Born in Mexico City, Hugo Ateo began acting at the age of six and attended several different acting schools, most notably the prestigious National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico. His education culminated in his acceptance to the Russian Acting School in Mexico, for which he received a full scholarship.
As an actor, he has been involved in theater for the majority of his life, scoring more and more prominent roles. Eventually, he was given the opportunity to join the television production company TV Azteca, where he starred in four different programs. From there, his success in the industry began to grow. Some of his television credits include Catalina y Sebastian, Todo por amor, Like in the Movies, Da Vinci’s City Hall, Lo Que Callamos Las Mujeres, Intelligence, The L Word, Motive and Falling Skies. He also starred in the movies Sea of Dreams and Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness. Not long ago, he lent his considerable talents to the hit sci-fi show Supernatural, on which he played the character Cesar, and is slated to be appearing in the upcoming movie Tomboy, A Revenger’s Tale. I recently had the chance to chat with Ateo about his character Cesar on Supernatural, what he hopes is in store for him in the future and what it was like to work with legendary director Eduardo Sanchez. Check it out below!
Were you a fan of the show before you were cast as Cesar?
I had watched it a few times but I normally don’t watch a lot of television. I didn’t know much about it; I had only watched about four or five episodes. But as soon as I was invited, got the role and went to that beautiful set, I became an instant fan because everyone is so happy to be there. It’s like a big family. You know, they’ve been working together for such a long time that they’ve all grown to really love one another, from the crew to the cast. So, I’m a big fan now, I have to say.
What was your first impression of Cesar when you first read the script?
When I first read the script, I saw him as a very strong, very warm person offering support to someone who is broken. I was attracted immediately to that characteristic of Cesar’s. He was very caring and very kind but he also wasn’t afraid of saying no if he believed that someone shouldn’t do something. So, I liked that about him a lot. And then finding out that our characters were romantically involved, I thought that was really great because it was such an original way to portray a gay couple. In this case, being gay was just another detail of their lives and not the driving force, and I found that to be a really intelligent way to approach it.
Me too; that’s one of the things that I liked about it, too. I also think that’s really important in today’s media to depict it that way.
That’s right, that’s right. Because there are so many gay people out there that nobody would ever guess were gay, you know? They’re just people and they just live normal lives, and I think that writing with that in mind is really enriching, and I was really excited to be a part of it.
What was your favorite scene to film?
I was really happy with the scene with Dean in the car, in which they talked about Jesse and how he is broken and how seeking revenge might not fix him. I found that really touching, and Jensen was really good. He has the great ability to listen and to be present, so it was a really great scene for me. And, then, of course, the fight scenes. Those were super fun, too. (laughs).
Did you have to do any sort of training for those scenes?
Well, I studied theater and I was in theater all of my life—ever since I was six, in fact, so I have a lot of experience in combat fighting and lots of physical stuff. Even though they did have a stunt double, I did most of it and I was very comfortable with it. I loved those scenes; I don’t get to do them very often so I was very excited.
In this episode, we learn a little bit about how Jesse got involved in hunting but we really don’t find out how Cesar got involved in it. Did you kind of invent a backstory for him and how he became a part of this life?
I think, for me, it was very important to flesh him out because there wasn’t a lot of information. For me, the way that it happened, I think that Cesar met Jesse and fell in love with him, and then he noticed that there’s something broken in him. Eventually, I think that Jesse told Cesar about his past and how he’s suffering, and I, Cesar, got involved by wanting to support him. So, for me, Cesar’s involvement in hunting is an act of love. It’s not really so much about wanting to rid the world of these creatures so much as it is to help Jesse bring closure to this event from his past. That gave me a lot of tenderness and emotion to play in that role.
So, do you think that they’re done with the hunting life now?
(laughs) You know, I’m really torn because, when I first got involved with the episode, I was like “Oh my god, I wish that I could be a part of this energy for the rest of my life.” So, then, when I read the end of the script, I got a clear sense of closure and happiness. I play characters that don’t get closure very often, so, for me, it was a very new feeling. As an actor, I would love to come back and have many more adventures. For Cesar, I suspect that we will have to come back but I also hope that they retain that happiness together, so I’m torn as to which one I want (laughs).
I feel the same way. On one hand, I would love you both to come back, but I also want you to have that peaceful happiness together, so…
Exactly. And, you know, good writing often requires some sort of conflict—some kind of painful thing to happen in order for the plot to move along, and having a ranch with horses, there’s not a lot of room for that (laughs). There’s really nothing interesting—it wouldn’t make an interesting show. But maybe I’m wrong (laughs).
What was it like working with Jared and Jensen?
I was blown away by the sense of family and respect that they brought on set. I’ve worked with a lot of people who’ve had incredible careers and everything, but they have this amazing amount of love and respect for each other and the ability to help people feel comfortable—to help you do your work—and I was blown away by that. It’s no mystery why the set is such a happy place because those two are so kind and fun and gentle, and they keep everyone happy and engaged. They’re also very efficient and good at what they do, so it was a real pleasure. I really hope that I get to work with them again.
What was it like working with Eduardo Sanchez on this episode?
It was really enjoyable. I have to confess that my least favorite genre is horror movies (laughs) but I saw “The Blair Witch Project” a long time ago, so when I heard that he was involved in the project, I was curious. Then, I was blown away again by how much trust that he had in his actors. He had a very specific vision but, at the same time, he had the ability to let go and let you find it and let you do it. It was a great collaborative effort. Sometimes, I feel that directors have a specific idea that they kind of corral people into but the thing that I really enjoyed about Eduardo is that he invited a creative approach to the material. It was really fun. I really liked it.
So, now that you’re officially a part of the “Supernatural” family will you be more involved with social media?
I am really impressed by how passionate everyone is about the show. I’ve been reading quite a few recaps and such and I noticed right away how engaged everyone is in the community, and I really enjoyed that.
As an actor, do you have any particular styles that you try to model your approach to acting after?
Yes. I did a lot of theater in Mexico while I was growing up, and also, I was trained by someone who, in my experience, was the most incredible acting teacher in the world, and he came from Russia, from the same school where Stanislavsky actually taught, and he was kind of like the air to that tradition. With amazing luck, I was able to study with this man for four years, and one of the most important lessons that he hammered into our skulls is that you’re always present and genuine. That’s all that matters. So I have a lot of appreciation and admiration for actors that have that quality, like Michael Fassbender, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet. No matter what role that they have, you can always tell that there is a human being in there, and that’s so incredibly inspiring. There’re no masks or tricks; it’s just a human being going through stuff. I hope one day to be able to reach that level.
What movies, TV shows, books, etc. bring out the nerd in you?
That’s a very interesting question. As I said, I did theater and that’s really where my heart lies, so any adaptation of a play or a movie, especially when it’s one that I know really well, it turns me into a total geek and I get really excited. I just watch it again and again and again. I tend to watch more theater than TV or movies because that’s where my passion lies.