This gorgeous, yet humble actor is wowing Hollywood with a new kind of energy
Chris Santos, a star of Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience, and the upcoming films Perfect and Sunday had something happen to him that is considered to be an urban myth in the entertainment industry. While working as a personal trainer, he landed a role in a prestigious film without having to audition.
He was discovered.
However, Chris didn't let his good fortune keep him from wanting to do his best. He wanted to take this opportunity, not take it for granted and use it to springboard into a rekindled love of acting.
Actually, when Chris was twelve, he starred in Amongst Friends, the first film of Entourage and Ballers director Rob Weiss, but he rebelled against acting and went another path for a while. After the new opportunity came his way, he never looked back.
He contacted agents and acting coaches to let them know that he landed a starring Soderbergh's film and he was virtually laughed out of the room. It took awhile for people to believe him, even though he was able to produce proof on Google.
This New York native enjoyed his relocation to Los Angeles and continues to train and take classes so he can become the best actor he can possibly be. His newest films Sunday and Perfect are making their way through the film festival circuit right now and the initial reports on these film are looking amazing.
The industrious, charming, funny and insightful actor Chris Santos spoke with Michelle Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about his professional journey, his early work with director Rob Weiss, his friendship with Steven Soderbergh, how no one in Hollywood believed him when he reached out letting them know that he, an unknown actor was cast as a lead in a Soderbergh film, how having a handsome older brother helped keep him grounded, funny stories about how he was often confused with celebrity chef also named Chris Santos, how he keeps himself motivated and more.
Michelle Tompkins: First— so are you a New Yorker?
Chris Santos: I actually am a New Yorker! I've also lived in Manhattan for around 10 years, then made the move to Los Angeles about 2 years ago.
Michelle Tompkins: You live in L.A. right now?
Chris Santos: I do live in Los Angeles. Yep.
His cute meet with Steven Soderbergh
Michelle Tompkins: Tell me a little bit about your acting training.
Chris Santos: So when I first got here, one of the first clients that I had gotten ended up becoming a pretty big screenwriter in David Levien. He wrote Rounders, Knockaround Guys, Runaway Jury, Issues 13 with Steven Soderbergh. I acted when I was younger from about 12-years-old to about 17-years-old. And I've done a few things. And I really enjoyed it. But once I got into the personal training kind of pulled me away in a different direction.
When I got out to Los Angeles, David Levien gave me a call and he said, ‘Hey, I just wrote this film. And the character in the film is a personal training. And I kind of got done and read it and said, ‘'Wow.' I kind of channeled you as a character into this character. And I'm going to do this film with Steven Soderbergh and I'd like you guys to meet just to sort of get some story notes on being a trainer or whatever. And we'll get you a little check on the side.’ And I just moved out to Los Angeles. And I'm looking for work. And I was like, ‘Great.’ I ended up meeting with Steven Soderbergh and having dinner with him. At the end of the dinner he was like, ‘You know what? I think you're so right for this part. I want to give you this part. You'll do better than an actor could as a personal trainer.’ That's how I ended up getting The Girlfriend Experience, which was my first job out here. And I said to him after we spoke, I said, ‘Look. Obviously you can get young George Clooney to play this part. Brad Pitt. Anybody you want. You sure you want it to be me?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah. Absolutely.’ And then I also said, ‘Should I get an acting coach or something?’ And he's like, ‘No, no, no. I'll walk you through this process. I want you raw. I want you as you are.’ So I did that film with him with no training. It was my first job out here in L.A., which I was very fortunate to do, but also was very, very nervous
Directly after this film, I thought it would be very important to start studying the technacalities of acting. I sort of dove right in and found multiple acting teachers in Los Angeles, Lesly Kahn and Ivana Chubbuck were my first two instructors that I had during the same time, and ended up staying with them for a very long time. I then moved over to Deborah Aquila, whose expertise lies in a more method style acting. I also worked with Margie Haber, who's a phenomenal on-camera coach. I sort of just oscillated between all four of their schools over the last seven or eight years.
Michelle Tompkins: Do you still do personal training?
Chris Santos: I do not do personal training anymore, funny enough. I still get people asking me to train them all the time, or asking me fitness tips. But, no. I haven't trained anyone in a really long time. To be honest, after training people for 10 years, it's nice to take a break from that.
Michelle Tompkins: Now, you said you've played sports. Which sports did you like to play?
Chris Santos: Well, my main sport was wrestling. That was my favorite thing to do. I did a couple of other sports such as baseball and football. However, I loved wrestling and I excelled at it. A couple of my uncles also shared the same love for it growing up which was nice. I sort of then moved toward the Brazillian jiu-jitsu stuff, which is now extremely popular. I've been doing this sort of stuff since high school. I'm a pretty person I would say. I was a triathlete, marathon runner, and trained in Brazillian Jiu-jitsu. If it involves being active, then I like doing it.
Michelle Tompkins: Now, here's the loaded question. What are your sports teams now that you're in LA?
