Severance Star Yul Vázquez: “Why one must first be a great fan before one can become a great artist”
… The one piece of advice I would have for anybody wanting to go into an artistic life is to have a very clear vision of the kind of artist you want to be… identifying for yourself an artist that you admire is a good place to start. One must first be a great fan before one can become a great artist.
I had the pleasure to interview Yul Vázquez. Yul Vázquez was most recently seen in Apple TV’s SEVERANCE, opposite Adam Scott and Christopher Walken, and directed by Ben Stiller. Other recent television credits include HBO’s THE OUTSIDER, opposite Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo, RUSSIAN DOLL opposite Natasha Lyonne, and TNT’s miniseries I AM THE NIGHT. Vázquez will next be seen starring in HBO’s WHITE HOUSE PLUMBERS, opposite Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux.
Feature credits include THE PHENOM opposite Paul Giamatti and Ethan Hawke; Tom McCarthy’s THE COBBLER opposite Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman and Steve Buscemi; Noah Buschel’s GLASS CHIN opposite Billy Crudup; Brad Furman’s RUNNER, RUNNER opposite Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake; Paul Greengrass’s CAPTAIN PHILLIPS opposite Tom Hanks; Michael Cuesta’s KILL THE MESSENGER opposite Jeremy Renner; and Ridley Scott’s AMERICAN GANGSTER. Vázquez was nominated for a Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for his role in THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Yul! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me! I grew up with my single mom, my grandma, and my older sister in a Cuban household in Miami Beach, Florida. My mom was an actress and my grandma worked at a movie theater, so theater and film were a part of my life from an early age.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mom was a member of a theater company in Miami. She would bring me to rehearsals with her, and I got to be around actors and musicians who were all having a great time together. I wasn’t that interested in acting at the time, but I loved to sit by the drummer in the orchestra and watch him play. That, I think, was the beginning of my own creative journey. I asked my mom for a drum kit, and even though we lived in an apartment, she got it for me and encouraged me to play. I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to my neighbors, too, who as far as I know never complained.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most interesting things I’ve been asked to do was learn Tagalog for John Sayle’s Amigo, which filmed in The Philippines. I had to speak 4 languages in the movie- English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Latin- and I had 2 weeks to prepare it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I worked on 3 television projects during the pandemic and they’re all coming out this year- Severance, Promised Land, and White House Plumbers. All three projects and the characters I play are incredibly different. I’ve also been hard at work in my studio painting for an upcoming exhibit.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
The one piece of advice I would have for anybody wanting to go into an artistic life is to have a very clear vision of the kind of artist you want to be… identifying for yourself an artist that you admire is a good place to start. One must first be a great fan before one can become a great artist.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity in entertainment is important to me because seeing different cultures and different worlds represented on stage and on screen enriches us, expands our minds and our thinking.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Looking after yourself physically and mentally, having close bonds with family and friends, and surrounding yourself with a team of people you trust is key.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I owe a great deal to my acting teachers Bill Esper and Maggie Flanigan, who taught me how to really listen and how to use my imagination. These are skills that I use every time I work, and that I continue to practice and develop.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is too short NOT to create something with every breath we draw.” -Maynard James Keenan
I was always aware that I was lucky to have the freedom and support to explore a creative life, and it’s not something I’ve ever taken for granted. My mom made a lot of sacrifices to get us here. It’s what drives me to work hard every day.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Jimmy Page. He’s the artist who’s had the greatest impact on me, and he continues to inspire me to this day.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Severance Star Yul Vázquez: “Why one must first be a great fan before one can become a great… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.