New York-based, Colombian-American actor Gabriel Sloyer has made quite a life for himself since choosing to pursue a life in the dramatic arts. Born in Long Island, NY, Gabriel has appeared on countless television, film, off-Broadway productions and even video games, raising his star level each and every time.
From the hit Netflix series Narcos, to the Grand Theft Auto video games, to the Starz Network’s drama series POWER and breakout CBS show Limitless, Gabriel has kept himself very busy these past few years. With a new season of Narcos on the way and a few other major film productions coming soon, The Levity Ball caught up with Gabriel to learn more…
1. When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
There was a lot of drama in my childhood. Storytelling was always a way to deal with that. While people were yelling in the kitchen about something or another, I remember hiding out behind the couch in the living room. There I could play with action figures, create elaborate story-lines and float away into superhero journeys. It probably all started right there behind that couch.
2. Growing up in Long Island, NY, were there any specific local places you trained at for acting that helped you follow your path forward to becoming the actor you are today?
High school in Long Island was great. While most of my formal training happened later, I did sign up for a one time acting class. When I got there I was looking around and realized I was the only guy in the room. Turns out acting was changed to dance class and nobody told me. But I always had a date on the weekends.
3. What was the feeling when you were accepted into Yale to study drama?
Pride. I had worked to maintain the straight path in high school. It felt like the only way to be respected was to work, so I worked as hard as i possibly could to prove myself. It was also special to get into Yale because my father emigrated from Colombia. Like many from outside the country, he wasn’t familiar with any state schools but since Yale is well known, he knew what that was. For him to know the name of that school, that was meaningful for both of us.
4. Being an actor at first and finding work can be tough… we heard there were times you busked for money by singing and playing guitar around NYC. What was your mindset during these more difficult times in your career?
Yes, that’s true. In between theater gigs I would play in subways and thought of busking as another opportunity to perform. In my mind, I was always working on acting. Did you know Dustin Hoffman memorized Hamlet in his spare time when he was starting out in New York? That was pretty much me too. I try not to get outcome-oriented. You remember why you love what you do and you use that down time to practice and try to get better for the next opportunity. You’ve got to stay hungry and curious.
5. Now that you have made a great career thus far with all your roles, what has been the best advice you have ever been given by someone?
Here’s one that stands out in my mind: My father believed that even though he couldn’t play guitar, if he just picked it up and haphazardly strummed some open strings, he could sing any song. And he would. He’d sing these weeping willow ballads with poetic refrains and sometimes he was so sincere tears would run down his face. Anyways, one day when I was little he’s singing this pleading chorus and the music stops suddenly, he whips my chair around and gets right in my face. His eyes were huge and he said, “In this world, Gabi, you must fight — even to the death — for what you know is right.” And then he walked out of the room.
6. You recently filmed an project with the incredible producer/director Ben Barenholtz called “Alina” which screens later this month at the Metrograph in New York… can you tell us about your role in the movie?
Ben’s a great guy and a visionary when it comes to discovering the next big thing. As you know, he was instrumental in kickstarting the careers of David Lynch and the Coen Brothers. I auditioned for Ben and we hit it off right away. In the movie, I play Santo, a down-and-out laborer who joins this zany Italian-American family in New York. Together we help Alina find her family America. It’s a quirky, fun journey that is representative of Ben’s own experience.
7. Netflix is releasing a new season of Narcos, and obviously your character is one of the best on the show. What are you looking forward to most for the upcoming new season?
I have the honor of portraying Manuel De Dios and his mission in this season, fighting to save innocent people from a fate that was in many cases worse than death. I can’t say much more about it until the season premiere September 1st, but I am looking forward to audiences learning about his fascinating story. As that situation develops, I’m also curious to see how Cali, Colombia, is portrayed. The world knows who Pablo Escobar is, and they learned about the intricacies of his operation in Medellin in the first two seasons. Lesser known is the soulful history of Cali, where half of my family still lives.
8. Do you prefer to work on films or on television shows?
I’ve got two other films coming out, one with Vince Vaughn and another with Lou Gossett Jr…. With films you have the luxury of letting a part marinate over time, while on a TV show like Narcos the pace is much more vigorous. It’s like pan-seared or slow-roasted, they’re both delicious, but they’re totally different.
9. Besides acting, what else do you like to do in your spare time?
I like reading poetry to my dog. I’m convinced he can understand me and is developing a sensitive spirit and a taste for Wordsworth. I’m also a big fan of boxing and martial arts.
10. Where do you see yourself and career in five years from now? Still in New York or are you going to “Go Hollywood” and move west?
I don’t know. I’m getting pretty seduced by the camera work. Right now, the pulse of the city is me. But who knows what the future may hold?
11. And final question: Being a New Yorker, where is your favorite spot to eat?
My not-so-secret secret is a place called Los Tacos Numero 1 in Chelsea Market. As the name suggests, they really are number one and somehow in the middle of Chelsea, still reasonably priced.
Follow more of Gabriel’s journey in the acting world via Twitter: https://twitter.com/GabrielSloyer