Exclusive Interview with Get Shorty’s Goya Robles

Last year, Talk Nerdy With Us did an interview with Goya Robles who plays Yago on the EPIX original series Get Shorty alongside Ray Romano and Chris O’Dowd. Season three just premiered on October 6th so we thought it was time to check back with Goya to find out what we can expect from Yago in the new season and hear a little bit more about his life outside of Get Shorty. His latest project Wonder is doing well at the film festivals and he’s back out there supporting his community with his Paint the Mic events. Read on to be inspired!

So, tell me what can we expect from Yago this season on Get Shorty

I think this season we’re just going to see Yago, and sort of everything, identified really. At the end of season two, Yago is in prison. He’s working with the rival cartel of his aunt’s, so I think this season is just about watching him. When someone feels like they’re doing really well on the course that they’re going on, where everything seems fine and everything is rising and you don’t realize that you’re being used the whole time. I think this season is just seeing how he deals with that and just in general, with all the characters this season, kind of break away a bit and we get to see their own journey. So that’s really what’s going on in season three. It’s more focused on character. 

What are some of your favorite (and least favorite) parts about playing this character? 

Some of my favorite parts of Yago are just how impulsive he is and he’s just pure feeling, just whatever happens, he reacts. You know exactly how he feels in the moment. That’s one of the things I love about him because for me, I tend to act on impulses more so it’s nice to play a character who’s impulses are so easily accessible and it’s fun. We laugh a lot on set, so that’s nice. 

And what’s a more difficult part about playing Yago?

I think what’s more difficult, and less about the character but more about the actual filming process, it’s sometimes hard when you drop into character, it’s hard to maintain the emotional roller coaster that needs to live inside of you by the time they yell action. I might be playing around with something that’s emotional and I have to sustain it for a really long period of time, not knowing when I’m going to shoot. That can be difficult. So it’s more process related than the actual character.

Do you feel like you are sort growing as a person alongside Yago?

Yago has taught me that I don’t have to be afraid of my darkness, but if anything I can use it in a way that doesn’t necessarily have to destroy the people in the environment around me like Yago does. But I can still use it as a way to change how I feel and use it in my work. It’s really nice to play someone like Yago. I’ve definitely learned how to be a fuller version of myself for sure. 

So how do you recharge? When you’re playing this part and it’s really draining, how do you recharge yourself and stay focused? 

Sometimes I’ll go away for a weekend and go with my lady and I won’t commit to any other obligations and just be where I am. I like to do things that don’t require the use of my phone. That’s really where my stress comes from is my phone. Once I turn off my phone and keep it off, I tend to reconnect to my own self, my body and the things that are important to me. So that’s what I do.

Tell me about Wonder! How did you get involved in that project and how are things going? 

The director, Javier Molina, is like my brother, a really close friend of mine. We’ve known each other for at least maybe 15 or 16 years and we’ve always connected creatively. We went to The Actor’s Studio together for grad school. It’s been quite the journey. He hooked up with another friend of mine who is also an Actor’s Studio member named Gabriel Furman, who wrote Wonder. Gabriel was in Ireland visiting a friend when he saw this father walking down the street with his son who was dressed in a Wonder Woman outfit and it really moved him to see that this father loved his son and was willing to support him no matter what. So he wrote this beautiful film about an 11 year old biracial kid from the hood who secretly wants to become Wonder Woman for Halloween. It’s not just the journey of the son, but the journey of the father. People from the street, from the hood and that culture, they tend to be homophobic due to a lot of factors, whether it’s religious factors or Latino culture, which can be inherently machista, just so many different factors. But it’s the journey of this father seeing what he has to go through himself in order to be able to be there for his son.  

We’ve been killing it on the film festival circuit. We won at Martha’s Vineyard [African American Film Festival] this year, and we won the Audience Award at UrbanWorld [Film Festival] and at a lot of other big festivals we’ve been getting a lot of acknowledgement and recognition. What many people don’t know is that it’s actually not a short film. It is a short film, but it’s a proof of concept for a TV series that we’ve developed already. So it’s just putting us in a really good position to be able to do something with the story. I feel like it’s a really important story to tell, especially coming from our community.

