Scandal's Guillermo Diaz explains why he left drama behind for ABC comedy United We Fall
The actor tells EW why he originally turned down the role, and what it's been like working with the legendary Jane Curtin.
Fans may know Guillermo Diaz mainly for his dramatic portrayal of Huck on Scandal and Guillermo on Weeds, but he's back to flexing his comedy chops on ABC's United We Fall in a role unlike any other on his extensive resume.
Longtime fans will remember Diaz's comedic side from the Dave Chappelle-led stoner comedy Half Baked (1998), in which his character Scarface has a rottweiler named Killer who takes flight after getting high, and his appearances on Chappelle's hit sketch series Chappelle's Show.
Diaz spoke to EW in a rare interview about his return to comedy on United We Fall, a sitcom about interracial couple Jo Rodriguez (Christina Vidal Mitchell) and Bill Ryan (Will Sasso), and the challenges they face raising two daughters with a wacky line-up of family members including Diaz's Chuy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is Jo's brother, a married father of three who thinks he's got life all figured out.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Even though you've played such a wide range of characters, fans mostly remember you for your dramatic work. Were you ready for a change when taking the job on United We Fall?
GUILLERMO DIAZ: Honestly, I wish I had the luxury and the power to pick and choose what roles I play. The role in United We Fall just another audition that came my way. And of course, the fact that it was a half-hour sitcom was so different from Scandal, and Chuy from the Huck character. That was definitely something that excited me.
To be honest, I turned down the audition at first because I saw that it was going to be filmed in front of a live audience. I don't know what I was going through in my life at that moment but the thought of performing in front of a studio audience each week [didn't appeal to me]. I spoke to my manager and we passed but then they came back to us a few months later and I read the role again and fell in love with it. I'm so glad it came back around and that I took it.
Your character Chuy is unlike any role you've played. What has that experience been like for you?
[Laughs] It's been very strange! His life couldn't be any further removed from mine. As far as being a parent goes, I have goldfish and that's as far as I'm willing to go with parenting. And even then, sometimes I'm just like, "Ugh! What do these fish need? What do they want from me?" But with Chuy's life being so is different, I find it easier and more fun to play because I can take risks. And it helps that the kids on the show are so good! They're so funny and so professional. My friends text me while watching the show and laugh at me playing a dad but I'm really just having so much fun.
We have an exclusive clip from episode four (above) where Chuy begrudgingly drops off his daughter Marta (Olivia Taylor Cohen) at his sister Jo's house. Why is this something out of the ordinary?
In the clip, you see me dropping off my daughter Marta at my sister and [her] husband's house for a sleepover. Chuy is a super strict father and was completely against any kind of sleepover. But Joe and Marta finally talked him into it so as he is dropping her off he has a laundry list of rules he expects her to follow. His rules are really silly and stupid but that's what really makes them so funny. It's one of my favorite episodes we shot.
Earlier in that same episode, Chuy tells Marta he's so overprotective because he's saving her from ending up in a heroin-fueled orgy. Do you ever think a good back story for him could exist somewhere within your roles in Weeds or Half Baked?
Oh my God! What a great idea! Imagine an amalgamation of those characters being who Chuy was before. That would be amazing. I love it!
The series keeps setting up this secret friendship between Chuy and Sandy Ryan, played by the legendary Jane Curtin. Will that play out at all as the season progresses?
I love her character so much! There is this secret friendship between her and Chuy, they definitely like one another. And with me being such a fan of hers for so long makes the experience even more special. She's a freakin' icon and just to be in her presence makes me feel so lucky and privileged. All of us on the cast really have these conversations about our excitement to be working with her. Every day on set was like being in a comedy acting class because she's so brilliant at her craft. I just found myself watching her any chance I could which made me miss some of my scenes because I wasn't paying attention. [laughs]
How do you feel United We Fall adds to the conversation of diversity?
I want to say how proud I am at the diversity of this show and its strong Latino presence. This should be the norm and something that we don't have to think about anymore. I feel that it's so important for you to see yourself represented on television and in movies, contributing to society and a good and positive way like we do on this show. We're successful Latinos who are family-oriented. Just seeing this show will help Latino kids feel not only represented and relevant but also that they could be on TV. And I think that our ratings prove that this is just a really good show. People are tuning in because it's a well-written show and also really funny.
In future episodes, there will be more of our family introduced. Jo and Chuy have eight other brothers, three of which [portrayed by Juan Alfonso Feliz, J.R. Villarreal, and Greg Romero Wilson] will be introduced this season, and they're all hilarious. It will be un tremendo desorden!
United We Fall airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.