Bad Guy Goes Good
Juan Diego Botto plays a bad guy, but you have to love him in TNT's Good Behavior.
Juan Diego Botto burst on to the American TV landscape as Michelle Dockery’s sexy co-star in the new TNT series Good Behavior.
Botto stars as Javier Pereira, a charming hit man who gets involved with Dockery’s troubled Letty Raines. Although he’s been acting since he was five years old and has starred in over 30 films, this is the Spanish movie star’s first role in a TV series.
Emmys.com recently had the chance to talk to Botto about his new role, adjusting to a TV schedule and what’s like to plays someone who so deliciously bad.
How did this part come about for you?
I was in Madrid, Spain which is where I live. My agent sent me the script. I read the script and I loved it. I taped myself and a week later they called me. I flew to LA for a chemistry read with Michelle. I did that read and apparently, it went well and I got the part.
Were you looking to do American television?
Yes and no. I do have an American agent. But I mean a good story could come from Latin America, Italy, London. A good story is a good story and this is a good story. So it was not like I was looking to jump to the U.S. I was just looking for a good story and I was lucky enough to get this one.
Javier is a professional hit man yet I didn’t hate him. How hard is that to play? To make your character, who is doing something so despicable, someone audiences will want to watch?
That was the whole challenge. That was the most difficult for me to get. This is a guy who kills people for money which is unjustifiable but other than that he’s a great guy. It’s just one little tiny small thing. [laughs]
But seriously he has a strong moral code. He really likes to follow the rules. He’s able to understand other people. He’s able to put himself in other people’s shoes. Meaning he’s not psychopath. He’s caring. For me the hardest part of my job, how can you combine those two contradictory aspects in one person? To me that was the whole thing, that was the whole job.
And I think that’s part of the fun of the show. You have these two characters: She’s a con artist thief, a drug addict, who doesn’t have custody of her own son and you have this guy who kills people for money. And these are your main character and you’re going to like them, that’s the challenge.
What helped you figure him out?
Two things—the first and most important has to do with love. He immediately feels something for this woman and that was one of the basic roots where I started to build my character. If you have this kind of job, you don’t share it with a lot of people and this woman knows what he does from the very beginning.
It’s probably the first time I can be with someone who knows what I do. That was very important for me to get Javier.
The other thing is something you are going to see in a few episodes. It has to do with Javier’s past, that was very helpful too. It’s something to do with why he does what he does. Chad Hodge, the showrunner, the creator of the show, was very helpful in giving me insights.
And you knew this about Javier’s past before you started filming?
Yes. This is my first time doing TV. I wasn’t used to television. With films, you have a script and you know the beginning, middle and end right from the start. I’m used to knowing where the character is going to land. But in TV you don’t have that, I wasn’t used to this. I bothered Chad a lot with a million questions.
I did get the basic arc of the character, the basic circumstances. Where he’s coming from and why. Chad is wonderful because he knows everything about Letty. Everything about Javier. So I knew that from the get go. I knew that from the start.
How was the adjustment to the schedule of TV?
I love rehearsing. In theater, you rehearse over and over and over. In a film, I start working one, two months before we start shooting. That first day of filming I know the whole thing which is not how it is on TV. You start a script today and then three days later you get the script for the next week. Another 60 pages that you’ve got to learn.
Michelle loves to rehearse and so do I. We manage to always rehearse a bit.
Is this the first time you’ve played a character who exclusively speaks English?
Not the first time, but it’s the longest. When I’m Javier I think in English because he does. The only frustrating part is when I want to improvise and I can’t find the word and that’s very frustrating because I love words, I’m good with them in Spanish. It’s very frustrating when there’s a precise word that is going to describe a feeling and you can’t find it.
Had you ever met or worked with Michelle Dockery before this part?
No, we met at a chemistry test in LA and we had fun from that moment on. It’s an audition. You don’t get to have fun at an audition because you’re nervous but I did.
You know I’m promoting the show and I’m supposed to say this and everybody says this but in this case it’s true. She’s a wonderful actress to work with. She’s a wonderful co-worker. She loves what she does. It’s wonderful to watch her. She’s very well prepared all the time which I really appreciate. She’s a lot of fun.
We understand our job in the same way. It’ s really really a pleasure to work with an actress like her.
I read that you began acting when you were five years old. Is that right?
Yes, my mom is a theater teacher. They were looking for a five-year-old kid for a film and I was around. They told me it would involve not going to school for a while and I just thought, “Yeah. I’ll do that.”
Did there come a time when, as an adult, you had to re-commit to acting as your career? Did you ever want to do anything else?
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an actor and I did a film when I was 14 that when it opened I was at the premiere and I watched myself and I thought, “I’m a bad actor.” That’s when I decided I wanted to study this, that I wanted to go to drama school. I wanted to be a good actor. That’s the moment I decided this is definitely what I wanted to do.
Where did you study?
The first two years I studied in my mother’s school then I went to New York. I went to HB Studio which is a drama school in New York. I had a wonderful time in New York. I was a teenager in New York so I had the best time.
Then I went back to Madrid. I started doing films very early on. Then I started my own theater company, a very small theater but a beautiful theater. So yeah this is my life.
In addition to Good Behavior, what are you working on?
Right now, I’m writing a theater piece that’s almost finished that I’ll probably do next year.