What It’s Like to Play Every Ethnicity Hollywood Throws Your Way
Over the course of his career, Cliff Curtis, “a Maori from New Zealand”, has played just about every non-white ethnicity: African-American, Arab, Latino, Indian – anything from Pablo Escobar to a lord of the Fire Nation in The Last Airbender. There’s even been an impressive mash-up video made to prove it.
In a new interview with Slate, Curtis discusses his role in the new Fox drama Gang Related, which premieres on Thursday, May 22. Cliff Curtis plays Javier Acosta, the leader of Los Angelicos, a Chicano gang that’s heavily involved in the drug trade. And he’s mastered the East L.A Spanish accent to boot.
“I take the responsibility of playing another ethnicity very, very seriously,” he says, “and I promise myself and those people that I will represent them with as much dignity and integrity as I can muster. I’m not fooling around. I don’t want to make a fool of that cultural heritage. I represent them as I would represent my own.”
In the interview, Curtis even jokes about his dream role on Lord of the Rings, saying “I’m still waiting for that WASP role. I’m still waiting for Peter Jackson to let me play an elf. I want to play Orlando Bloom’s father. No, Orlando Bloom’s younger, hotter brother. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
But the question of the day – how does Cliff Curtis master all those accents?
“Blood, sweat, and tears, mate. There’s no way around it. We have a dialect coach, but I spend time talking to people, other characters, and I listen. It’s my livelihood. You’ve got to work your arse off to get that right. And if I don’t, I won’t be back for Season 2. That’s just the way it goes.”
Original interview reported by June Thomas for Slate, 20 May