Ricardo Davila, who plays Eladio on AMC’s Dietland, talks about the precarious situation Eladio has found himself in the middle of.
Q: What interested you most about the show?
A: I listened to [Sarai Walker’s] audio book right before my last audition and I was struck by the story. I’d never read a story that was told from the perspective of a fat woman who spoke so honestly about the experience of walking through the world in that body and the day-to-day discrimination and having to be bombarded by the absurd and unrealistic beauty standards that we as a culture have created for ourselves. I thought it was a very moving narrative. After I finished it, I felt like I got unplugged from the matrix. [Laughs] It made me aware of how messed up the world is and how much misinformation is propagated out there. It made me question my own relationship with my body. It was clear that this had the potential to be very moving for a lot of people. On top of all of that, it’s thrown into this stew of mystery, thriller and a Devil Wears Prada kind of a vibe. I knew I wanted to be a part of this.
Q: How did you bring Eladio to life on the screen?
A: He’s barely in the book, so that was a little daunting, but it was also exciting because I could make him into whatever I wanted him to be. I did have some conversations with [Executive Producer] Marti [Noxon] about it and it became clear to me that he seemed like this young guy who hadn’t quite blossomed into the flower he was destined to be. Though it isn’t mentioned on the show, one of the ideas that Marti and I spoke about was that he was this YouTube personality who might have said some provocative things that caught Julia’s attention… To me, he feels like he’s floating between two worlds. There’s the world of Kitty – and she doesn’t necessarily treat him with the utmost respect. I think there’s something attractive about the beauty and fashion industry to him, although I do think he’s aware of the hypocrisy and superficiality of it. For how outrageous she can be sometimes, I think there is a certain level of admiration for the amount of power Kitty has and the fact that she’s a voice of influence. On the flip side, there’s his relationship with Julia and the genuine desire to be of service to those around him, but I don’t think he’s quite developed the drive to fully commit to either of these two worlds.
Q: How did you build Eladio and Kitty’s relationship with Julianna Margulies?
A: It became clear that Kitty was the alpha dog and Eladio was not. She does such a good job of mixing these moments that are so acidic and yet, they’re coded in a faux kindness. It really pierces his self-esteem. Julianna [Margulies] is so fantastic to work with. I just had to be open and see what she was throwing at me. It was such a joy to watch her work, both when she was filming a scene and when she was in between takes. She’s so damn cool. This was my first time working on a TV show and on camera, so there was a good deal of anxiety and just trying to figure it out: What am I doing? Can I act? This is Julianna Margulies! [Laughs] It was a lot of fun. I learned so much.
Q: In Episode 7, Eladio’s stuck in an awkward position with Julia sneaking around in the beauty closet “to clear up loose ends” since being fired. What’s that like for him, given that he still works for Kitty?
A: He’s stressed out. What I love is that, by that point, he’s getting shaken up and realizing that he may be a little bit in over his head. He’s involved in some questionable activity with Julia that he probably doesn’t entirely understand, he has Kitty breathing down his neck, there’s a detective around… He’s gotten pulled into everything and I don’t think he’s fully equipped to deal with it. And then she hands him the cash and it’s like, “Where did this come from? What do I do with this? What does it mean?” I think he’s scared and he’s trying to hold it together. His concern for himself is perhaps overriding his other responsibilities, but I think it comes from a place of self-protection.
Q: What does Eladio’s identity as Latino and queer represent to the story? How does it affect the way he sees what’s happening in this world?
A: I think he’s aware that he’s definitely a minority within Daisy Chain. That kind of isolates him a bit. As a man, it doesn’t escape him that the primary targets of this organization are men and that he could potentially be considered a target. And then as a gay man – well, men can be scary, especially when it comes to hyper-masculinity and homophobia. Perhaps it’s not on the same level as walking throughout the world every day as a woman, but he’s aware of the fear of walking down the street holding your boyfriend’s hand… I don’t think he necessarily endorses the violence that’s happening, but he understands where it’s coming from.
Q: What did you personally take away from the show?
A: On a professional level, I learned that I love working on camera… On a personal level, it opened my eyes to the fact that there’s work to be done – not just in the world around me, but even in ourselves. It’s really helped me with my own body image issues and made me aware of how I might look at other bodies and the assumptions I make. Life’s too short. You just have to love yourself and do you!
Read an interview with Tamara Tunie, who plays Julia.
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