Chris Santos: This is a very, very, scary conversation haha. I'll always have my New York teams and I'll always be a New Yorker at heart and soul. I still have my 917 number and my New York licence, and have always loved my NY teams. Nevertheless, I am probably going to spend the majority of my life in the west coast so I'm trying to move more towards more west coast teams.
Michelle Tompkins: I have my California ID too, so I can understand just in the flip side of things [laughter].
Chris Santos: I can't let go of it. And my New York ID is beat up, it's old, it looks like it's been run over by a train. And I just can't let it go, I don't know why.
I totally know where you're coming from. I don't know why you would go to New York off to Los Angeles because the weather here is phenomenal, but..
Michelle Tompkins: How did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Chris Santos: Well, this is an interesting question because when I was younger— there's five kids in my family, and my mom kind of pushed us all in front of the cameras. Me, when I was 12, with acting, with modeling. And when you're younger and you're growing up and you don't really comprehend the situations you're in. I didn't come out of the womb with my Oscar speech, knowing that I was destined to be an actor. When I hear those stories it drives me wild because I wish all of us had that level of knowledge when we were born. I did not. And so, my mom pushed us in front of cameras.
Probably when I was about 18, part of my rebellion against my parents was deciding I wanted nothing to do with any of that. And I was going to find my own way, which is kind of what brought me to training. But what's really interesting about all that is— So, I went as far away from acting as you could get, only 10 years later to seemingly run directly back into acting because of the thing I ran away from acting with. I quit acting to become a personal trainer, only to 10 years later be cast as a personal trainer in a film, acting [laughter].
I had a feeling that God was trying to explain something to me and I must be very stubborn. But what's so good about returning to acting on a couple levels was one, it was my decision this time, which felt really empowering, and felt really good. And the second part of that was when I quit personal training, which I saw as a craft, as an art. I did it at a very high level. I kind of lost that thing in my life that I had that passion for and when I started training in acting, which was nice, all of that sort of love and passion I had for learning and acting as for training as a craft, transferred over to acting. And I firmly believe, or at least the lie I tell myself is, that if you become really good at a craft people will come find you. If any of that makes sense.
Michelle Tompkins: It does. Now, what was Amongst Friends?
Chris Santos: Okay. So Amongst Friends was the first film I did when I was 12. And that was Rob Weiss' first film. He did it, and does Entourage, Ballers, and I was 12 years old. He lived on Long Island, and it was the first film he did that kind of blew him up. Mira Sorvino was in it and a couple other really good actors. And I had auditioned for it, and it was really funny. He's from a part of Long Island different from the part of Long Island— there's Nassau County and Suffolk County.
And this movie was kind of about wannabe mafia guys in Long Island. And it was cool because I had been brought out to Rob's house, and the audition was for the lead as a child, which I wasn't a child, and he really brought me out there like five times and put me in different improv scenarios with different actors. And he really made it a grueling process, actually, at 12-years-old. And I ended up booking that and doing it, which was a really cool, fun process. And come to be years and years and years later, Rob is exploded and blown up. But when I first moved to Los Angeles I looked him up and we've remained friends ever since. And what's really great is I follow his career and he follows mine, and we laugh about how funny the process was - the castings were at his dad's house in Long Island, and I'd run? into his backyard to do the readings and stuff - and how life can go from that to what it is now. And obviously, he's on a much higher level than I am at this point, but he's still a great guy, and we still keep in touch. So that was really cool.
The Girlfriend Experience the movie that led to the hit Starz series
Michelle Tompkins: What's it like working with Steven Soderbergh?
Chris Santos: I get asked this question a lot, it's really interesting. It's probable opposite of what most people would think. He's really laid back, relaxed, and chill. He just operates on a different frequency
He’s pretty much the only director you show up to set and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m two weeks ahead [laughter].’
He films all day, then cuts all night. By the end of each shooting day, he has some sort of semblance of the film in his mind. Sometimes, we would drive for three hours to a location for them to set up lighting for another three hours, while getting all the players in position and he's like ‘All right, Chris, I want you to go in there and go for this.’ Once we'd get one take, he's like, ‘All right, Great! Let's go, everyone!’
I would then ask if retakes were necessary, in which he would respond, "Why would you do it again? Let's go, c'mon" That was really scary haha.
I would call David Levine and tell him how I was freaked over only doing one take for a lot of the scenes, which I soon learned to not question it and embrace confidence. I have a lot of trust in Dave and Steven, even after being assigned to film the whole jet scene flying to Vegas on The Girlfriend Experience with just a handheld video camera.
I was like [laughter], ‘Steven, hold on. Are you telling me you’re sending me on a plane with a bunch of people right now with a handheld camera and you want to film this stuff for the film on this thing? You’re not coming with us?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah. You got it. Don’t worry about it.’
