South American heart-throb Leandro Simozza has put his inimitable talent on display over the last decade in a plethora of films, television shows and high profile theatrical productions, and with several new projects in the works on both the stage and screen, it’s a sure thing that we will be seeing a whole lot more from him in the upcoming months.
Over the years Simozza has become known across continents for his pivotal roles in films including Aditya J. Patwardhan’s fantasy drama “The Head of the Mouse,” which took home three awards at the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards last year, Klement Tinaj’s 2014 action film “Escaping Gang Life,” which earned two awards from the Irvine International Film Festival and the Honorable Mention Award from the Independent International Film Awards, Daniel Anghelcev’s “The Second Coming of Christ,” Alvaro Ortega’s “The Murder of Tasneem Ali,” Majed Alsharif’s “Just a Dream” and many more.
Simozza, who is currently working on Oscar Becerra’s upcoming film “The Last Chance,” which is expected for release in 2017, has also been busy with his on stage career. So far this year he has given knock-out performances in a plethora of productions including the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts’ presentation of “El Burlador de sevilla,” aka “The Trickster of Seville,” under the direction of Margarita Galban, Klement Tinaj’s “Twenty Days,” which debuted in Los Angeles in May, and “Mambru se fue a la guerra,” which opened at the La Plaza de La Raza in July.
Simozza’s collective body of work immediately reveals him to be a dynamic and powerful performer whose unparalleled range allows him to fully inhabit a diverse range of characters, never failing to bring them to life with total believability.
A true lover of every aspect of the art of performance and the power of film as a medium for expression, Simozza has, in addition to acting, devoted himself to many other aspects of the production world proving himself as a talented writer through his work as the screenwriter behind the film “Regrets,” the production designer behind “Strangers in the Night,” as well as a producer on the films “Last Chance,” “Permission,” “Head 2 Head” and others.
As the sought after actor prepares to shoot the upcoming feature film “Bloody Hands,” in addition to several other projects, Simozza is clearly one actor that will remain on our radar for years to come. To find out more about Leandro Simozza make sure to check out our interview below.
Where are you from? When and how did you get into acting?
LZ: I am from Venezuela. I started acting when I was a child, initially doing theater plays at school. I was always involved with everything related to the arts– I played the guitar and sang in chorus as well. I had an uncle, who was an excellent singer and musician; and my mom is a wonderful painter and she taught me many valuable lessons.
Can you tell us a little bit about the film projects you’ve done?
LZ: I have been doing film and television for a couple years. It has been an incredible experience because I have played different types of characters. In addition I have been involved in different types of films and television projects not only as an actor, I have been in the production department, casting department, writing department and editing department. It has been an incredible learning process because it is not just acting. It is something deeper than that.
In the film “Regrets,” which was based on a true story, I played Emiliano. He is an interesting character with a beautiful family, but he suffers from alcoholism. Unfortunately he has an unexpected tragedy and he ends up losing her daughter. He then tries to destroy his life but thanks to his nurse and professional help, he realizes all the damage he’s caused and tries to overcome the situation. Because his daughter is no longer alive, he wants her to be able to look down on him and be happy about the fact that he’s changed his life and quit drinking.
In this film, which I also wrote the story for, I explored a theme related to “wrong choices that lead to tragedies.” The reason I explored this theme was because these kinds of problems happen in society every day. Young people have many problems, which lead to devastating consequences.
As an artist I want to deliver an important message. I want the audience to take away an important lesson once they finish watching the film, one they can relate to their own life. In my opinion, it is very important to talk about alcoholism, especially with the younger generation.
Additionally, this was a great opportunity to challenge myself in order to succeed playing an alcoholic. I went to Alcoholic’s anonymous and talked with different doctors, and a lot of different kinds of research in order to play this character. I interviewed two friends, who identified themselves as alcoholics and I used a lot of their personality details in order to build the characters. Once I fully researched. I had a meeting with my director and actress and we started the rehearsal process, which included improvisations and different type of exercises that helped us to find our colors and intentions.
