Roberto Urbina spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Snowpiercer’s Javi suffering from PTSD after multiple, vicious dog bites to his face.
This interview contains spoilers for Snowpiercer Season 3.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): Why do you feel Javi is so ashamed of his scar from Jupiter that he keeps the hood on his parka on all the time?
ROBERTO URBINA: That’s something that we worked on. In the first few episodes (of Season 3), you barely see Javi intentionally. The photography’s very dark as well.
Javi’s always hidden under his hood because he doesn’t want people to see his new identity. Ultimately, that happens to someone’s mind when the physique is affected in that manner.
It’s part of your identity. It’s part of who you are. It’s part of what you recognize yourself, how you recognize yourself in front of a mirror.
And of course, he’s wanting to hide it. He doesn’t know how to cope. Javi doesn’t see himself in this new world that’s been created in, in Snowpiercer. Accepting this new identity is one of the biggest issues that Javi has with himself right now.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How did you feel about the dynamics of the scene where Mr. Wilford is treating Javi’s dog bite scar?
ROBERTO URBINA: To me that was a very political thing. It’s a scene that you could use as a metaphor for what happens in the world with superpowers and the lower countries. It’s hurtful. And then at the end, they’re ‘healing’ this area the way they want… Like putting medicine on wounds that were made by him.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Wilford’s dog Jupiter is a Cane Corso Italian breed, a traditional hunting dog. It’s ranked on many dog bite lists as having the third strongest bite force in the world. Do you feel the damage then to Javi was just as much physical as psychological? At least initially.
ROBERTO URBINA: Oh yeah, absolutely. When I first read the script, because they gave us the episodes like one-by-one, I thought I knew what was gonna happen. I thought the character was gonna be dead.
But then we were trying to build the scars with the FX team and we talked about how Javi sees himself. His face has to be completely shattered and in a way that cinematographic as well.
I have to be in a chair two hours prior for makeup effects every day. But we didn’t want him to be disfigured. But yeah, for sure. It’s something that could have been lethal for him.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: When I saw Javi’s PTSD after Wilford’s dog attack… It reminded me of the older generation of Jews I’ve met, who experienced dog-related trauma during World War II and fear them. I was wondering if there was any historical significance that inspired your portrayal?
ROBERTO URBINA: Well, I wouldn’t say specifically Jews during World War II. But I did a lot of research because I wanted it to resonate with people. Myself, coming from Latin America, I know what’s it like to see people that have been struck by war. I mean, hardship is all over the country (Columbia) and the continent basically.
I knew that I needed to place a larger significance on the dog to help me with my thought process. To have the scar symbolize something much bigger than the dog attack itself. I’ve always tried since Javi’s inception to place traits that are like the Latin Americans of old, not as specific from Columbia. Javi is a happy person, but he’s also neurotic.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: We’ve seen real life tragedies like 2015’s Lufthansa (Germanwings) crash, where mental wellness was said to have been kept hidden.
In your opinion, in times of need or emergency should someone like Javi still be allowed to be in charge of effectively all of Snowpiercer’s population?
ROBERTO URBINA: At the moment, I wouldn’t. You can clearly see how Javi just blanks and his PTSD is there. But at the same time, the brilliance of the character is Javi’s still hidden under all the PTSD… So I think in the future, I still would.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I recall in Snowpiercer’s first season, Javi wasn’t really on board with Melanie taking over the train. Javi had a little bit of a rift with Ben because of the relationship with Melanie back then. So what do you feel made Javi change loyalties toward Ben?
ROBERTO URBINA: Yeah, they did have a rift. The way I built him in the first season, I wanted Javi to be someone who was more lean towards the scientific aspect of things. And for him, when something just doesn’t work, he’s not willing to compromise his opinion just to please anyone.
That shows with his relationship to Melanie, his true relationship is the science. And that’s why he’s there. That’s why he was chosen to be one of the head engineers. In the beginning you see him fighting against what Melanie might say because to him ultimately the lie was not necessary.
Like if you were to place Javi in reality, for instance, he would be someone that’s completely for vaccines. He’s someone who’s reliant on science, he’s a scientist.
So that’s where ultimately his loyalty lies. The science. Not with people.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I noticed Javi was noticeably furious at being relegated to busy work despite openly bringing up that he was ‘too screwed up’. Do you think Javi felt slighted because he’s sacrificed so much and this is the reward he receives? A demotion.
ROBERTO URBINA: That’s how I feel as well. And it’s funny because you can draw certain parallels with real life. When I was given the scripts, I was also upset that he was relegated.
It’s funny because what the character is feeling ultimately ends up on the show. I was also upset, that’s why I love the scene when he’s introduced to Sykes!
You could see Javi’s stubbornness. He is like, ‘No, I’m not gonna do this!’ And then he becomes more neurotic and moody.
That’s something that we haven’t seen in him. So ultimately when I started playing it, I was able to get like a kick out of it because he was so neurotic.
He was so moody. He was so upset all the time. And that’s something that he was not paid for. To me as an actor it was fun to do.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Why do you feel Javi didn’t tell Kevin where Ruth was? Despite the fear of Jupiter always hanging over his head.
ROBERTO URBINA: Because I think Javi from the get go, the way we built him, he’s a good person.
I mean, if you see throughout his arc from season one, up until season three, he might not have a lot of story developed, but within the very important moments of the story, he’s always loyal. He wants the best world one could possibly think of given the circumstances.
I mean, he is a loyal person, even though he’s struggling with that. I think that gives Javi a stronger character, which is something that I really love about him. Because even in the face of adversity, he remains loyal. Remember, Javi also opened the door for Josie to come into the train.
Even though he went through hardship, Javi’s still willing to sacrifice for the good of the people.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you think Javi currently believes in New Eden?
ROBERTO URBINA: You’ll see what happens, but I do think it’s not just New Eden itself for Javi. It’s the thought of again going against all odds.
He’s someone that’s very scientific, very to the point, very pragmatic. The idea of having a somewhat normal life is something that could be his driving force this season.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How do you feel about Javi outliving Pike on the series? I was surprised by Steven Ogg’s character being written out this week.
ROBERTO URBINA: (laughs) Believe me, I’m surprised Javi made it as well! Amen. I’ve been doing this show for like five years already.
We started in 2017 and it’s been fun just discovering this character. There’s something that I really love about him, he’s not in a place of subordination as a Latin character.
His humility drew me to him. The fact that he’s still alive and he’s gone through this hardships, but he still hustling.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Roberto!
ROBERTO URBINA: Thank you!
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