I walked away [laughter]. So I go up on the plane and I look at all these actors and I said, ‘Okay, guys so here’s the deal. We’re alone and we’re going to film a bunch of stuff. Don’t worry. I know what we’re going to film as we fly to Vegas.’
Michelle Tompkins: Now for people who don't know, what is The Girlfriend Experience?
Chris Santos: Okay. Well, The Girlfriend Experience is a film about a high priced escort called these GFEs which are a type of escort which is kind of a newer type of escort. Which is they don't look like typical hookers per se. They look like a normal girl next door everyday girl and they remember things about you. Let's say you're going to a party or an event, you could take this girl with you and no one is really going think like, ‘Oh, is that a hooker?’
And you have sort of these secondary relationships with them. They know your birthday. They could know your wife's name, your kids' names. They act as a standing girlfriend for you and for that price you pay more. So The Girlfriend Experience is really like a— I won't say a day in a life but sort of like a week in their life film about one of these GFEs. And I play her boyfriend who is well aware of her job and dates her and we live together.
There are different costs per client, which is an interesting sort of dynamic as she ends up falling for one of them. I won't give you the outcome since you have to go watch it first. However, I can say that it's a really cool and artsy film.
Michelle Tompkins: And the series now is on the second season but that's a very different thing.
Chris Santos: Yeah, it inspired this show that's now. Whenever say ‘Oh yeah, I was in The Girlfriend Experience. It's like, ‘Oh yeah, I watched that on Starz.’ And I'm like, ‘No, no, no, I was in the film The Girlfriend Experience. But yeah, it's based on GFEs again but they definitely took liberty of taking that sort of experience in a totally different direction.
Michelle Tompkins: Tell me a little bit more about your character in the movie.
Chris Santos: My character in The Girlfriend Experience is a personal trainer. He's in love with his girlfriend and he's hard-working. He's trying to move up in the personal training world. He would like to try out management or even set up his own gym. He owns his own clothing line that he's created and he's trying to sell it. I believe that a lot of these goals serve the purpose of trying to get out his girlfriend out of prostitution (At least that's how I saw him) I had a hard time getting into the mindset of this character because I couldn't surpass what the difficulties would be like dating a prostitute.
I came to realize that anyone is able to date anyone, if you have the intention of saving them or helping them get help to get out of the current circumstances. I think we've all experienced that with somebody we've dated at some point in time. I really made it the driving force to focus on being this guy who is trying to generate more money in order to provide the lifestyle that she's working for.
I really enjoyed playing him and it was overall a really fun experience. When the film came out, it was not in a bunch of movie theaters. It was really great Soderbergh film, even though in wasn't in everyone's faces.
I actually had a funny experience one of the first times that I went to Vegas after the film came out, which is a true story. Three girls came up to me who identified as prostitutes, but were acting in GFE style, and told me how great of a boyfriend I was. They told me that they would have never dumped me for one of their clients. They were really touched by my character in the film. I always joke to my friends that the only place where I'm a celebrity is in Las Vegas haha.
Chris Santos was not originally believed when he reached out to agents, managers and coaches
Michelle Tompkins: Now how did you celebrate getting the role?
Chris Santos: Well, this was another funny story. Sort of like the time Steven and I met to have dinner. It was just me and him again, alone, and I was very scared. We were having dinner and we were talking about personal training as well as other topics. I just kept thinking to myself, 'Say as little as possible, and get out of here before you say something dumb' which I've been known to do.
After some time, he kind of realized that I was trying to get out of there. Once he noticed, he was like, 'Chris, we're going to sit here, get drunk, and we're going to talk. Nothing you could say will offend me.'
Once he gave me the part, I didn't know how to celebrate. I didn't have a headshot, representation, or 10 years of experience under my belt. Yet, I was still going to lead this Soderbergh film. First, I had to make sure I wasn't going crazy. I was told I needed to have representation during the time of the film. I then asked him to set me up with his agent.
My brother fought for me to get this meeting with an agent at a big agency. I walked in and sat down with this guy. He was just like any typical LA power agent. He was sort of like, ' I don't understand why we're here in this meeting. What are you doing here? You just moved to LA, what are here for?"
And I said, ‘Well, look, I’m going to be the lead of the next Steven Soderbergh film. I really want to get a team together so that we can take advantage of this opportunity. He literally looked at me and started laughing in my face and was like, ‘Okay, you just got to Los Angeles six months ago, you’re going to be the lead in the next Soderbergh film. That’s what you’re telling me in my office here at 10:00 AM?’ I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely. It’s true.’ He said, ‘Do you have any documentation, any emails, any contracts, or anything that support what you just told me?’ And I said, ‘No. We had a dinner the other night.
And he gave me the part.’ And he went, ‘Oh. Okay. Well, that makes sense.’ And he picked up the phone, called security and had me thrown out of the building [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: You're kidding? Oh, wow.
