Interview with Actor Maurice Compte of NarcosDecember 18, 2015
With some solid work in television already on his resume, actor Maurice Compte is currently enjoying great success portraying Horacio Carrillo on the Netflix show Narcos. Recently, we had a chance to talk to Maurice about how he became an actor, his experience on Narcos and what is coming up for him in the future.
Were you always interesting in acting or did you kind of fall into it, like a nice surprise?
I was never really into acting, actually. I loved movies and the stories that were told but as far as acting itself, that didn’t happen until the eleventh hour for me. In high school I had already decided I was going to join the Marines, I had signed up for ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), I just needed one credit to graduate high school and that happened to be a fine art credit and I waited so long to register because that was my MO back then that the only thing that was open was acting. So I took it and I hated it, it was just the worst. I was an introvert and still am to some extent but for sure back then I had very little skills when it came to relating to other people, I’ve just never been a good person with small talk. When I was young I didn’t have that ability so when they would ask us to get up on stage and do an improve, I would just shut down and tell the teacher there is no way, I’ll just take the F and I thought for sure I was going to fail out of class. I was going through a lot of turmoil at home as well, my Grandmother was dying and in the hospital so I would straight from the hospital to school and I was just under a lot of stress. It was my teacher, really one of the first big influences of my life, who came up to me after class and said look, I know you don’t want to be here but if you don’t get up on stage tomorrow don’t come back. So the next day I went back, nobody was expecting me to show up to class because a few people had heard her give me that speech but the thing is, it was here that I discovered the stage is totally safe. Anything I did was ok for me to do there. People were reacting to me and I’d never had that connection, I’d never been able to express myself that way.
So what happened after you had this revelation about being on stage?
Well, the teacher then asked me to audition for the after school play, I said I was busy even though I really wasn’t, I showed up at the end of school. She was the first person to take a genuine interest in me and I needed that, my body, my soul needed that. So I showed up after school and did an improv with another actor, he is actually doing quite well right now, his name is Saul Rodriguez. He is one of my best friends to this day and he’s on Last Man on Earth but we did an improv together and what I released on that stage I’m telling you, everyone there felt how I was feeling, all the pent up emotion from what I was going through with my grandmother. I didn’t know that could happen, I didn’t know you could do that. We ended up doing a play and taking it to National competition and it won every award, I even won best actor! At the end of play, because we won, we had all these universities there, they were like recruiters for acting school and I told them I can’t do it, I’m joining the Marines. That’s when they said you know, they have to release you to higher education so I said please take me and they did, and I ended up getting a free ride to school. It was amazing, my whole life changed thanks to one teacher and every time I go home to Miami I still talk to her, she was the first person who ever took an interest in me.
You’ve worked on some notable television series like 24 and Breaking Bad and now Narcos. Is this the medium you enjoying working in the most or are you just as happy working on movies?
You know it depends, I love telling stories. I love characters, I love having the opportunity to make people feel things and be connected. It really doesn’t matter to me what medium it comes in, I love stage as well, even though you won’t see that in my resume, I love the connection with people, where we entertain the conscious self so that we can actually speak to the subconscious, that’s the part that I really enjoy.
What was your reaction when you read the script for Narcos and could you tell me a little bit about the audition for the part of Horatio?
Yeah it was crazy, when I read the story I thought it would be nuts. There was a lot of violence going on, it was amazing. There was also a lot of integrity going on in the character of Horatio, which was also very appealing. I had worked with Chris Brancato on a series years ago, a pilot that never took off, and at the end of the pilot Chris said to me look, if this doesn’t work out I’m going to find something for you, something big and we’re going to work together again. So when I went into this meeting, I had done my screen test for it, to have Chris Brancato call me at home after fifteen years and say hey, remember when I told you I would put you in something big, well this is it. You don’t have to test and Netflix has already approved you. Do you want it? Hell yes, I told him, I want it! It was pretty amazing.
So how has your experience been, not only playing Horatio but being on the show Narcos itself?
You know, Narcos has been a wonderful experience, a great learning curve for me both as an actor and as a human being. We were in a completely different country, away from all the comforts of home and finding new things to make this place feel like home. New cultural things about human beings that we were able to explore, you know we were there for seven months in the first season and it was a long time to be away. Towards the end I missed my wife, I missed my child, my family but the experience itself was pretty stellar. It was great to be a part of that show, to see the influence that the show had, it was really a story that needed to be told the way that it was told. It showed Pablo in a different light, reversing the stereotype that Columbians have had hanging over their heads for so many years.
Now you mentioned that you went to Columbia to shoot Narcos. What was that like, both as an actor and simply as Maurice Compte?
Personally, when you go somewhere new and see people walking down the street with machine guns it’s like wow, this is interesting. But after a while, you see it so often they just begin to blend into the background like a tree, you don’t even see them anymore. It’s very different and to see that as an actor, that this was part of someone’s daily life and if I lived here, my life would be influenced by this at some level. It really created an ongoing narrative in my head, the potential for such a different life than the one that I’ve lived, it was wonderful.
In 2008, you wrote and directed a short film called Vamonos. What was that experience like and do you have any plans to write or direct in the future?
Yeah, I did that with Marina Valle, she’s a great writer and filmmaker. She actually had written the script originally but we got together and re-wrote it and she allowed me the opportunity to direct it, she is the one who plays my girlfriend in it. It was very homegrown and we did pretty well and after that I thought I might have the opportunity to direct again down the road. Again, I love connecting with people so much it would be interesting for me to be able to take an actor and be able to talk to him and understand his or her perspective and allow that to just flow. I think that would be a wonderful experience at some point in my life but right now I’m still learning the ropes.
I noticed you have a few interesting projects coming up in 2016. Can you tell me a little bit about them?
Sure. I’m involved in another Netflix project with Kevin James, directed by Jeff Wadlow, where I would say it is loosely based on the premise of Die Hard. There are some dark comedic aspects to it along with a lot of action, Jeff Wadlow is an amazing director. The other project I have is with Jason Momoma, Bruce Willis and John Goodman called Going Under. It’s written and directed by Mark and Robb Cullen. It’s a great story, another wonderful humanistic story. I think after all the dark and serious work I’ve done it’s nice to do something lighter that still has a deep meaning in there.