You were the executive producer of Wonder. Did you enjoy being in that EP role as opposed to being on the other side of the camera?

Well, more than anything, I like to be able to do that when it’s a project I believe in with people I believe in. I found myself really blessed to be in a position right now where I can support others who have a voice; these artists who have a voice just happen to be people who are really close to me and I want to help them any way I can. As an EP, it’s not something that I’m like jumping out the window trying to do, but if I see a project that I really like, and the people involved, anything that has a voice, I want to do what I can to help make happen. 

So switching gears a little bit, tell me about you Paint the Mic events. How long have you been doing this project and how did it all start?

So we had our first Paint the Mic event in 2007 and it was really to give artists an opportunity to just be heard. I came from a community of artists, you know, the whole struggling artist thing and I was like, “Well, let’s do this together. Let’s make something of it”. So we did this event and we brought visual artists and performing artists together to create original work based off of a theme. It was just a very soulful experience, but due to some infighting, people kind of were losing focus as to why we were doing it in the first place; it became more about how we’re going to make money and I ended up shutting it down for quite a few years. 

Then, back in 2016, I was talking to a friend of mine and he asked me what Paint the Mic was. I told him and he was like, “We have to do that”. I told him that the only way I would do it is if it was a benefit. So that’s what we did. In 2017, we hooked up with an organization called Homeboy Industries, which does great work with people who are coming out of prison. We got to work with them, make a little bit of money for them and then this year, we continued that legacy. We worked with an organization called Creative Creators, who deal with kids that people just kind of forgot about; kids off the street, or they’d be from foster homes, or have crazy stuff going on at home. Some of them may be in gangs. Most of them don’t do well in traditional school settings and they used filmmaking as a way to tell their story and by the end of the program, they get to have their own body of work. They do such great work on the ground with these kids that we wanted to partner up with them. So we did and we got to work with these kids and we got to do workshops with them. Now, in wanting to be a part of Paint the Mic as an artist, you also have to teach your craft to the community that we’re partnering with. It was a really nice way to connect the performers to the people that we’re serving and yeah, we got to raise a nice little chunk of money and have these experiences with these kids. So that’s really what Paint the Mic is, just giving the participating artists an opportunity to directly impact the community in need through their work. 

I think representation is so important in the artists community. It’s so powerful for kids to see how art can help them in so many ways and to see themselves represented in the work. How does that drive you?

What you’re saying is really important. It’s very important to have kids and people who look like you and come from the same environment as you do see you be successful in the area that you’re working in. When I went to speak with one of the classrooms for Creating Creators, they invited me in and I got to workshop with them – and this was before Paint The Mic – and I had a great time. I left and then had a conversation with the CEO later on and he told me that one of the things that impacted the kids the most, besides the experience that we got to have in the classroom, was that I was also in a continuation school as a kid, that I’d been kicked out of school and I’d had all the crazy experiences they could probably think of and now I’m a working artist and I use my work as a way to speak to our community and I can live off of my work at the moment, which I’m very blessed to do. It’s that all of these factors are included in what they get to see as well that is really important to me. I hope that I can continue to do that.

I just read something the other day that only like four or five percent of all films that came out had Latino characters and I was just kinda shocked at that number considering that at least it’s portrayed that we have more representation. But when you think about it, if that’s a genuine statistic, there’s more work to be done. I don’t believe that we should make it the responsibility of the big studios to tell our stories because that won’t happen. We have to tell our stories and if we see someone, or people in our community that are attempting to tell these stories and they’re looking for a way, we need to find a way to make that happen so that we can start changing the way that we’re seen in film and to diversify the voices. 

What do you say to kids out there right now trying to do this Hollywood thing? Give me some words of advice. 

Make sure that you love what you do, for sure. Even if you don’t catch a break, you’ve got to love what you do because you have to fulfill yourself somehow. Right? And I would say make sure that people in your circle celebrate your wins. Just make sure that you celebrate you and when you finish what you start, celebrate it. 

Check out Goya in Get Shorty on Sundays at 10/9c on EPIX. Read more about Paint the Mic at painthemic.org or @goyarobles on Instagram.

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