Chris Santos: And I took one or two more meetings after that with a very similar reaction and realized that no one's going to believe this. No one's going to believe it. Like, ‘How is anyone going to believe the story I'm telling them right now?’ So I celebrated [laughter] with myself basically. And it was just more celebrated once the film came to be and once you could actually Google it and see that I wasn't a crazy person.
I mean, even when I went to start training with these acting coaches. I was trying to get meetings with the coaches themselves alone in a room. And they were very resistant. They all have the process you pay your money, and you go to this group reading where everyone reads. And then they place you in this thing. And I was like, ‘Look, I need some special attention.’
And finally, through 20 phone calls, got through to these gurus and teachers and got in a room it was funny enough with Lesly Kahn. And I just basically said, ‘Look, I will pay whatever the dollar amount is to get this woman in a room alone. So whatever that number is, you tell me, I'll pay it. I need to see her alone.’ And that went through a series of five phone calls. ‘Look, she doesn't give business advice.’ It was like every denial. I said, ‘Look, I'm going to be 10 minutes with this woman. She can have the money, and I'll walk out of her office, okay?’ And I walked into her office and sat down. She said, ‘I don't really know why you forced yourself in here to get an appointment with me. I've been doing this for 25 years, and there's no situation you could possibly be in that would require you to meet with me alone right now.’ And I said, ‘Well, strap on your seat belt because we're about to go for a ride [laughter].’
And told her the story, which she didn't believe me. But at this point, it was on Google. I said, ‘Look it up. It's on Google.’ And she literally did right in front of me onto me and found it. And then it was like, ‘Oh my God. Are you telling me you're an actor, that you just started acting, that you just did a lead film with Steven Soderbergh, and the first thing you did after filming was decide you needed to go to school [laughter]?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ And she got up and gave me a hug and a kiss. And she's like, ‘Oh my God. This is so rare. Both athletes come to Los Angeles, burn up their opportunities, and then come to me to pull their head out of their ass.’ She said, ‘This is outstanding. I'm really glad you forced yourself to have an appointment with me.’ And I said, ‘Yeah. Well, that's why called.’ And she's like, ‘Well, can you act?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don't know. That's why I'm here [laughter].’ And she's like, ‘Okay. Well, don't panic. Less worries. Don't panic. Stay calm.’
She threw a bunch of papers and pulled out a scene and was like, ‘Okay. Well, this is good. This is good. Try that. Okay. Go ahead. Just show me what you do here.’ And I just sort of read it and went through whatever semblance of a process I had at that point in time which is basically get this thing done or you're mom dies. It was basically how I would frame things in my head. And she was saying, ‘Before we start, what are you doing right now?’ I said, ‘Well, I'm reading it to figure out what it is, and I'm just going to like put a gun to my head. And if it doesn't get done, I'm going to die.’ She's like, ‘Well, okay. Yeah. That works. Go for that.’ And I read with her, and at the end, she's like, ‘Oh my God.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And she's like, ‘You can act. Oh, you need work but you can act. You need to take my classes but you can act.’ And she actually made a couple phone calls in my behalf at that point because she's like, ‘You need to be reading for things immediately.’ And helped me a lot. But it was definitely a shock to myself and everyone and a funny, funny, funny experience to say the least.
Michelle Tompkins: Now, what is Perfect?
Chris Santos: Okay. So Perfect is the film that I have coming up next which is going to be at South by Southwest (SXSW). And the technical description of the film would be a young man with a violent past enters a mysterious clinic where the patients wildly transform their bodies and minds using genetic engineering. The name of my character is S.T.R.I.P.S. which is an acronym for Standford Research Institution Problem Solver. It is a type of A.I. artificial intelligence.
They don't want me to talking about this too much but what I can tell you is this is definitely a very amazing film.
Michelle Tompkins: And when will this movie be out?
Chris Santos: Well, it's going to premiere at South by Southwest on March 11th is the premiere and then I'll have two more showings on the 13th and the 15th. And then obviously based on those showings if it gets bought or sold to whoever will obviously impact where, when, and how that that comes out.
Michelle Tompkins: And who directed it?
Chris Santos: Eddie Alkazar who I met through chance through somebody and we met and he's a techy. I'm also a techy and we just started literally talking about different technology stuff and then it came that he's a director and it came up that I'm an actor. And he had seen The Girlfriend Experience and was a Soderbergh fan so he kind of fanned me and then I look at his work and I was a fan of his immediately and beyond that we just had this personal connection.
And funny enough, he lives across the street from me here in Los Angeles and we just— he was like, ‘I want to work with you.’ And I was like, ‘I want to work with you.’ And sort of this movie idea for Perfect came about and he introduced me to the writer and I said, ‘I just want you to write something very difficult for me, something very hard, very difficult to pull off,’ which he did. And this movie just somehow organically came to be and Eddie himself is just so talented and I cannot wait for even just the trailer to drop. I'll send it to you and you can get a look at it and it will be on the internet for everybody to see. I really look forward to them to go watch it because even just the trailer itself is just so beautiful. And so after we got done feeling, Eddie approached me and said, ‘Is there any way you think you can get Soderbergh to watch this film and maybe just give us some notes on it?’
