Rising Star Angelo Reyes on The Five Things You Need to Shine in The Entertainment Industry
An Interview with Edward Sylvan
Seek a mentor in the industry as they will be part of your advisory board in your journey. This is important. When I started, I didn’t have anyone to guide me. I made many mistakes such as how my resume should be outlined and what to include in it. I think everyone should find someone that has had lots of experience in the industry to help you and when you get to the point where you are established, you should mentor someone. If we keep this trend and help one another as we walk this journey, it won’t be so lonely.
Asa part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Angelo Reyes.
Filipino/Italian American, Angelo Reyes began his professional life as a creative designer in the advertising industry. Later, he decided to explore the television industry by hosting and co-producing the motorsports show Street Vision Garage.
He then studied with Lynette Sheldon at the LS Acting Studio in New York and soon relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his aspirations as an actor. He has appeared in the 2020 Netflix film Hill Billy Elegy, the 2010 comedy-crime-drama The Bill Collector, HBO’s The Outsider, the 2013 drama-thriller Killing Kennedy, and others.
After achieving success in the acting realm, he decided to explore his talent as a director. In 2015, he produced his first short film titled Heartless. In 2018, he was recognized with the Rising Star Award at Westfield International Film Festival for Groomed, a short about human trafficking that he both produced and directed.
His latest project, 21st & Colonial is based on a true story about a young Black man struggling to support his family crosses paths with an overworked police officer with PTSD. The short, which he co-wrote, directed, and stars in, won a REMI Award at the 54th Worldfest International Film Festival and has been named an official selection at several festivals. Mr. Reyes plans to develop the story into a feature film.
Deeply in touch with his Filipino and Italian roots, Mr. Reyes is dedicated to creating films that explore the intricacies of different cultures and promote tolerance, diversity and inclusion.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grewrew up in a biracial family. My father, now retired from the US Navy is from Angono, Rizal Philippines and my mother is from Naples, Italy. I was a military brat and spent the first nine years of my childhood in Naples, Italy.
Memories that stick out to me — going to my Nonna’s house in Pozzuoli and I was always greeted with the smell of graffe, which is a Neapolitan donut. My love for soccer — Nonna lived walking distance away from the San Paolo Stadium (now named Diego Armando Maradona Stadium) and you could hear the crowd cheer during soccer games right from her balcony. The streets were quiet during games especially when Napoli was playing.
My mom is the eldest of eight siblings, so I was always around family and there was never a dull moment growing up, especially with Neapolitans. On the flip side of things, my father would always keep my brothers and I busy playing soccer and other sports on the Naval Base in Carney Park. We would have picnics and family gatherings with Filipinos from his fellow Navy sailors and Italians, and food would consist of pasta, pancit, lumpia, and prosciutto. So, the blends seemed normal to me, and I never really saw myself as different.
I went to a Catholic school in Italy, where I was taught by nuns. I only went to the school for a couple of years. At the time I didn’t understand why I was always getting put in the corner. I also had to wear a dunce cap. No matter what I did, it seemed that I was always getting punished. We would wear uniforms that were long-sleeved. I remember the nun would tell me to hold out my hands and she would hit me with a ruler. The kids would call me the Chinese kid. I never understood why, as I always thought I was one of them. It wasn’t until later into my adult life that my mom told me why she pulled me out of class. She found out that I was getting mistreated and eventually transferred me to a DOD school on base.
Then my dad got orders to transfer to Norfolk, Virginia. I was about nine years old. I was excited but also sad to leave Italy and my family because it is all I had ever known. The first few months in America were rough for me. I got incredibly sick and was hospitalized for a month. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and that I had caught a virus of some sort. I would recover eventually, and my body would heal on its own.
We settled in Virginia Beach. In Italy, I was around more of my mom’s family. Living in Virginia Beach, I had more of my dad’s family around me and a growing Filipino population. Believe it or not, I would end up growing up learning more of my Filipino culture. Throughout the years, I would go through changes and challenges that would change my course in life.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was always artistic growing up. My mom had me playing multiple instruments, such as piano, violin, and trumpet. I even did ballet at one point. I started drawing and painting at six years old. Acting was always something I knew I was going to do. When I was in elementary school, I would write plays and act them out to the class. At age 14, I wrote, directed, and acted in my own homemade martial arts movie. It was harder back then with VHS, but I found ways to complete it. I eventually went to school for advertising design and worked my way up to become a creative director.