The role has helped me to develop as a performer, and the creation of Emiliano was an interesting process and I gained a lot of confidence through this process. I was intimidated by playing these type of roles. It felt very personal because I could relate to a true story that happened to a member of my family who was also an alcoholic. Most of the time I play different types of characters than this one. I usually play the “good guy”. Acting is magic, because you can play whoever you want to play. So, this was an interesting challenge. I was seeking to explore how to live much deeper under imaginary circumstances. I was very lucky to create that kind of intense type of character, which I have to confess I was avoiding playing because it reminds me of the sad and devastating condition one of my own uncles faced. He also tried to kill himself and his wife. However, I did the right research, I found the dark, angry, and sad elements which were needed to develop these character.
In the film “Escaping the Gang Life” I played Luke, a violent but vulnerable man who gets involved with drugs, but is an overall good person. I had so much fun playing this character because he is totally the opposite of me. The film is full of action and follows Luan (Klement Tinaj) on his journey to leave the unjust conditions of the PMW Gang. His exit is violent, and the surviving gang members will not allow Luan to get away without a massive blood bath. Luan and his sister, Angela (Kayla Eva S.) risk their lives to revenge the harm, which has been done to their family and friends. My character, Luke, is one of the members of the PMW Gang and he helps Luan and Rod to find out who killed Angela and get revenge for their loss.
How about your roles on TV?
LZ: In the series “The Waiting Room” I played an actor practicing for a role as a priest. I had so much fun playing a priest because I could interact with everybody. I also talked with a real priest in order to experience their real behavior. I was involved in both the production and the writing of this project.
In the television remake “Dear John” I played Kirk, a ladies man. It was really fun playing this character because it allowed me to explore my comedic timing.
In “La Entrevista” I played El Negro, the is the son of a drug dealer in Mexico, who ends up moving to America.
I also played the role of Carlos in “Adopted.” He’s a bit of a ladies man, and I had fun playing this character because I had the chance to play a high school student.
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
LZ: What made me choose to participate in these projects was the opportunity to portray different roles. Acting is an amazing career because it gives one the opportunity to live in different circumstances. Each project contained something different which challenged me. I love creating new personalities, living in different worlds, and exploring new things.
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
LZ: Basically the story is very important for me. I like to make something that has a strong message to society and the world. I like doing roles that challenge myself as an actor. It is so important to do something one feels passion about it and I am grateful to have been able to portray many different kinds of roles.
You’ve also had quite a lot of success on stage; can you list some of the theatre projects you been in over the course of your career?
LZ: I played doctor Leo in “Twenty days,” which was staged at the Secret Rose Theater in North Hollywood, CA. In “Mambru se fue a la Guerra” at the Casa 0101 Theater I played several different characters– General Loniega, El Cartero, and Nino Chino. I played a priest named Giuseppe in “The Hours,” Esteban in “Lynette at 3 a.m.,” and Will in “Good Will Hunting” at The Victory Theater in Los Angeles. I also performed in “The Hours” at the Trasnocho Theater in Caracas, Venezuela, but this time I played the role of Richard.
I played Mr. Modesto, in “Lara el Flaco de Oro,” which was presented by the BFA (Bilingual Foundation of the Arts) and toured Los Angeles in September and November of last year.
I played Dr. George Scudder in the BFA’s production of “Sweet Bird of Youth” directed by Luis Castilleja, as well as General Loniega in “Mambru se fue a la guerra” directed by Gustabo Vargas, which were presented in June 2016 during the Lincoln Park Theatre Festival, formerly known as the International Theater Festival. I also played Maurice in “Spring Awakening,” which was also produced by the BFA, and held at the IV International Theater Festival last year.
You were also in “El Burlador de sevilla” aka “The Trickster of Seville,” what was the play about and how did it feel playing your character?