And I'm big friends with Steven ever since I'll say GFE for ‘Girlfriend Experience’ but I stayed friends with him ever since GFE and I've never asked him for anything. We've stayed friends. We'd meet up. We have dinners here and there. We don't really ask each other for anything which is probably why our friendship has stayed strong over the years and I really just believed in Eddie that much that I emailed Steven. I said, ‘Hey look. Man, I've never asked you for anything. This guy, I think he's so talented. I think he's so amazing. He has this film. Could I send it to you or have him send it to you and just could you watch it and give us some notes? If this crazy or out of the line question, I understand.’
And he wrote back to me and said, ‘Chris, for you of course. Send it to me.’ And I knew it was a big ask and I was just so scared when I pressed send on that email. And had him set up to watch it and literally I was sitting at my house watching TV and two days had gone by and I just thought, ‘Well, that's probably that.’ And I was watching TV and I just got a text from me said, ‘This guy is really talented.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my god.’ I was like, ‘Really? Do you think so?’ He said, ‘Yeah. I want to meet this guy.’ And he ended up being in LA for a ‘Lucky Logan’ premiere a couple days later or a week later maybe and they had met up and just to talking and Steven was like, ‘Look, I want to help you edit this thing.
I want to get involved.’ And to which he did and so yeah, just this whole very then because none of it was really plotted or planned that way. It just happened to become this really organic thing. And him and Eddy now they speak every day about this film. And he is absolutely involved and is a fan and is helping this thing along. And I knew him and—I really thought him and Eddy would work but not to this level. And it's just been very lucky and gracious that everything has worked this way.
Michelle Tompkins: I think it sounds like a wonderful arrangement and a good friendship, too.
Chris Santos: Yeah, yeah. It's nice. I've taken very careful—I'm very careful about my friendships and meeting people. And I think you should be empowered as a person and an actor and not be afraid to ask people for things. But in a smart way of course. And that's what I did and Steven's wife even came up to me, when I went to the Lucky Logan premier after party, and she said, ‘You know, you're a busy guy Chris. He has 10,000 unopened emails in his email and he opens your emails. And many people don't ask him to do what you did and you did. And hats off to you because obviously it worked out and he loved it. So great job.’
And I just thought, ‘Wow, I'm really glad I did that.’ Had I not none of this—the film is still wonderful without Steven. And Eddy's amazing and everyone in that film is so talented and amazing. The whole cast is so talented and amazing. But adding Steven on top of that is just like a cherry on top.
Michelle Tompkins: But also you were right. You chose something that you knew he would like. That's part of it as well.
Chris Santos: Yeah. You have to plan your shots accordingly. You have to plan your opportunities accordingly. That's like a lot of people mess up in life because they bring, even if it's the right thing, they bring it to the wrong people. And if it's not someone's cup of tea, you shouldn't bring it to them. And if it is, you should. But you really want to—I've known Steven now since 2008. I've never sent him anything. And I've had people approach me to do it, of course. But I'm like, ‘This is not Steven.’ And Steven does all different things all over the map. I mean I'm not saying I can define Steven by any level. But I just know I think what he would respond to and I just really felt he would response to this, in which he did. So it was great.
Michelle Tompkins: Now, what is Sunday?
Chris Santos: Okay. You're pretty good at this. You should do this professionally.
So, Sunday is another film I have coming out this year. And this is another really cool one. I have to say it's really cool to play characters that you normally probably you wouldn't expect—I guess I'd be called a classically good looking guy. The classically good-looking guy would get to play. So I really enjoyed playing that sort of dark, crazy character that I played in Perfect.
And then Sunday I get to play a classical composer, a famous classical composer, which was just another great role, a great challenge. And the real summary of the film is that it's two strangers who meet on a 14-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Adam is a world-famous composer, but Melody doesn't recognize her flight companion seated next to her. On their way, they pour their hearts out forging a connection that is more beautiful precisely because of it's simple, fleeting nature. And that's basically what that's about. That was really nicely written.
But you know what that is, we've all had those times in life whether it be a bartender or someone you meet in a bar, or a restaurant, or a store that you end up just having this profound connection to and you don't really know why and you end up sharing stories and experiences with this person that you normally wouldn't share with someone, maybe no one in your life unless you have known them for a very long time but for some reason it just happens that way. And you leave and you don't exchange numbers or you don't exchange contact - or maybe you do - but you just never really speak with that person ever again. And— sorry, I'm getting chills while I just said that but we've all had that. I feel like it's impossible for a human not to have that interaction with somebody at some point and how cool and how interesting. You know you always look back and you do always think of that person and even if you never saw them again. And this is the sort of a film that takes that experience and tries to capture it in a bottle and I think it's pretty cool.
Michelle Tompkins: It sounds like it is.
