Not just a couple of pretty faces - Candace Damiani and Danny Zavala talk to Film & Fashion Futures about being Hispanic actors in Arizona.
This was perhaps the most heartwarming part of Danny Zavala's answer when I asked him what was the most memorable project on which he'd worked. "I had told my mom, 'someday you're going to see me up on the big screen.' " The film was The Whistler, which debuted in 2006 at the Valley Art Theatre in Tempe, AZ. "15 members of my family were there", he added, "and we were all in one row. When my part was coming up, I looked down the row to see their reaction. All my family was smiling."
Danny Zavala, with such films to his credit as Parallax and Maneater, is from the Town of Superior, AZ and served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division from 1983 to 1986.
When I asked Candace about the responsibility she felt as a member of the Hispanic community, she replied, "I feel like its kind of my duty to set an example to portray my being a Latina woman in a positive way." When asked about her own role models, she said, "My mom and my grandma were both born and raised in Panama. They are phenomenal role models for where hard work and dedication gets you in life."
"Kids look up to actors", Danny said, commenting on his responsibility to the Hispanic community. "You have to be a professional on and off screen, and should be setting a good example as a positive role model."
When the questions turned to whether either had experienced any typecasting, Candace said, "I have been a little bit typecast. You know, I've got the latina hips a bit, so I find myself being typecast as the girlfriend who's not incredibly intelligent or the club girl or the sexy waitress. I notice they sometimes equate curvy with not so intelligent." When I asked what advice she had for an aspiring actress with similar issues with typecasting, Candace replied, "I would say if you see a role that you can relate to and you don't necessarily fit that description, go for it anyway. Sometimes I've gone into auditions and they had a completely different girl in mind but my audition swayed them and they were like, 'You know what, you would be good for this role even though you look too curvy to look intelligent.' "
Danny added a positive spin to being typecast: "Being Hispanic has put me in front of a lot of people."
Concerning advice to aspiring Hispanic actors, Danny had three tips. "If you have goals, go for it. Be yourself. Its never too late to start." Candace added, "My answer is probably what you would consider cliche. Give it 100% of your effort. Don't go in it with preconceived notions like, 'I'm just going to be cast as the maid.' I never want to look back on my life and say, 'I should have tried harder.' "
I asked Danny about what role his faith has in his life, and Danny told me, "I believe everything happens for a reason. I know there are so many times when I've left my life in His hands. Without my faith, I'd be a lost soul."
When asked about her ultimate goal as an actor, Candace said, "to be a good example to my daughter, so she can watch my work and say, 'I'm really proud of you, mom.' "