LZ: This play is a classical from 1630. It was an incredible experience working in this play because it included such an amazing cast who were really talented, friendly and active. The story is about Don Juan the seducer who tries to trick everybody in the town. I played El Marques de la Mota, who is a young nobleman that is just as much of a womanizer as Don Juan. Don Juan, and the Dukes, Octavio and Marques de la Mota, are really close friends. My character is important in the story because he and Don Juan are hugely influential on each other– they go on a lot of adventures together until Don Juan betrays my character. But my character kills Don Juan in the end. The director, Margarita Galban, did excellent work and she told the story in a different way, which included stunts and dancing. It has been a pleasure working with her.
We performed the production all across Los Angeles, at venues including the Margo Albert Theater at Plaza la Raza and the Deleuzinger Auditorium. It was also performed at UCLA during the international event, “The Mythical Trickster: Renaissance, Baroque and Today.”
What has been your favorite role so far and why?
LZ: One of my favorite roles has been Doctor Leo in “Twenty Days.” The play is about my character Doctor Leo, an immigrant doctor who arrives in the United States and he works really hard in order to learn the language, and get his license in the U.S. so he can support his family. In the story he meets a young woman who he becomes really close to, developing sympathy for her over the fact that her husband cheated on her, something that makes it incredibly difficult for him to break the news to her that she has a terrible disease.
It was an incredible experience working on this play because the director and the cast were really talented and supportive. I had to gain some weight in order to play the role, as well as perform in a different dialect because the doctor was Indian. I worked with a private dialect coach to prepare for the role. We also sold out and performed in many different theaters in Los angeles, North Hollywood and Hollywood. The director is planning to bring the play back again for a Winter run in Los Angeles and New York. We also plan to turn it into a film as well.
I also enjoyed playing Maurice in “Spring Awakening” because the role was very demanding.The character had many different psychological issues, which made him very interesting. It is amazing how we can make a character come alive! It was important for me in preparing for the role to do research, and go to different places and explore. Working with director Luis Castilleja was an incredible experience because he allowed us to explore different situations in every rehearsal. The cast was talented and contributed to exploring different scenarios.
What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
LZ: I really enjoy doing drama, horror and comedy. If the story is interesting and the character has something I can dig into it, I take the challenge regardless of the genre.
What separates you from other actors?
LZ: I feel unique and I don’t like to compare myself to others. I am a responsible and committed actor. I believe it is my passion that makes me unique. I am calm, patient and I love what I do. I like to be natural in my performances and I like to know why my character does what they do. Everything has an objective and a reason. I live the character’s life. Once I do that, I am able to feel everything and experience new things. I concentrate and prepare for the role with everything I have and my goal is to give the audience the experience that everything they see and feel is real.
What projects do you have coming up?
LZ: I have been invited to performed in a new musical called “The Man of la Mancha,” which will debut in Los Angeles in October under the direction of Margarita Galban.
I’m currently working on the film “Bloody Hands” where I play Alex, one of the lead characters. I’ve had so much fun playing this character so far. He is a tough guy, a fighter. I had to train in martial arts for this character in order to reach all the complexity it involved and I did stunts for the movie. In the film Leo Rossmore (Klement Tinaj), a former fighter, is searching for his detective wife Jessica who has been missing. He believes was taken by the same members she was assigned by Detective Brown (Orlando Brown) to go after. Leo hits rock bottom and gives up his dreams until a woman Cristy gives him a reason to fight again, and my character Alex is one of Leo’s best friends, who helps him find Jessica and begin fighting in the club. I also act alongside actor Roman Xing in “Bloody Hands,” who I worked with on “Escaping Gang Life.”
The director of “Bloody Hands,” Jaden Hwang, has already extended the invitation for me to come back in “Bloody Hands II” as well.
What are your plans for the future?
LZ: I want to continue involving myself in the arts and evolving as a performer. It is a privilege to create, and I really enjoy it.
What kind of training have you done?
LZ: I have been acting since I was a child. I began taking professional classes when I was 14 years old, and I have continued since then. I believe that education is very important. I received my master’s in fine arts recently and I am training with a private acting coach at the moment.
Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?
LZ: Acting for me is LOVE. It feeds me, it makes feel happy. When I am acting and creating, it feels just like I am flying. I chose acting because it is the most wonderful career, it is the only career that gives one the opportunity to be whoever you want.