How the young actor went from background roles to starring in the main cast of a primetime drama
As Hollywood begins to take serious strides to diversify its casts, ABC’s new crime drama “Take Two” has added the Filipino-Canadian actor Xavier de Guzman in a co-starring role as an investigator’s assistant.
“Take Two”, which premiered on June 21, follows a former star of a fictional hit cop show (Rachel Bilson, “The O.C.”, “Hart of Dixie”) who teams up with a private investigator (Eddie Cibrian, “CSI: Miami”) as research for a new role.
De Guzman, 30, plays Roberto “Berto” Vazquez, Cibrian’s character’s assistant, a tech expert who helps with solving crimes.
His big break on a primetime drama follows a short but fruitful trajectory which included roles in short films and theater.
“It’s huge because it was the first audition I had when I landed in Vancouver….when I found out I got the job on ‘Take Two’, I was jumping up and down on my bed!” de Guzman shared with the Asian Journal in a recent phone interview.
The son of Filipino immigrants who moved to Canada, de Guzman said his first love was sports, which led him to a successful career in Muay Thai fighting. As a fighter, he was based out of Southside Muay Thai in Toronto and went on to win multiple lightweight titles in Canada.
His success as a fighter brought him his first acting role on the Canadian cop drama show “Rookie Blue” in 2010 despite having no experience in acting. It was here he discovered his love for acting and saw it as a viable career path.
“For me, it was this struggle of ‘what’s next?’ because as a fighter, your career is pretty limited,” de Guzman remarked. “So once I was on set, the first thing that hooked me was the magic of what was happening in front of me and how this turns into something you could watch on T.V.”
He began by playing background roles in Canadian TV and short films, where he was often cast in gangster and thug roles that required him to fight against the main characters, which, as a young actor, was fine at the time, he says. But as his filmography grew and as he gained more experience, he wanted something more.
“At one point, I kind of didn’t want to be Thug No. 1 or Gangster No. 1 anymore, so I started delving more into classes and learning more about the craft and the art and I started branching off into developing other characters that I could probably play,” he said.
In addition to screen acting, de Guzman has also delved into performing on stage in local and regional play productions like “A Flea in Her Ear”, the Georges Feydeau play centered around Paris at the height of the Belle Époque.
As he continues to build his career and branch out into a diversity of roles, he looks to Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch and Samuel L. Jackson as inspirations who have mastered the versatility of the craft and can transition among different mediums, whether that’s in front of a camera or a live audience.
De Guzman’s uphill climb from being a two-dimensional extra as a gangster to nabbing theatre roles and finally making a break onto primetime television is a sign of the times in Hollywood, where diversity and complexity in characters of color are becoming more prevalent.
“I think it’s amazing because, especially now that everyone is trying to have a voice and get a platform representing their culture, I think it’s definitely something to embrace knowing that I’m one of the few Filipinos out there that are at this level. But it’s not just for Filipinos, it’s a win for all people of color, really, so I hope it’s inspiring for people to see,” De Guzman said.
If the young actor’s casting in “Take Two” is a signal of what’s to come for Hollywood, then we may be seeing more Filipinos and actors of color in starring roles.
He said that, as an actor, his goal is to do everything from chamber dramas, superhero films and love stories, and given the tenacity he’s demonstrated in his career already, it’s hardly a far-fetched dream.
“Take Two” airs every Thursday night at 10 p.m. on ABC. De Guzman will also star in the upcoming horror film “Our House” which will be released in theaters on July 27.