Chris Santos: Yeah. And so we get onto to this really long flight and having this really great experience, I don't want to give everything away on this one either but throughout the film you're going to see sort of like— there's going to be a jump, there's a lot of jump scenes where you're going to be flashed into a dream sequence which is pretty cool. And you're not really ever going to see the people's faces until the end of the film.
Now, does that mean it was in a former life, is that in a future life, is that in another reality? You don't know. But when you think about these people that you meet and you just recognize you had this connection to its kind of hard to understand - did you know Mark Thurston in a former life? Or how do you know that? Why did you feel that open with that person? So this film kind of really [examines?] that. And I think it's really cool.
Michelle Tompkins: Sounds like it is. When does that come out?
Chris Santos: It's also getting pushed in the festivals. I'm hoping it will come out in Tribeca because that would just be a dream come true.
And if it’s not Tribeca , then it will be some other festival. It’s definitely going to get into a festival. It’s absolutely gorgeously shot. And I just can’t speak more highly of the acting and the writing and the producing of all, this was outstanding.
How having an older brother gave him a different perspective on his appearance
Michelle Tompkins: Kind of off topic question. How tall are you?
Chris Santos: I'm 5'11’.
Michelle Tompkins: You're a super duper good looking guy. I wanted to actually just know what height you are as well.
Chris Santos: Okay, yeah. It's funny because—thank you for the compliment, by the way. This is hard for me. I comprehend that a good looking guy—what's funny is like I say, there's five kids in my family. I have a brother that was born a year and 10 months older than me. And we look so similar you would think we were twins. However, growing up, a year and 10 months, let's just call it two years is not a lot of time right now.
But when you're 10 and your brother's 12 and he looks like you and he looks like the two-year, bigger, better version of you [laughter]. It's really demeaning. Had my brother not look like me I think I'd probably have like a 'I'm a really good looking guy' mentality. But the fact that he looks exactly like me but just two years bigger and better it was really, really hard growing up with him as a brother. Because even if a girl had met me and thought I was good looking or charming or whatever it was, he would walk in the room—and I don't blame him—but I would disappear. Because here's this two year bigger, better version of me. And you have a 10-year-old boy, you have a 12-year-old boy, you have a 12-year-old boy, you have a 14-year-old boy.
It just went on and on and on and on. I turned 27, he turned 29. Now the pendulum starts to swing back in my direction.
It forced me to really develop a personality, a sense of humor, intellect, and really be able to forge what's inside of a person, and not rely on my looks. Because, obviously, as brothers, we're very competitive.
So if I like something, he would try to take it from me [laughter]. So it's hard for me. And I think as I've gotten older, and grown into being a man, it's suited my looks more. So now, when people say like, ‘Oh, you're really good-looking,’ it's like, it's not hard for me to take a compliment. It's hard for me to really look at myself in that way. I've never considered myself that way, so— and I think that's helped me out in life a lot.
Michelle Tompkins: It's being aware of your looks, but it's not being a slave to them.
Chris Santos: Or relying on them. When I was dealing with the PR for this film, they were like, ‘Oh, you're so good-looking. We'll talk about it.’ I said, ‘I don't want to speak on my looks. I want to speak on my training, I want to speak on my art, I want to speak on who I am. I don't want anything— I would never want someone to cast me because I was good-looking.’
And, by the way, I don't even do well on those auditions, where they're like, ‘Hey, lady. How's it going?’ I don't even know how to do that [laughter]. I don't even know what that looks like. And there's a lot of guys out there that would crush that. I'm just not that guy. Ask me to play a preacher who dressed like a pimp, well, now I know what I'm doing [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: Well also, even though you take care of yourself and keep yourself fit, you also got to give your family, your parents, credit for it. You don't have much to say about your own genetics, so a little luck came into play there.
Chris Santos: Look, a lot of luck came into play there, and what's funny is, all the kids in my family, we all look like we were genetically cloned, because we all look alike. And even our, there's nieces and nephews now happening that are two to five years old, and they look like us. It looks like whatever genetics the other parent had was just crushed by good genetics, and they all— because my brothers and sisters look like me, it looks like all these kids could be my kids.
And even again, funny enough, my brother's kid, when he was about two, if I was in the room and my brother was not, he would call me daddy. And it was the weirdest thing, because him and I look alike, the kid looks like, if it would be my kid, so it would be weird. I don't have any children, but it would be so funny. And then, if my brother would come into the room, I would ask him - my nephew's name is Jagger - I'd say, ‘Jagger, who am I?’ And he'd say, ‘You're daddy.’ And I'd say, ‘And then, who's that guy?’ And he would just get the most confused look on his face, and he was sad. And he says, ‘Daddy?’ [laughter]. He couldn't comprehend the difference. So I definitely got lucky on the genetic train.
Michelle Tompkins: What is your cultural background, if you don't mind my asking?.
