Clifford: First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Chris, I’m sure you’ve been pretty busy lately.
Chris: Are you kidding? It's my pleasure, thank you for wanting to interview me.
Clifford: Before we get into full gear I figured we’d start off a little light if that’s okay with you?
Chris: Taking it easy on me, huh? I appreciate it.
Clifford: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Chris Riquinha?
Chris: What the hell? I thought you were going to take it easy on me, [Laughs]. That is one of a lot of actors most feared questions. "What do they want to hear?" "What do I say to make sure people don't think I'm a douche bag?" Well...here goes: I was born in Livingston, NJ and spent most of my life growing up in the small suburban town of Port Reading, NJ. The first few years of my life, however were in Elizabeth, NJ, which is where I had my first experience on a stage. I played a shepherd boy in a Christmas play in kindergarten, and had two girls fight over me on stage...needless to say I was hooked! Actually, it wasn’t until high school, where I performed in all the plays, that I did some real acting again; I was always more of a singer (speaking of which, I can't wait to sing in a band! It hasn't happened yet, but it will). After graduation I went to school for Sports Medicine, however after a couple years of studying, realized it wasn't for me, then eventually I discovered I wanted to act. Since then I've been studying and working as much as I can, trying to find my way in this crazy ass/wonderful business. Along the way, making sure I enjoy the ride of course.
Clifford: What inspired you to go into acting?
Chris: Well like I said, I had acted a bit as a kid and then again in high school, but I never even considered doing it as a career. It wasn't until years later when, while watching the bonus material for the movie The Gladiator (yeah I know that's weird), I thought about acting again. I was watching all the behind the scenes stuff and I remembered back to how much I enjoyed performing and even rehearsing, so I decided to take a couple classes and see what happened. And now...here I am.
Clifford: So what projects have you worked on?
Chris: I've done some musical theatre (Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, etc.), I've done a bunch of student/short films (those are great learning experiences), and there's a PC Richard commercial floating around somewhere out there. The past two years specifically have been really productive for me. It started of with me hooking up with cult horror film director Richard W. Haines in a film called "What Really Frightens You?". Keeping with the theme, I performed in one of the most interesting theatre experiences out there with RadioTheatre's "Dracula"...really, really cool shit! After doing another show I met Princeton Holt and he asked me to be in his film Cookies & Cream, following that he passed my name along to his friend and fellow filmmaker Brian Ackley, who decided to cast me in his first feature, Uptown.
Clifford: Is there any particular genre you prefer working in most?
Chris: Not really, I really like to mix it up. I love doing different things, stretching myself, otherwise I get bored to be honest. Ideally I would love to just bounce around from one genre to another to another, and just keep things fresh.
Clifford: I had the pleasure of reviewing “Uptown” a film you starred in last summer (Review). What was it like working on that project?
Chris: Well first of all, thank you for reviewing the film and for your kind words regarding it, I'm really glad you liked the work we all put into it. I'll tell ya man, working on Uptown was the greatest overall acting experience I've ever had...honestly. We filmed principle Monday through Friday in one week straight...so I guess the fact that for those five days, all I concerned myself with was making this movie...it was freaking awesome. That's not to say things went perfectly, [Laughs], not even close. We definitely had our share problems, but in hind sight, all of that just added to the experience. I have some really great memories from that week.
Clifford: What was it like working with the cast and crew?
Chris: They all sucked...…[Laughs], I'm only kidding (I'm a bit sarcastic)! Everyone was really great. Meissa and I got along stellar (that's her word...I'm stealing it) both on and off camera. Brian, Princeton, and Ryan all seemed to share this crazy, awesome, visionary brain which made the work really fun. Deirdre and Derek were a blast to work with. We all grew very close during the week. I know people say this all the time, and I know it's kinda cheesy, but it truly was just this great collaborative work environment that made going to work everyday an absolute pleasure. At least that's the way it was for me anyway.
Clifford: So you guys all hit it off from the get-go I take it, do you guys all still keep in touch regularly?
Chris: Without a doubt! Princeton and I have become very good friends and we're collaborating on a film we're going to make together soon, and Brian, Meissa, and myself regularly check in with each other to see how things are going both professionally and personally, to share a memory, or just for the hell of it. In fact, the three of us are going to see Meissa in a show she's performing in later this week...should be a great night!
Clifford: While watching the film I notice there was what appeared to be a lot of improvisational acting going on, I mean there were scenes where you and the cast were following a script and than there where scenes where you and the cast where improvising on the spot but still sticking to an overall concept.
Chris: Yeah there is a lot of improv in the film, in fact there wasn't even a fleshed out script. Basically what would happen is Brian would tell us what he wanted in the scene, sometimes he would give us points to cover, sometimes there were a few lines that we needed to work around, but generally speaking, he really wanted us to play with it. We would usually do a brief rehearsal, so he could see where we would go with it, and he would give us notes...or not...and then we would shoot it. It really worked for me because even though he knew what he wanted, he let us figure out how to get there. All that being said, there were definitely a few scenes that were fully scripted, so for those we just followed his writing.
Clifford: So unlike some tough as nails Directors out there who‘ll demand precisely what they want out of their actors, Brian Ackley is pretty laid back when it come to the creativity with the cast?
Chris: That's the interesting thing, Brian did know exactly what he wanted, at least as far as character, and he communicated that very well to us. I remember one scene we had to shoot a number of times because it was missing something very specific from me...and of course it was an extremely emotional scene for Meissa, so I felt so terrible, but he got what he wanted in the end. He had this thing...everyday we would show up on set and he would have a few note cards for us with some notes regarding the days scenes...it was an incredibly effective technique. So once he had us locked in and comfortable with our characters and where we were going with them, he let us play.