I was mostly working on production and creating commercials, spending most of my time behind the scenes and camera. It wasn’t until I had an opportunity to produce and host a TV show (my first technical shot to be in front of a camera) that everything changed for me. I searched for a local acting school in Norfolk and took my first acting class and never looked back.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Many interesting things happened to me along the way on my career path. Some good and some bad, but the biggest moment that stands out the most was when I was training in New York as an actor. I was meeting with a well-known talent manager for representation. I was about 24 at the time and the meeting only lasted 15 minutes. I read to him and then he stopped me in the middle of the read. He looked at me and said, “I don’t think this will work, don’t be discouraged it’s not for everyone.” You should find another career. He dismissed me after that. Fast forward two years later, I was doing a showcase in Los Angeles.
I performed my monologue and read a couple of scripts. After the showcase was over, I get a call from a manager that saw my performance and wanted to discuss representation. It turned out to be the same talent manager that dismissed me two years before. I’m glad I never listened. I stayed focused, believed in myself, and worked on my craft.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It would have to be when I first started. It was my first big job. I had 10 pages of script to memorize. I wanted to be prepared so I memorized my lines including everyone else’s. I was so prepared that when it was time for my co-star to speak, I would lip-sync their words. So, the director would have to cut to remind me to stop moving my lips. I was still green and eager to make a good impression. It’s always good to memorize your lines, but I have since learned to really understand the emotion behind the words and to remember the last word of your co-star to give you a queue when to start. (lol)
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I was able to complete four feature film scripts that I have been working on for a few years now.
Since the pandemic, I think we all had time to rethink our careers. I had a lot of time on my hands, and I used it wisely.
I created an 18-minute short film concept of the first feature script titled 21st & Colonial. This was one of the major scripts I had written about two years ago. It is inspired by a true event that happened in my hometown. The story is a parallel narrative that follows two characters — Omar, a 19-year-old young Black man trying to support his family and his newly pregnant girlfriend and Carlos, an overworked Filipino cop with a dark past weighing him down. The two couldn’t be more different, but through the course of a day not only will their similarities be spotlighted, but the two will cross paths in a tragic way. I wrote, directed and produced the film, and starred as Carlos.
We finished filming the fall of 2019 and I used the time in 2020 to finish post-production and to get on the festival circuit. This is an important story to tell. I plan to begin production on the feature film hopefully during the first part of 2022.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think it is very important to have and show diversity, especially in the entertainment industry. Film represents real life and real life is diverse, but the current film is not inclusive. Diversity will provide innovation and creativity filled with different backgrounds and experiences. Lastly, there will be more talent to choose from that would relate to the viewers. It is always motivating when you see someone of your color or race in a film with a very important role. It gives hope. It will change our culture by educating and learning about different backgrounds and exploring the struggles and triumphs.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be patient. There are more noes than yeses.
At the beginning of my career, it was hard and I was not getting the auditions that I was working hard for and I was ready to give up. It wasn’t until I had a last-minute audition from my agent. I went in the room without expecting anything. I walked in and there were three people in the room. The casting director, director and the writer. The casting director requested me to slate and then the director and the writer asked me a couple of questions and then said thank you. I completely forgot about the audition.
A month later my agent called to let me know I booked the role. I was surprised because I really didn’t read any lines. I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes you just have to let it go, take a deep breath and be yourself. What’s meant for you will happen. Oh, did I mention the director was Mr. Taylor Hackford and the writer was Sera Gamble 🙂
2. Seek a mentor in the industry as they will be part of your advisory board in your journey.
This is important. When I started, I didn’t have anyone to guide me. I made many mistakes such as how my resume should be outlined and what to include in it. I think everyone should find someone that has had lots of experience in the industry to help you and when you get to the point where you are established, you should mentor someone. If we keep this trend and help one another as we walk this journey, it won’t be so lonely.
3. Don’t wait for opportunities, you need to create your own path.
I say this because in this profession there is a lot of downtimes. Most of the time you will get a lot of auditions and then you will have your dry spells where it can be weeks or months when you don’t get anything. I myself have been there many times and it can be nerve-racking. This is where I started to unlock other potential skills, such as writing and producing. I started creating short films and that helped me to become a better actor and it opened up doors to many more opportunities. I became more aware behind and in front of the camera. The short films helped show my true potential as an actor and now a director. I was able to meet and network with great people at film festivals. So, it’s important to make your own opportunities!
