Frank Roman interview
|Date of publishing: 22th December
When you think about actors who have paid their dues,
in Hollywood, don't forget to think of Frank Roman.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he migrated to Miami and with
theatre, television and film credits to his name, he
has become an exciting talent in Hollywood. When Frank
made "the move" to Los Angeles, he was quickly
discovered by Mel Brooks, who starred him in his comedy
"Life Stinks". The two funny men worked together
again on two more Mel Brooks' comedies. Frank is known
by sci-fi fans for his role as Rafael in Stargate SG-1
season 7 "Evolution - part 1 & 2" and
in The X-Files on the ninth season "John Doe".
You can read is journey on the set of Stargate SG-1
Gilles Nuytens: Can
you talk about your current projects? On what are you
Frank Roman: I’ve
completed a one act play about Ellis Island and the
immigration of Europeans during the late 19th century
and early 20th. The play was a performed through monologues
with each performer telling how different groups came
to America from all over Europe and what it took for
them to get to America. Some of the stories were told
through monologues and some done with music.
I performed the eight different characters from different
parts of Europe. I have a knack for accents so I utilized
my Russian, Polish, French, Italian, Scottish, Irish
and English skills and had a lot of fun changing in
and out of wardrobe. It was a great acting challenge
to create these very different ethnicities and make
them all believable migrants of the the last century.
The play was well received.
Gilles Nuytens: In
Hollywood it is not easy to find a good role when you
are an “ethnic” actor. I had an interview
recently with Kevan Ohtsji, a Canadian actor originated
from Japan. He said that this is evolving but slowly.
You probably have to be a BIG star such as Antonio Banderas
to get some leading roles in movies when you are Latino
or Asian. There isn’t much Asian stars in Hollywood,
most of them come from the Hong Kong industry (Jackie
Chan, Jet Li, …) and same for Latinos I think.
In Europe, Latino’s stars are usually very popular,
so why do you think there are so few roles for Latino’s
in Hollywood? Can you talk about this subject or give
some personal examples from your experience?
Frank Roman: I can only speak from
facts. In 2004, only 3% of leading guest star roles
went to Latins both male and female. That’s not
a good number. This year in 2005, the percentage was
a bit lower. I’d like to say it’s just that
one year or that things are changing but I can’t.
What I’ve learned is that there are some stereotypes
in life that get reflected on TV and movies. Simply
put, there are more ‘white’ Americans and
as such they tend to get more representation.
Throughout my career as an actor, I have been fortunate
to land the roles that were written for a Latin man.
So I stayed busy and employed. However, on the other
side of the coin, I can share about Hollywood being
open to hiring a good actor and not just casting a role
based on “race”. I worked a CBS show called
Dave’s World. Initially a role for a nervous music
teacher was intended for a white older man. The casting
director had met me two months earlier for another “Latin”
role and decided to bring me in on this “white
teacher” role. I kicked ass with the scene and
landed the job. In this case, I think it was because
of my performance and not my race that landed me on
that sound stage. There’s work and if you’re
good enough you can even change their mind about the
look of the character or his ethnicity.
Nuytens: You like
photography and to visit the cities where you go to
take picture of the wonderful landscapes around it (I
like that too!). Do you sometimes do it for professional
purposes? And what attract you in photography?
Frank Roman: No I don’t photograph
professionally but I did study it for my degree in Communications.
However, back then we used 35mm Bl/wh Film, lol. I do
have a facility for photo-composition and I enjoy capturing
Gilles Nuytens: You
had a lot of “comedy” roles but your face
is also known as the perfect guerilleros (in Stargate
for example) or the bad guy from Central/South America
(X-Files, …). What are the things you prefer on
those 2 opposite kind of roles?
Roman: I think the question is about what I
prefer in working in comedy or in drama. I like the
comedy of a sitcom set. I like going to a studio and
work-playing with other actors and being in front of
a live audience. It’s a blast being able to win
people over and have them laugh at some silly thing
I’ve said or done.
But then, in serious roles, the audience can be moved
emotionally and that has a deeper effect as well. Serious
roles give me a chance to go to a place in my head that
helps me find that tough guy and act him out. I mean
how many times can we really walk around in life, intimidating
others and not get in trouble for it? So I get to be
a bad boy for a while and I don’t hurt anyone
while doing so. lol
In the 2 episodes you played
in Stargate, your scenes were supposed to be in Central
America but were shot in Vancouver! Not really the same
environment! But on screen we really believe it was
shot in Central America.