Chris Santos: Yeah. So I'm Portuguese and Brazilian on my dad's side. That's where the Santos comes from. And then, I'm very Irish, to make my mom happy, on my mother's side. She gets very upset if I don't say that. Irish is not as interesting as Portuguese and Brazilian, but I am 50% Irish. And my name reads that way, Christopher Patrick Santos. So it's like, Irish, Irish, take a left turn to Brazilian. But yeah. So that's my genetic makeup, and I feel all those things. I feel Irish, and my mom tells me my bone structure is Irish. And then, I feel Portuguese, and my grandparents tell me I'm very Portuguese. So I feel like I'm a good mix of all those things.
Michelle Tompkins: What do you like to do for fun?
Chris Santos: Well, I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay. Well, recently, a year ago, I decided to try to become a vegetarian. And sort of made a life switch to that— or actually, vegan, should I say. I went first full-on vegan. And so, I really had to reprogram my life from the ground up, and made the decision kind of overnight. And really woke up one morning and threw almost everything out of my refrigerator and went to the store and just started from scratch as a vegan. So a good portion of the last year was learning how to cook food for myself that I actually enjoy. I'm a die-hard animal product lover, but I understand a healthier lifestyle is getting a lot more plant-based stuff. So that's what I enjoy doing for fun is sort of learning and studying and cooking. I love to read. I love reading.
A guilty pleasure of mine is I do play video games sometimes. That's an old habit that is dying very hard, but I'm also very good, so that's why it's very hard to let go of. Some speak about sports. I keep a small portion of my time left for video gaming during the week. When you're stressed out or upset or angry, shooting some people in the head with fake guns, fake guns, could be a stress reliever.
Michelle Tompkins: Well, everyone needs their goof-off activity and I think none is loftier than others. Some people readers. Some people like to do scrapbooking. Some people play video games. I like TV and cooking.
Chris Santos: There you go. There you go. Exactly.
Michelle Tompkins: And how do you like fans to connect with you?
Chris Santos: Fans can connect with me on many levels. My Facebook. Obviously, Chris Santos. And I think I'm pretty easy to find then. And my Instagram is theycallemesantos, my Twitter is ImChrisSantos, and that's it. Otherwise, they can talk to me and have sleeping bags outside of my house if they wanted to [laughter].
He muses on Chef Chris Santos
Michelle Tompkins: There's also a celebrity chef named Chris Santos as well.
Chris Santos: There actually is. And I have a couple more funny stories about him. Again, back when I lived in New York and before Google was— well, the thing anyone did when they got your name. And I didn't even know there was a celebrity chef Chris Santos.
I would say 2 out of 10 times I made a dinner reservation at a restaurant when I would show up, they would cut me straight to the front of the line. They would give me a table. There would be a bottle comp champagne next to the table. And the chef would come out, introduce himself, and thank me for coming to his restaurant and then send me things [laughter]. And I was most likely to be on a date and the girl would look at me and say, ‘Who are you?’ And I said, ‘I have no idea who I am. I don't know why—’ and the chef will say, ‘Chef, it's an honor to meet you. And I just think you're so talented.’ And I would say, ‘Thank you very much.’ They're like, ‘You're really good looking too for a chef.’ And I would say, ‘Thank you very much.’ And it happened for, I'd say, probably about three years. And then Google became more prevalent. And I remember I showed up to a restaurant one day and I said, ‘Hi. I have a 9:30. Chris Santos.’ And the woman looked at me and said, ‘Yeah. Where is Mr. Santos?’ And I said, ‘Well, I am Mr. Santos [laughter].’ And she looked at me with a perplexed look and then said, ‘Well, the bar is right over there. We'll be with you in a few minutes.’ And that all came to an end.
But Chris and I, we obviously, not directly, indirectly compete for the Google space of Chris Santos. So it's become this sort of lifelong thing of us seeing each other's faces. Because on any given day, you Google Chris Santos, you're going to get him. You're going to get me. You'll get both of us whatever. And whenever he opens a restaurant, I get 10 angry emails from people telling me why did I not tell them I'm now a chef and invite them to my restaurant opening. And people come up to him and ask him when he's doing his next film.
— Chris Santos (@SantosCooks) March 20, 2018
So we ended up linking up over at social media and laughing and met about a year ago out at a place. And it's so funny because his name is Christopher Thomas Santos. He's also Irish and Portuguese. He's from New York, and we text each other all the time. Sometimes, I text myself— you text yourself reminders. And I'll text myself and I'll be like, ‘Pick up almond milk.’ And I accidentally text it to him, and he's like, ‘Okay. Will do, Chris.’ And I'm like, ‘Oh, shucks. I'm so sorry [laughter].’
And I live in Hollywood and he just opened a restaurant, Beauty & Essex, right here in Hollywood. And I love to go in there and just tell people how I'm really their boss and they need to listen to me. And if you open the menu at Beauty & Essex, it says Executive Chef Chris Santos right there on the menu. And so I just— I think I have a very fortunate life involved in a lot of humorous relationships and people that you just— me being myself, I don't think I exude anything— these people are so amazing people that I've just been very fortunate and lucky enough to meet and have relationships and connections with in a funny way.