4. Treat your career as a business, always stay ready and innovate.
This advice is something that everyone should not take for granted. It’s called show-business for a reason. Essentially you are the product. Yes, when we start out, we want to put out the best art and work possible, but there should be a balance between business and art.
5. Set small goals to work towards achieving your biggest goal, your acting career journey will feel closer every day.
This is good advice for anything in life. Acting is a long journey and it takes time to develop talent, skill, brand recognition, etc. Throughout the journey, small goals will help. You will also realize that your biggest goals might change in the process. For example, in the beginning of my journey, I was eager to get any acting work possible and I didn’t have any set goals. I didn’t realize until later that just like any promotion in the workplace, you have to show that you’re ready. So, I asked my agent to start sending me out for better speaking roles. When I started booking more supporting roles, I went to the next phase, which was to guest or leading roles. In the process, I realized that I wanted to know and be more involved in the creative journey. My end goal was to get a leading role in a major production, which has now changed to a leading role in my own production. The process gets bigger and bigger every time. I hope this helps others in their journeys. Take it one step at a time and have a lot of patience. Businesses take years to be successful. Ideas can happen overnight, but they will take time to develop.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My advice would be to create an end goal. Write it down on a board or journal. Then from there, write down smaller goals to reach that end goal. When you start working on smaller goals, you will end up receiving more victories along the way to your dream. For example, if your goal is to get a lead in a major TV show or film, but to get there you must prove you are up for the role. So, you should set small goals to get there. A small goal could be getting six co-star roles under your belt, then when you hit that, go to your next goal for guest star or recurring roles, etc. Having a plan mapped out gives you the opportunity to see the progress that you’re making, which makes it easier in reaching your goals, than chasing that next job. It is just like in any business because being an actor is like having your own business. Surrounding yourself with the right people will help you with the growth of your business. Family and friends are also important. This is already a stressful endeavor full of lots of “Noes” before the “Yeses’” come. Keep family and friends that support you close to you. Also, find a mentor that’s been in the business — this could be your manager or agent. Friends, family, and mentors will serve as your advisory board to your business and career. Every business has one, and you as an actor should have it as well.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If there is anything good that I can do to help people, I think it would be to bring more diversity to the film industry, and not just Filipinos or people of color. People from all walks of life, with disabilities, of different cultures, gender differences, and so on, should be able to share their stories. Film and TV is a big part of our life. We can learn more about cultures and different places and life all while being entertained. We learn so much from watching films and TV, and I think creating stories about real people is and has been my objective. I know I can show true diversity with displaying human impact stories.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
This is tough, as there have been so many people who have contributed to my career. The one person that really sticks out and went out of their way when they did not have to, would have to be Mr. Michael Goi. He gave me advice with my acting career choices and introduced me to people. He helped me get my short 21st & Colonial off the ground. Introduced me to who is now my ‘Ate’ (means older sister Tagalog), Leah Anova, a talented and amazing cinematographer who would eventually film 21st & Colonial with me. He told me to just do the work and get this film under my belt, everything else will fall in place.
He has been a great mentor to me and I’m grateful for him. He doesn’t know this but, the little things he has done for me have made me a better artist and human being. Passing down his knowledge and expertise has made me realize I have a bigger purpose now. I want to be able to return the favor and help other artists, especially within the Asian and Filipino communities. So, thank you Michael!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One life lesson quote that stuck with me is, “dreams don’t work until you do,” by John C. Maxwell. This is an important life lesson, especially for an actor. Actors in my point of view are entrepreneurs. Just like any entrepreneur, we have ideas and values, but most of all, we take risks. What John C. Maxwell is saying with that quote is that to achieve that major goal in life, it cannot be done without hard work. That has stuck with me throughout my journey. I treat it like a business, and I learn from my mistakes. You cannot have a testimonial without the test, right?
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
I would love to have lunch with Kuya Lou Diamond Philipps. I grew up watching and looked up to him since I first saw him in the movie Young Guns. He was one of the reasons why I kept going as an actor. He is like me, a Filipino. He has been an inspiration to me and gave me means to continue working as a Filipino in this industry. He was one of the first Filipinos I noticed that made it big in Hollywood, which paved the way for me and for Filipinos like me. I would like to thank him personally.