With already impressive Hollywood credits to his name, actor Leonardo Nam is putting in the time and effort to land prominent roles that leave a lasting impression on viewers. During a time where Leonardo’s standout performances are on the rise, we had a very Candid conversation with this talented artist as we discussed the pivotal moment he chose to pursue acting, his favourable time on Westworld, and how he is making sure there are leading roles for him (and people like him) during this excitingly progressive time to be a part of film & television.
You were raised in Sydney, Australia and come from Argentinian and Korean immigrants. In your opinion, what is it about being raised in that region of the world that makes you the man you are today?
That’s a really good question. I think that you can’t separate where you grew up and how you grew up from who you are. Me being born in Argentina, growing up in Australia and now working in the U.S., it has been a blessing to come from such a unique and diverse background. There is strength in diversity and very much becoming prevalent now. I think also for me being it gives me a rich texture to draw from. A lot of these times, people have only seen me by my face and what they have previously thought a guy like me looks like. Now you’re starting to see that people are willing and wanting to learn about the different kind of mixtures in life.
You were originally studying architecture at the University of South Wales, before fully pursuing acting in the states. What was the breaking point for you there and then to decide to switch your studies and not look back?
There comes a moment in every person’s life where you need to decide and bet on yourself and you need to listen to that voice within. My moment really came from, I remember, when I was studying architecture, there was a final exam I needed to take. I remember I would get off the bus and on the left was the red building, the architecture school building, and to the right was the drama school and I remember very clearly being at that light, thinking I need to go right. In my heart, I was like I need to go right. I never forgot that and I always carried that with me. For me, it was to go to New York.
What role so far feels like the moment that really became the turning point in your career?
You know, I got to say there have been two. I was cast in my first movie called The Perfect Score. It was a studio film for Paramount, one of the lead roles. The other moment had to be Westworld.
Well, many of us know you from your role as the likable and compassionate “tech” Felix Lutz on HBO’s hit series Westworld, which is about to premiere its second season. How did you end up snagging that role and how was the energy of working on an elaborate production like this one?
I got to say I snagged that role by the grace of God (laughs). As an actor, you’re only as great as the roles that come your way. I jumped at the chance. When I went in (for the audition), I was super thrilled to be a part of it. What is so wonderful to work on a project of this caliber is that everyone comes with their A-game. By being within that presence, you yourself start to elevate. It was an absolute joy. And the other really beautiful thing about this is that everyone was so nice. It’s amazing. You’ve got these huge stars and they’re nice?! And they’re generous?! I was like, Whoa. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. I looked forward to working with them every day.
You have had so many deep scenes with beloved actress Thandie Newton on Westworld. How was it working with her? Did she inspire you to step up your acting game even further while filming your scenes together?
Oh, of course. She is the most generous actor I know. She would be so involved in wanting to give me as a scene partner everything that I would want to make the scene richer. I think it’s important to surround yourself with good people. Great people, if possible. We would go to work and I would be there with her and we would figure out what the scene was really about and how we could layer it.
Where do you hope Westworld’s story goes next and in what way do you hope that Felix’s kindness & help toward “the hosts” will have a lasting effect on these characters and the overall storyline to come?
I am just as interested as you to find out what’s going to happen. They’re really great about keeping the privacy of the show, so that it can be a real gift when given to the world. My hope is by virtue of being this character that is kind, that really does have compassion for these beings essentially, that really starts to resonate with a lot of people. That would be a huge blessing to gather the troops for a “Felix Army,” that would be great.
Since CANDID is also heavily a fashion magazine, we must ask you about that. We have seen you looking rather dapper on award show red carpets lately. What would you say is Leonardo’s style vibe?
What I love about fashion is that it needs to move people forward. For me, my style is very “future now.” I love the idea of evolutions of myself and what I want to be representing out there. One of the things I am doing on the red carpets is always looking for the designers or voices that are under-represented. I think by doing that, it helps elevate other people.
What are the next projects you are working on, or looking to pursue?
I have a movie out right now called Happy Anniversary which is on Netflix. I played the most annoying hipster and it’s a really fun role. I just shot a pilot up in Vancouver called Dead Inside. I am currently in development with two projects. Both are true stories. One is set in the time in the gangster period in Chicago and of the time of Al Capone, that mafia time. There’s another project set in Paris and it’s a period piece and it’s more of a horror/thriller. I have a film I’m doing later in the year called Prey in Australia and Bali. I am really thrilled to be working again in Australia. It’s so wonderful to come home and be working there.
Some may quite rightfully argue that Asian actors in American and Western television & film do not get the leading roles they deserve being seriously considered for. Have you seen those challenges yourself and what do you do to not let any stigmas or stereotypes stop you from pursuing the roles you know you can shine in?
Oh, I love that you asked that question. I think the fact that you are asking that question and me not having to bring it up is a big shift already, so I thank you and I applaud you for that. I feel like there hasn’t been an Asian face that has really gone over into the level of movie stardom or TV stardom. I think there are challenges there, because the material isn’t out there. I feel like if you are able to write and create a textured world out there, then if the writing is good and it needs to be good, then it’s up to the person on the other side to then bring up, Hey! Well let’s make this person more white. Then it’s on them. But if you bring to the table already a rich and good project that is textured, then I think that is a starting point. I think people are now starting to see the benefit of that. With shows like Westworld and other shows that are showing different faces and showing different characters, I think that’s about to change. And I hope so.