Interview with “Virtuality”‘s Jose Pablo Cantillo

Tonight Fox launches Ronald D. Moore’s Virtuality, a two hour movie that was originally meant to be the pilot for a new series. While Moore’s last series – the much beloved Battlestar Galactica – also got off to a rocky start, the future doesn’t look as bright for Virtuality which isn’t likely to go to series unless ratings for tonight’s movie turn out to be unexpectedly strong.

For gay fans that’s especially unfortunate as the show is the first U.S. science fiction television program to include regularly occurring gay characters as part of the main cast. And we’re not talking just any gay characters – Manny (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Val (Gene Farber) are a married couple, making this a twofer when it comes to breaking new ground in gay visibility.

AfterElton.com recently had the chance to chat with Cantillo about what it meant to him to play the part of Manny, how he approached the role, and the frustration of being an actor coming so close to a series pick-up.

AfterElton: Did you know how groundbreaking the characters are when it comes to science fiction shows?
Jose Pablo Cantillo:
Yes and no. I’d heard some rumors that we were the first openly gay characters in space, and then we were wrapped and done, they said, "No, it’s actually the first show to have an actual married couple."

So I was made aware afterward. It’s quite the honor, especially with such high tech material and a really, really good cast. Everyone gelled and got along so well and sort of challenged each other.

AE: Given it’s such a large cast, we don’t get to see that much of Manny and Val together in the movie, but you mentioned gelling. Even with the small amount of time you had together, you really made a believable couple. I was surprised by that.

JPC:
Thank you for telling me that. Some of the more involved scenes, for example, Manny and Val, in order to get on to the ship, the Consortium really are encouraging the two of them to be married. Val is really questioning Manny’s intentions, getting married and proposing to him on a mock spaceship set, is it just so they can take this journey or because they’re actually in love? It’s just a nice moment because it’s very smart.

Anyway, the scene is going to air as a webisode.

AE: I saw the webisode on the Facebook page and it revealed more about the couple than did the movie. What can you tell our readers about them as a couple?

JPC:
I would say they’re very much an an old married couple with. When I say old married couple, you can see that they have very much a sort of pattern higher than them. They know each other so well that the same arguments and fights lead to the same places.

At the same time, they’re quick to forgiveness. The Russian stereotype came up a lot with Val, he’s very hardheaded. Once he gets fixated on something, he won’t want to bend. I appreciated his view on things, like why compromise? They’re just going to dilute each other. What happens is you butt heads, and sometimes there is no resolution, which I think would be a nice place to explore if the series were to go on. There’s no place to run. You’ve got ten years on one spaceship.

AE: What did you think when you got a script for such an unusual show both in terms of the sci fi plot and it including a married gay couple?

JPC:
I was very intimidated by how smart the writing was, and the different layers. I was wondering, "How is this going to work?" You start thinking about the circumstances.

As an actor who loves circumstances, there’s only three circumstances that you can play. A good actor can only play one thing at a time. When I first got it, I was really intimidated by that. I was really hoping to be uncomfortable. It was the first time I’ve ever played a gay character on camera. I was welcoming, and hoping, to be uncomfortable because then I wouldn’t have to act.

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