Alfonso Herrera X Alejandro Córdova. Text: Alejandro Peregrina. Grooming: LAB Series. H+MUA: Pamela Arellano.
The first thing that I told Alfonso when he got to the studio, was that all my girlfriends were extremely excited about this production. Not without a reason: My grilfriends were teenagers when Alfonso was part of one of the most famous music groups of the spanish-speaking world and definitely, the most handsome of the bands members. In the following years to his teen idol status, Alfonso has built a career that has made him work along icons such as the Wachowski sisters, and follow the steps of the ghost of Robin Williams, in a legendary role as profesor keating, in the theater production of Dead Poets Society. With that excuse we photographed him with three of his cast-mates of scene and his students in the play, and we talked about what it takes to survive in the industry after international fame, the coming of age, and the changes that come along with it.
At some point, in the playground that the photo-shoot backstage got turned into, Alejandro Puentes recommended me watching the Netflix special Nannette, a stand up comedy show of Australian comedian: Hanah Gadsby, describing it as devastating.
Poncho recomended us to watch Tamborine, by the acerbic comedian Chris Rock and he pulled out his phone to play the trailer and teach us a new word to describe the act of dying in laughter, which I won’t dare writing in here. Starting the interview, I ask Alfonso what would his stand up special be about, and after laughing he replies, “I got no plans for a stand up comedy special ever, but what interest me about this type of comedy it’s the commentary that creates Chris Rock about America and how dangerously funny it is”. I tell him that stand up comedy, it’s a great way for social commentary, and then I ask him about the Dead Poets Society as a medium to communicate a message equally dangerous or substancial to its audience. “What interested me the most about the play personally, was being able to be back in Mexico permanently, because I was working in other places and what a better excuse than that. Secondly, working with Francisco Franco. And from that, the challenge which is playing Keating. Making my own version of this icon, and generating my own elections, to make something different, but with those irreverent strokes of wanting to be revolutionary but without being disrespectful, and wanting to be as intelligent as him.
I’ve interviewed a handful of actors to know that getting good roles after a certain age becomes quite difficult and frustrating, specially, and surely, for someone with the fame status and inherent stigma that Alfonso Herrera might have. How was your transition to professional adulthood? “I believe that as you get older, roles keep coming your way according to your type and age. You can not play a student all the time. But there came a point where I had to pull the handbrake and think what I truly wanted to do, and where to go from there. The greatest asset was knowing that people could still recognize me, and from that, what I could do with that recognition. If I kept in the same line, it was going to be very easy working in the short run, but it wasn’t stable for the future. A lot of producers didn’t want to work with me, and probably a lot of directors too. What I did was try to take decisions that seemed the most clear and that could challenge me as an actor and that could also guide me where I wanted to go”.
One of those steps, was a very wise casting as Hernando Fuentes in the original Netflix series Sense8 by the Wachowski sisters. Immediately after the announcement of the show’s cancelation, the fans flipped the internet over, demanding a third season and making it happen in matters of weeks. What does it mean for Alfonso’s career and life being part of the Wachowskis orbit? “ It didn’t hit me to be working with Lana and Lili until we were filming in Constituyentes. One day, they closed the avenue and both sisters were standing in bus station conditioned with monitors. I was watching everything from behind, while they were planning how to place the cameras, and how that was going to be joined with something that had already shot in Korea -or wherever- and in that moment I thought: right, I’m working with the two geniuses who made the Matrix, and I remembered I ditched school to go watch that movie and now I’m sitting here in Costituyentes filming with them.
It was incredible knowing that when a scene was done, there was four very well trained eyes approving of what I had done.”
-And about choosing to become an actor? Why would someone want to work as something so unpredictable?
I wasn’t going to be an actor, I was going to study aviation. In high school I sent an application for a school in San Antonio, Texas, and I got accepted. I went to this school with Ximena Sariñana and her dad was going to make a movie with teenagers and he invited everyone to do a casting. I went to do the casting and I got the part.
That movie was Amarte Duele -another cultural hit and part of our country’s memes predecessor to RBD -which ended up making Alfonso part of that pop group and telenovela so big in pop culture, that even to this day makes my grilfriends excited. “But you are missing out a link… when I finished the movie, I still thought I was going to aviation school, but Pedro Damian (who was Ximena Sariñana and Martha Higadera’s dad in that movie) invited me to do a casting for another novela and I also got casted. I got to Televisa forums to shoot Clase 406 and I didn’t understand anything, film was something way more precise in regard to its instructions and to suddenly reach a place where there’s three cameras and a set, it left me like a confused cat. Jorge Poza saw me and he explained to me even about the camera light when they were shooting. I didn’t understand anything but slowly, I started understanding the language and dynamics. After that, Pedro invited me to Rebelde that became a phenomenon, and I kept thinking that after Rebelde, I would go back to studying aviation and now I’m waiting to finish with the Dead Poets Society to make it happen, even though it seems a bit less viable.
Another thing that Alfonso learned about the hard actoral labor, is that nothing replaces work, as frightening as the professional future in this industry might be. “Being an actor involves a lot of insecurity and the future depends on so many factors that at times have nothing to do with you and don’t depend on you. But at the same time they do. There’s always a part of what you need to hold responsible for. If there’s something that is not working, there’s always a way to make it better or to get your hands on work.”
Without a doubt, if there’s definitely something that changes your life and requires the type of thinking of the previous answer, it’s becoming a father, so after two failed attempts over this year of asking actors who I thought were fathers, Alfonso can lawfully answer if being a dad has made him a better actor. “I believe being a dad makes you explore things you didn’t know about yourself or that you knew you in you, and that means you suddenly find thing you never thought possible to feel or to know… it’s a very strong and complicated thing.”
No wonder he became a spiritual, emotional and professional leader of so many young actors in the play, and talking with them, it’s very evident they do not only refer to what happens on stage.