Clifford: I noticed you and co-star Meissa Hampton had some great onscreen chemistry going between the two of you, was part of that chemistry channeled through a real life relationship?
Chris: [Laughs] That's a great question! No there was nothing going on between Meissa and myself behind the scenes. No sneaking off between takes to hide somewhere and makeout like teenagers...although that would've been fun, [Laughs.] For the record, Meissa is freaking awesome, and super cool to hang out and work with. I must admit that as the week went on I found myself a bit smitten with her, but nothing ever happened...perhaps that played into what you see on screen too.
Clifford: Interestingly enough I learned that you co-wrote “Uptown” with Director Brian Ackley, to what extent of involvement did you take in writing it?
Chris: Yeah, that was cool. The writing credits that Meissa and I received were given to us because Brian and Princeton realized just how much of the film was improved, so they figured they'd give us some props. It was a really unexpected surprise for me, it just further proves my point about how collaborative those guys were.
Clifford: How did you take the news when you found out you and co-star Meissa Hampton were both nominated for an award each for your performances in “Uptown”
Chris: I'm not gonna lie to you Cliff...I was pretty freaking excited. That was my first nomination, so for me it was a big deal. Finding out that people like your work is an awesome feeling, I mean that's why we do it after all, to entertain people. And the fact that Meissa got one too was icing on the cake...then again, she won and I didn't so screw her, [Laughs]. Just kidding man, honestly, I couldn't have been happier for her, I thought it was badass that one of us was actually able to walk away with the award.
Clifford: How’d your family take the news about you being nominated? Assuming they knew of course.
Chris: [Laughs], I'm pretty sure they were more excited than I was! And there's some other news regarding the film that I recently found out about, which I am strictly forbidden to talk about...if I'm not mistaken, Princeton (who was the Producer on the film) threatened either my life or my manhood if I mentioned it, [Laughs]...but when I told the family about that, they were very excited for me.
Clifford: So where do you hope to see yourself five years from now in the Business?
Chris: The red carpet at the Academy Awards of course, [Laughs]. I have some very high goals set for myself, and I would love to see some of those start to happen in five years. I would also love to get involved in the voiceover world; animated films and especially video games. I've been a gamer since I was a kid and I still love playing, so if I could do some of that and be able to hear, or even see myself in a game...holy shit, that would be crazy, [Laugh]
Clifford: are there any shout-outs to any family or friends you like to give?
Chris: Sure, why not. Just a quick thank you to the family for supporting me in many different ways over the years; my father Carlos, my mom Cindy, my brother Carlos and his wife Melissa, and my sister Catia. Also a special thanks to Paul LaGrutta, owner of Mulberry Street Restaurant in Woodbridge, NJ for letting us film in his restaurant (he also has a cameo in the film as our waiter, [Laughs]). Congrats to Jace Nicole, who I worked with on "Cookies & Cream", also with Brian and Princeton, for kicking ass like she's been doing! There's a police officer out there somewhere who allowed us to finish filming somewhere we were definitely not supposed to, he's the man! And finally a very sincere thank you to all my friends who continually support my work...I really appreciate it, you guys are awesome!
Clifford: So how does you family feel about you being an actor?
Chris: Fortunately they're my biggest fans. My parents are super supportive, they're always asking me what's going on and what I'm up too...and when they're gonna see me either on TV or the big screen, [Laughs]. When I was first getting started, just taking classes and building confidence, they had their concerns, occasionally chiming in with,"so are you thinking about going by to college for Sports Medicine yet?" But now they realize this is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life, and I've been fortunate to start to have some success, so they're pretty cool...still patiently waiting for TV or Big Screen
Clifford: This next question I’m about to ask you has become somewhat of a tradition for interviews here at TCWreviews.com, so don’t worry, you’re definitely not the first one I’ve asked this question to, and you won’t be the last. [Laughs]
Chris: No there was no "casting couch"
Clifford: The term ‘For The Sake of Art’ have always been coined in the entertainment industry for how far an actor/actress would be willing to go for the sake of art. So my question to you is; How far are you willing to go for the sake of art in this industry?
Chris: Oh damn, great question! Part of the reason I love acting is the fact that you get to be different people and do things you would never get the opportunity to do in real life. So how far? Aside from smoking (I'm really against the stuff and I'll hopefully never have to for a role), I can't think of anything I wouldn't do to be honest. That's what makes this so much freaking fun!
Clifford: Well thanks for taking the time to chit-chat with us about yourself, Chris. We certainly look forward to hearing from you again and would like to invite you to come back and do this again someday in the near future.
Chris: That would be great. Thank you for taking an interest in me and my work, it has been a lot of fun. I'll see you again soon.
And that conclude my interview with actor Chris Riquinha. Chris and I continued to talked for a bit longer after the interview was over, just some miner chit-chat about what opportunities await him, and the possibility of a second interview some time in the near future. I thank you all who read this interview and Chris for partaking in the interview, it sure was a blast! My personal opening on him is; he was an interesting and pleasant interviewee who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. I think giving some time he’ll make a mark of his own in the field of acting, there’s no doubt about it in my mind. Chris is currently starring in “Uptown” (2009) and has appeared in such resent films as “Cookies & Cream” (2008), “Vanishing Point” (2008), “What Really Frightens You” (2009), and soon to be seen in “Butterfly Chasers“ (2010). For more information on Actor Chris Riquinha visit Chrisriquinha.com