have spoken about. Over my career, I have been involved in so many projects, but I tell you that My Roommate is an Escort is a real standout, and I’m glad it’s turning out to be a monster hit.  It is the most organized independent projects I have ever been a part of. While I’m a pretty organized guy, I realize I need to look at what Katie and Trish are doing and learn from them. They really have some stuff figured out.

It’s truly amazing. The only person I knew in the cast was Ellen Dubin, and that caused me to look up everyone else. For me, if she’s involved in something, then I’m always interested. 

Oh, she’s lovely. I don’t know her really well. We only started to get to know each other because of this project, but she’s like a breath of fresh air. Her energy is so passionate and vivacious.

I agree completely. You put her in the series along with the others involved, and it sounds like even greater things are ahead for the future. As for you, it sounds like you’re going to be staying busy for quite a while. 

Well, who knows in this industry, right? True, right now, it’s great. But it could change tomorrow. One scandal and who knows? But I’m not planning to be involved in any scandal. {laughs} There are some videos of me back in University with some guinea pigs, and I’m just hoping they don’t see the light of day. {laughs}

Well, your secret is safe with me. {laughs} But seriously, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to chat with me today, and I sincerely look forward to sharing this interview with my readers.

Thank you for reaching out and for your support of me and my career.

As far as I’m concerned, Bobby is the perfect “poster child” for debunking the myth of “overnight success.” Far too many people today still think that prospering in the business is nothing but chance, and very few realize and appreciate the laborious work that goes into what appears to be unmerited success. Bobby has worked immeasurably hard for twenty years (and more) in this business, and he is finally reaping the benefits of that intense work. However, he is well aware of the fact that he it is unwise to take any of this for granted, for in the blink of an eye, everything can disappear. Therefore, he has wisely chosen to continue working and developing other projects behind the scenes, and I have no doubt that in time, he will bring even more extraordinary works to our televisions and internet screens (and possibly even the big screen). Thankfully, Bobby has a responsible head on his shoulders, and he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and invest the time, work, and sweat necessary to create projects that entertain, inspire, educate, and genuinely make people think. 

I appreciate Bobby’s patience as I am almost embarrassed to realize that he had to wait so long for the posting of this interview, but fortunately, he is understanding and kind to an interviewer who frequently overbooks herself. I invite everyone to check out all of Bobby’s links below (including those connected to his works). I can hardly wait to see what is on the horizon for this talented, ambitious man, and I am grateful and honored that he has permitted me to be a tiny fleck of influence in what is rapidly becoming a prosperous and noteworthy career.

FOLLOW BOBBY

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

IMDB

FOLLOW BOBBY’S PROJECTS

IRL (In Real Life) the Series – was seen on Bell Media’s Fibe TV1, currently online
Created by Bobby Del Rio
Twitter: @IRLtheSeries
Instagram: @irltheseries 
IRL the Series: www.irltheseries.com
 
 
The Market feature film – written/directed by Bobby Del Rio
Our official movie website: www.themarketmovie.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ themarketmovie

 

 

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

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