Isn’t that strange to move from L.A. to Vancouver
to shoot scenes supposed to take place in Central America
Frank Roman: Yes,
shooting in one city that substitutes as another is
not a big issue unless the city is a character in the
movie. Understand? I’ve shot in Romania and it
was supposed to be anywhere USA and I’ve shot
in the Philippines and that was supposed to be Columbia.
The producers make the set very believable and as an
actor we just have to pretend it’s the city where
the action takes place and not the real city where we
had to shoot. That’s our job.
Nuytens: In what kind
of movies/shows would you like to play? And what is
THE role of your dreams?
I enjoy both the dramatic and the comedy roles. It exercises
two different parts of my personality. The role of a
lifetime for me would be one that exercises both of
these aspects in one role. That would be a dream role.
Getting people to laugh and then making them cry or
scaring them all at once would be great!
Nuytens: Any future
project on a science-fiction production?
Frank Roman: I have no plans for any
sci-fi projects as of this week. But you know how this
industry can change that at any given moment.
That’s the great part of this business.
Gilles Nuytens: What
was the most difficult or the most challenging thing/role
you had to do on your career?
Roman: There have been many challenging roles
throughout my career. It’s difficult to pick out
one. When I started in theatre I had to dance in a big
country-dance segment of the play. Then I also had to
learn Flamenco and sing for a musical theatre piece
here in LA. I’ve also had to fly across the world
to shoot some movies and have had to stay in less than
comfortable surroundings. In Stargate, I had to learn
how to shoot 2 types of firearms, AK-47 and a 9mm handgun.
I’ve never shot a firearm and boy did I learn
about power in those suckers. I’ve played mentally
retarded to hyped up killers. Does that say something
about me? Lol
In Stargate, you played the
most of your scenes with Michael Shanks and Bill Dow,
what can you say about the time you spend with them?
Do you have some anecdotes to tell?
Roman: Bill Dow and Michael Shanks were great!
They were very down to earth with a great work ethic
and attitude. Bill Dow was a soft spoken man with a
very kind manner and good sense of humor. Michael Shanks
is a very funny guy off camera. He’s polite and
mannerly but then he can let go with a great comic line
or prat fall. He had me laughing quite a few times even
on some takes. We had a great time on the set.
One crazy moment for me was in the prison hut scene
where I introduced myself to the guys and told them
the deal. Well, at the last minute the director, Peter
DeLuise, introduced some serious bugs that he wanted
around for effect. Well, bugs aren’t my thing
and being around them makes me antsy. I had to act in
the scene and try not to be freaked out by the bugs
around my feet! UGH!!
Can you describe your time
on the X-Files?
My time on X-Files was a major hoot. I worked with Robert
Patrick and was directed by Michelle McLaren, one of
the show’s executive producers. My co-star in
the episode was an actor named Ramon Franco who remains
a friend to this day. Now this guy was funny as hell
but pretty much plays a bad guy in his film and TV roles.
We worked on the 20th Century lot and got fed well for
the weeks we worked. I got to work in Spanish and in
fact, my first scene up was the scene in which all I
spoke was Spanish. Talk about pressure, not only to
speak in Spanish (which I do) but to act in Spanish
and then have my memory taken from me. That’s
how it’s done though. You get thrown in the deep
end and it’s sink or swim.
Gilles Nuytens: You
love to travel the world, so what is the country where
you would love the most shoot a movie? And why?
Frank Roman: I was very lucky to have
shot a movie in Rome a couple of years ago. My last
name is Roman and I thought it would be great to be
a Roman roaming in Rome. That movie was the film with
Ben Stiller and Jack Black called Envy. I’ve been
lucky and traveled to Paris but not yet worked as an
actor there. I enjoyed Manila a great deal but would
like to work anywhere as long as it’s safe and
the country has good food!
Outside of acting and photography,
what do you like to do in your free time. Can you speak
I like to workout in the gym. I’m writing a few
different projects right now. One work is a two act
play, another is a short story and on the side I write
down some short story ideas. I enjoy reading about 14th
century BCE Egypt and recently attended the King Tut
exhibit here at the Los Angeles County Museum. I enjoy
meals and movies with my friends and being a volunteer
co-ordinator for a religious men’s group.
Gilles Nuytens: What
motivated you to become an actor?
Roman: My motivation in becoming an actor was
the fun of it. I wanted to be able to travel the world
and get paid for it. I wanted to meet new famous people
and call them by their first name. I wanted to give
myself a shot at the game before I told myself I couldn’t
play. It took perseverance and discipline but I feel
it pays off so many times.
by Gilles Nuytens for The