Live and create: Get to know ‘Life as a Mermaid’ star Diego Torres Kuri
While he is widely known for his portrayal of Liam in Life As A Mermaid, actor Diego Torres Kuri is seeing his star rise as his roles alongside Steven Seagal and the late rapper DMX takes him across oceans and borders into a Bollywood film that could be his biggest role yet.
We were lucky enough to sit with Torres to discuss how his talents got him into the Bollywood industry, and what he sees for himself in the future.
Tell us about your history in acting. How did you start your journey?
I’ve always enjoyed making my family laugh, performing silly acts in front of them was one of the ways I’d naturally do to do so. During my last summer of high school the thought of making films became attractive to me. I’d never done acting or anything like that before, but I told my dad I wanted to go to film school. He suggested I should go to a summer program and see if I liked it first before making such a big decision.
So I did, I went to Los Angeles for the summer and completely fell in love with acting. After graduating high school I went to study for 1 year at VADArts in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. After that I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in California. And ever since it’s been nonstop learning and perfecting my craft, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in amazing projects and productions, with some of the best people in the industry internationally, from which I’ve learned so much.
Who were your biggest influences growing up?
In my personal life, my mom and dad have definitely shaped me. I learned work ethic, integrity and values from them. Artistically I would say my biggest influence has been J. Cole, he introduced me to the humanity and authenticity in art through his music and lyrics. He doesn’t look for money or fame, he looks to connect with people and express himself.
Sometimes people become fake in the pursue of fame or trying to sell their product, they try to only project a perfect image, which is not true because as human beings we all have the good, the bad, and the ugly in us and that’s real. One problem we have today is people buy followers, likes, comments, streams just to make themselves appear more successful, which can be dangerous because people start placing their value in these things, which are not real in the first place, so that’s why we see so much depression nowadays.
Better to be your authentic self and have less people ‘love’ you but be ok with yourself than to have everyone else ‘love’ an idea of you and loathe yourself.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
I have worked with teachers that have taught me amazing things. That’s definitely a great way to go about it, find a great class/school that really challenges you, but where you feel safe and comfortable.
Your breakthrough role came when you played Liam in Life as a Mermaid. Can you tell us about that experience and what it’s meant to you?
It was an amazing project, it really felt like we became a family because we were all watching it grow and we were growing with it together. It was an awesome learning experience because we didn’t have the pressure that you usually get in big productions, we were allowed to play, which I think is key for acting and just any creative project. I learned a lot about acting for the camera and the whole process of creating a series.
You’ve appeared in popular films like Beyond the Law and videos like “Closer” by the Chainsmokers. How does working on a film differ from working on a music video?
Well, music videos are way shorter than movies, so you usually have less scenes and they tend to be simpler. I’ve had a lot of fun filming music videos, but films are a whole other animal.
Dialogue is a big thing in movies so you usually have to prepare more since you’re playing a character that’s part of a bigger story.
Do you have certain routines or tricks to help yourself get into character?
Preparation is key. You have to do your homework. Research, read the script over and over, write down notes, make interesting choices, work with a partner, ask questions to the writer/director. The more you immerse yourself in the process the easier it will be for you to believe it. The definition of acting is: behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances. So imagination is one of the most important tools to have as an actor.
Do you find it easier to play characters that you have a personal connection to?
Definitely, but I like the ones that are not like me because they let me explore different emotions and traits that I can adopt, or that make me understand people better.
You co-directed an episode of Life as a Mermaid. Did you always want to move into directing or was it something you realized you wanted to do in the moment?
In the beginning I wanted to study cinematography because I liked the idea of making movies. After I started working in Life as a Mermaid and being so close to what goes on behind the camera it really made me want to create my own projects. So being asked to co-direct was a great opportunity to get a taste of it. But it also made me realize that all of the different roles in making a movie are a craft by themselves, so I now have so much more respect for directors and crew members.
Do you feel your experience as an actor has helped shape your directing style?
Of course. I’m one of those actors that love to be directed, I obviously bring my own choices to the table but sometimes as an actor you don’t get an idea of the bigger picture as well as directors do, so it’s made me realize that you need to explain to the actors what the objective of the current scene is so that they know what the stakes are and how it adds to the story.
Would you consider directing a feature film or making directing a bigger part of your artistry?
Yes, I definitely need to learn more about the craft because with great power comes great responsibility, but if the right project shows up or I come up with something I’d love to give it a try.
Can you tell us about your upcoming Bollywood project?
It involves one of the biggest movie stars in Bollywood as well as one of the biggest movie producers in the country. I can’t give away many details yet but it’s a story based in true events from the golden era of soccer in India.
This movie is like something we’ve never seen in a Bollywood production before, it’s gonna be an international sensation. The director is one of the next big promises of the industry as well, so it was exciting to work with him.
As we speak I’m in my hotel room in Mumbai, we still have a couple of scenes to shoot and then I fly back home. It’s been an incredible experience and a huge step in my career.
COVID has obviously slowed things down in Hollywood and other film capitals around the world. How has COVID affected your working process?
I’ve always thought that acting is an in-person experience, so not being able to attend class, or auditions, in person, has definitely being frustrating, but it has allowed me to venture into other things like business. I’m about to open a healthy bar, in my hometown, called Abunda. So it has had its positive results as well.
You have plans to produce your own content in the future. Since you’ve already worked as a director, do you foresee a time where you stop acting and only work behind the camera?
Not really, acting was my first love and is the thing I enjoy the most doing. It’s a form of expression and therapy for me, the feeling I get when performing is like none other I’ve experienced before.
Some actors hate seeing themselves onscreen. Do you ever watch your own work?
I don’t like watching myself, I don’t hate it either. I trust the director mostly but sometimes I like to see if what I’m doing is coming across the right way, or sometimes it’s just little things like am I hitting the right spot? Or is it too slow or too fast? But I’ve learned to see it as part of the process.
Who is one actor you’d love to share the screen with?
There’s many, I couldn’t pick just one. I’d love to work with DiCaprio or Al Pacino. Also some of the younger actors like Timothée Chalamet or Zendaya.
Is there a particular filmmaker you’d like to work with?
What has been your greatest professional success?
I would say this Bollywood movie. Never in a million years I would’ve though I’d be flown to India to be in a Bollywood project with one of it’s biggest movie starts.
What about your greatest personal success?
Keeping my feet on the ground and my integrity through it all and staying authentic and true to myself.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Be yourself. Find what stories, people, places, books inspire you and let yourself create and live from that place of inspiration. Start where you are and with what you have right now.
Lastly, what’s your favorite film of all time?
Scent of a Woman
What other roles could you see Diego playing within the Bollywood universe? Let us know in the comments!