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Rodrigo Santoro talks Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal, Xerxes (Interview)

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Rodrigo Santoro discussed the role of Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal which debuted today, the impact 300’s Xerxes had on his career, and finding inspiration everywhere as an actor at NYCC 2019.

Rodrigo Santoro, a memorable standout as Hector Escaton in Westworld and the one and only Xerxes in the 300 franchise is back on the scene once again! This time around, Santoro is playing Banished Brawler de facto leader Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal, which is available today for subscribers. During an interview, Santoro spoke about finding inspiration as an actor everywhere you go, mentioning how seeing a dog while doing recon for a role as a homeless man moved him.

Santoro described what it meant to him to play an Irish written character like Joel Kelly on Hulu’s Reprisal, where they didn’t change his character name to something more Latin sounding just to suit his Latin origin (Brazil). He spoke of how 300’s Xerxes definitely opened doors for him in his acting career but he didn’t want to raise his own expectations because that only leads down the road of frustration.

Watch the full interview with Rodrigo Santoro above or read the transcript below:


Nir Regev: What was it like after you portrayed the role of Xerxes in 300? Did you feel your career moved in the trajectory you were expecting?

Rodrigo Santoro: You know I try not to raise expectations in anything because I think that leads to frustration. We idealize things and then you know… I just try to do the best I can in my work and my life in general. But yes, since you mentioned Xerxes for those who saw 300 and Xerxes it was a big turning point for me. Absolutely! I got much more opportunities to work in the United States after that project but every role is a new challenge. I’m pretty happy where I am right now. You know the opportunities that I’ve been having. Especially, being a foreigner and I think we’re living in a very interesting moment right now.

I’m glad to be a part of it and to be here talking about a show where I play a character whose name is Joel Kelly. It’s not Raúl or Jamon. It’s not Latin, it’s not written Latin. I am Latin, I’m from Brazil. I’m playing a character that was written Irish. They didn’t change the name of the character. Joel Kelly is the de facto leader of the Banished Brawler. Doris’ brother who left her is Burt [Rory Cochrane] and he’s disappeared. He hasn’t been around for a while, and then Joel which was his right hand man, is in charge.

Joel Kelly - Reprisal -- "The Tale of Harold Horpus" - Episode 101 -- Years after being left for dead by her brother and his gang the Banished Brawlers, Katherine Harlow reemerges as Doris and begins to plot her revenge. Meanwhile, a kid named Ethan is in over his head when he joins the Brawlers' world of the Bang-a-Rang. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Antony Platt/Hulu)

Reprisal — “The Tale of Harold Horpus” – Episode 101 — Years after being left for dead by her brother and his gang the Banished Brawlers, Katherine Harlow reemerges as Doris and begins to plot her revenge. Meanwhile, a kid named Ethan is in over his head when he joins the Brawlers’ world of the Bang-a-Rang. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Antony Platt/Hulu)

Does Reprisal have a big post-apocalyptic aesthetic? I mentioned Mad Max as a comparison to one of your co-stars earlier and he said it wasn’t really like that visually.

It’s hard to describe but it does have different references like from the 20s, from the 50s, from the 80s. We can’t place because we don’t know when it is. We don’t know where we are. It has a tone of like a fantasy to it, which allows us a tremendous amount of freedom. And also, I think at its core, this show is truly a revenge story revolving around the theme of family. Family you were born into and the family you find along the way. Family that you choose to be a part of. So, it’s really about the relationships of those characters. And then the era we’re in, we don’t know.

You have so many references Tarantino, David Lynch, people that have watched the pilot, you know journalists and people that have seen some of it… They have been describing it as David Lynch meets Tarantino. Great reference by the way, which we love! But it’s a hyper-noir kind of… The tone is just very unique. It’s something that I haven’t seen it you know out there.