Michelle Tompkins: What is something you want people to know about you?
Chris Santos: That I work my ass off. I wake up and I think it's something I want them to know about me but it's something I want them to know in general.
If they're looking to be an actor and it's something that you're going to pursue or anything you're going to do in life, you better be waking up. You better hit that day hard and you better be studying, reading, learning, challenging, doing.
My favorite thing to ask actors is what are you working on and what are you studying, what are you reading, what play are you reading now, what scenes are you working on, what school do you study at? And I'm shocked always by people who come up with nothing. I'm not working on anything. I went to school. I graduated from Yale, MFA. That was 10 years ago and so I'm studied and I'm learned and I'm this and I'm that and to me, that would sound like well, I got in shape 10 years ago so I gave up on going to the gym.
Michelle Tompkins: So what's next for you?
Chris Santos: Well, for 2018 I put a board up on my wall and I didn't make one goal. I think I made like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 [laughter].
I made 18 goals. I made 18 cards. I pinned them into a board and some of them small. Some of them are small as speak to your family and friends more. And some of them are massive like what would I say my goal in the next year is to be in three more films, to be in three TV shows, produce one project and to write two projects. That is my goal [laughter]. It's massive.
Michelle Tompkins: That is massive.
Chris Santos: It's massive and I know it is and I did it for a reason because it's going to require me to wake up and attack that goal every day. And along the way, there's 17 other really gettable ones and if I get half of that big one, I'm going to feel good about that. And I'll just keep it pinned to the wall and I'll take it down when I get there but I'm coming for it. And that is my goal.
Michelle Tompkins: there anything else you'd like to add?
No, I wish everyone out there that's pursuing this really hard dream that we all are pursuing to stick with it and to keep studying, keep learning, don't give up, don't listen to anybody, feel good about yourself, feel good about what you do. When someone asks you what you do you say, ‘I'm an actor.’ You don't feel bad about that. And don't apologize for that. And knock on doors, kick ass.
One last quick story I'll give you that might help some people out there is after the film—you do a successful film and you expect yourself to blow up. You're like, ‘Yeah, I'm going to do this and that film. And I made it and people are going to kick down my door.’ I’ll be acting opposite George Clooney and then Ocean's 19. And that just doesn't happen. That just doesn't happen. And I had representation. And after a couple of years—well, first I wanted to study.
So I kind of shied away for some opportunities because I really wanted to get the technical background. Because you really only need to mess up once or twice in acting before you're labeled as not a good actor. So I really wanted to get that technical background and then circle back around on opportunities. But once I got the technical background with the team that I had, I said, ‘You know look—I had also realized after about six or seven years of acting, I have never once had an audition for a TV show or a film that I actually wanted to be on. And that was a pretty scary revelation. And then I also started asking a bunch of actors. I asked every actor I ever met. I said, ‘Can I ask you a question? Can you count to me how many times you've actually auditioned for a TV show or a film you've actually wanted to go on to be on’? And I was blown away by the amount of never's I got.
And I realized at some point that that was my fault. That wasn't their fault. That was my fault. I didn't identify that to them. I didn't identify it for myself. So I kind of went on this journey and I looked up every TV show and film I'd ever wanted to be on. And then I looked up who cast that TV show, film. Who produced it? Who cast it? Who wrote it? And I realized that well, if I don't know who they are, why the hell should they know who I am? And I put this on myself and I kind of ripped one of my walls down again. And I put up this hit list of casting directors, writers, directors, producers of people that I just decided we're going to know who I was. And I called my team and I said, ‘Hey guys, I'm sending you an email. It's a list of 10 TV shows and films that I would like to have been in or be on. And you have six months to get me in three of those rooms or you're fired.’ And they were like, ‘Chris, that's extreme.’ I said, ‘It is extreme. And it's what I want.’ And after six months none of the people on that list had I gone in and met. And so I made a decision. I called them and said, ‘Thank you for all your help, but I'm firing you guys.’
And really just looked at it and said on myself—trying to look at this thing as a more empowered person. As sort of like—not like, ‘Oh, please help me.’ But like,’ You know, I know people. I'm good with people. I can meet people. And I can connect people.’ And so I wanted to do it for myself. And again, with having the confidence of that training I'd walk in a room and give me a piece of paper. I'm going to make those words dance. And so, I went out and if they had workshops I took them. If I knew someone that knew them I made them introduce me. And I started peeling these names off the walls at a pretty good pace. And did and got a lot of them pulled off. And that led to where I am now with these films and these opportunities and these things. And what I would say to people is don't be afraid to start doing it for yourself. Stop waiting for people to do it for you. Start doing it for yourself.
Chris Santos may be followed here and you can seem him soon in theaters near you in Sunday and Perfect.