David Opie sits down with actor Yotuel Romero to talk about The Companion, a Cuban drama set during the 1980’s HIV epidemic. The film is currently having a successful run at film festivals worldwide and our four star review is available to read here…
David Opie: The Companion is a fantastic film and you did an excellent job in the lead role. What originally attracted you to this project?
Yotuel Romero: What drew me to this project was the incredible story about overcoming obstacles and the friendships the character shares. Horacio and I don’t have much in common. However, there are some things in my life that remind me of him. One day, I was doing research on the internet, looking for Cuban film directors and magically, I stopped when I saw the name “Pavel Giroud”. I tried to contact Pavel to show him a script my wife and I had written, but I couldn’t reach him. Six months later, he contacted me to offer me the lead role of his new movie. I was like “Wow, thats what I call fate!”
DO: Could you please describe your character in The Companion and his journey? What is your favourite scene in the film?
YR: Horacio is a quiet warrior and sometimes a bit shy. He is an unstoppable fighter with many goals to reach, especially at the end of his career. Horacio’s fear of not making his dreams come true is also his nightmare, but at the same time, this gives him the energy to keep trying, no matter what, to be the best in his league or weight. This also works against him when he uses illegal substances in the sport. My favourite scene is when Horacio meets again with his coach in the hospital. There, the coach ends up destroying his only and last dream.
DO: What challenges did you face filming the role of Horacio?
YR: I had to lower my energy, especially when speaking, including my laughter, my expressions. I had to stop being Yotuel so I could get into the skin of a lonely athlete, a revolutionary and shy one. I had to become more serious, more calculating and I had to try to express everything only with my eyes. I had to stop being a street rapper, so I could turn in to a lonely wolf.
DO: The boxing scenes in the film looked intense! What preparations did you need to make beforehand? Do you box as a hobby?
YR: I had never done boxing in my life, but I feel passionate about it and I feel I am a frustrated boxer (laughs). My mother never wanted me to practice it, you know, “ mother stuff”, but anyway I took the challenge and I started training with a Cuban boxing legend. He was an olympic champion twice and he is also an amazing person. From him, I learned not only how to box. I also studied his gestures, his way of walking and manifest in life. I took so much from him to help bring Horacio to life. Don’t tell this to anybody!! (laughs), I am honoured to say his name: HÉCTOR VINENT.
DO: The Companion explores the difficult subject matter of HIV and AIDs. What was the atmosphere on set like between takes?
YR: We were not scared, but we were very nervous to revive every moment. Also, the hospital scenes were so real that it was a bit scary at times.
DO: People remain divisive over how Cuba dealt with the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s. How do you feel about this?
YR: I think Cuba tried to face this unknown disease in a very unorthodox way, but the fear of dying was too prevalent and nobody wanted to take the risk of losing control, neither Cuba nor any other country in the world. There were mistakes, but even so, at least part of the population felt protected.
DO: You have had a hugely varied and successful career across modelling, music, TV and film. What achievements are you most proud of?
YR: I think I am still looking for success and this is what helps me keep my feet on the ground and wake up every day, waiting for great news.
DO: What’s more important to you? Success in music or film?
YR: Music and film… wow, what a great question! I am very passionate about film, simply because I can put myself into someone else’s skin, but I’m also very passionate about music, because then I can just be myself.
DO: If you could emulate the career of any actor, who would you choose and why?
YR: I would love to be able to emulate Denzel Washington’s career.
DO: What’s next for you once promotion for The Companion has been completed?
YR: After the promotion of The Companion…I have to keep dreaming!! (laughs)
Many thanks to Yotuel Romero for taking the time for this interview.