Joel Kelly - Reprisal -- "A Flintlock & A Hound" - Episode 102 -- Ethan learns about The Brawlers' place when they face off against a rival gang. Doris navigates the obstacles of finding a crew. Joel tries to figure out why the Ghouls went to such lengths. Meredith's secret enterprise has an unexpected result. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Brownie Harris/Hulu)

Reprisal — “A Flintlock & A Hound” – Episode 102 — Ethan learns about The Brawlers’ place when they face off against a rival gang. Doris navigates the obstacles of finding a crew. Joel tries to figure out why the Ghouls went to such lengths. Meredith’s secret enterprise has an unexpected result. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Brownie Harris/Hulu)

When you say Tarantino do you mean cuts like Kill Bill style?

Kill Bill style, the way it’s shot, the way it’s written, especially the way it’s written! Our writer, creator Josh Corbin is in my opinion, a brilliant writer! And just the scenes that carry on, and then you don’t know where they’re going to go, and they’re just interesting to watch and very engaging. The characters are very, very engaging.

It’s an ensemble, every character’s interesting, every character has a back story and it’s going somewhere. They’re not just there. So, that’s what makes it very compelling. And I think people will quickly be engaged and they will get excited to actually binge it. And it will be available, all the episodes! So I think that will be a great experience.

I’m curious as an actor, do you like having all the episodes release at once or do you prefer the more traditional weekly episode? Do you check ratings yourself and that kind of thing?

Oh no, I don’t [check ratings]. I think that I’m getting used to the whole thing about having everything available at once. I take my own time. I have binged before, it depends how much time you have. But I think it depends. I don’t mind if they don’t come all at once but I kind of like to have them there. So, if I really get into it, I can just go through it and it’s a great journey when you just get hooked. You want to go to watch, you want to discover. You get really involved and that allows you to experience that.

Do you feel you prepare the same ritual wise as an actor? Do you have a kind of go-to method for each role you undertake?

Always different man! I don’t believe in formula, I think that every actor and even talking just for myself, every time is a bit different.

No superstitions?

Well I like to research as much as I can. Actually because I really have fun. To me the most interesting part is actually beforehand. When you’re researching, when you’re trying to understand the universe of the character you’re gonna play, the world that you’re getting into, and watching films, seeing pictures, listening to music. All that good stuff that you do for research, to me, it’s such an interesting part of the process. But I don’t have a specific ritual that I go through every time.

One thing I do is to sort of like put myself into it… Let’s say, if you’re ever in a car, and you have the gear in neutral… I try to drive myself to the neutral place. So, I don’t have a preconceived concept or a pre-judgment of the character I’m gonna play, or the world that I’m about to step into. Let me be neutral so I don’t judge much. I research, I study.

Joel Kelly - Reprisal -- "dammit" - Episode 109 -- Ethan is caught between two worlds and Meredith has to decide if she'll protect him. Matty comes under suspicion, but Avron pushes too far. While the Brawlers zero in on the Monster Ring, Doris and Bash celebrate their anniversary. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Fred Norris/Hulu)

Reprisal — “dammit” – Episode 109 — Ethan is caught between two worlds and Meredith has to decide if she’ll protect him. Matty comes under suspicion, but Avron pushes too far. While the Brawlers zero in on the Monster Ring, Doris and Bash celebrate their anniversary. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Fred Norris/Hulu)

Do you actively go to meet people related to the roles you’re portraying for inspiration?

Oh yeah, I try to do everything! It varies sometimes. You know, inspiration is an interesting thing. It could come from the least expected thing. One time, I was walking down the street, I was researching for a part that was a homeless man that I played. I just saw this dog on the street and it just moved me so much. It was a dog on the street. It just was very meaningful for me! Now, is this a method? Does that happen every time? No. It did happen that time.

So, I just try to be open, not judge, not try to put things in a box. I think you just have to be open to receiving and feeding yourself with as much as you can. And then you forget about everything and just do it!

Thank you Rodrigo!

Thank you!

Catch Rodrigo Santoro as Joel Kelly in Hulu’s original, exclusive series Reprisal starting today!

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