If you’re noticing a rise in temperature from your television screen, there’s a fairly good chance actor Rafael De La Fuente is to blame. Taking on the iconically calculating role of “Sammy Jo” on the newly-rebooted television series Dynasty, Rafael is raising the heat (and the deliciously fun drama), proving to the show’s rich and famous that “Sammy Jo” is here to stay, and is set on leaving a lasting mark.
You were born in Caracas, Venezuela. What was it like growing up in that region of the world?
I was born and raised in Venezuela. I lived there up to the age of 19 and then went off to college. It’s a beautiful country in the northern part of South America. It’s the melting pot of cultures and races and just all different types of people from everywhere. I was very lucky to have an amazing, creative, artistic family that supported my artistic endeavours and interests. I loved it.
After making an early name for yourself on a Nickelodeon kids series, you moved to the United States during your late teenage years. How did that decision to move come about?
I always knew that I wanted to have an international experience and I always knew I wanted to come to The States and try to make it happen here. My dad pretty much decided I was going to go to school in the states. I wanted to, as well, so that’s how it happened. We just thought it would open me up to so many more opportunities.
Your current role on Dynasty is turning more than just a few heads. What makes your “Sammy Jo” character the one to watch out for on this new series?
Well first of all, thank you for saying that. I love the show and all the actors. “Sammy Jo” is such a fun and funny character, but he also has a really dark past. He’s the bad boy, but he’s also a survivor. I can’t say too much, but he has a rough past. He messes up, but I think he does have redeeming qualities.
The new Dynasty a completely rebooted take on the beloved 80s television series. So much so that your “Sammy Jo” character was in fact a girl character on the original series, played by a young Heather Locklear. Have you ever researched in any way how Heather played the “Sammy Jo” role, or are you focused on creating your own modern take?
I am definitely focused on creating a modern take on “Sammy Jo,” but I definitely did do some background on the character. I was born in 1986 and I was too young to watch the show, but I remember my mom really loved the show in Venezuela. It was the number one show in Venezuela, so I did go back and watch it. Our show is inspired by the original series and we want to pay homage to it, but we also want it to stand on its own.
Dynasty recently received news that it was picked up for a full-season order. Congratulations! Why do you feel viewers are tuning in to this series and deciding to stick with it?
Our showrunner Sallie Patrick is brilliant and she has just figured out how to make the show dramatic, but not too campy. It definitely has its over-the-top moments, but it’s still relatable. It’s also really well cast. A wonderful group of actors. And it’s just fun.
“Sammy Jo” is a gay man on Dynasty and you also played a major gay character on the hit series Empire. Do you try to hold yourself to a certain standard, when portraying LGBT characters on television today? Do you feel any pressure when representing that particular community in media?
Absolutely, I make sure it’s portrayed fairly. The way our character is written and portrayed and the writers, it’s not stereotypical. I’ve been really lucky. Also, being a Latino character, playing characters that are real. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but I would definitely feel a responsibility to play a layered character, real human, multi-dimensional character who’s not just a gay character.
As much as Dynasty is known for its scandalous drama, it’s also known for its jaw-dropping fashion. Would you say “Sammy Jo’s” wardrobe somewhat shapes him in who he is as a character?
A huge part of “Sammy Jo” is his style. He definitely has a very specific way of dressing. He wears a lot of jewelry and leopard print. I think it’s part of his need to be seen and acknowledged. He is a big, big personality and he’s loud. So, of course the wardrobe is definitely a part of that.
How do “Sammy Jo’s” style choices and your style choices differ?
He’s definitely a lot more eccentric than I am. He likes things that I would not perhaps wear, but I have so much fun wearing them on the show. The stuff I have been wearing on the show has opened me up to new possibilities in my own fashion style. I love wearing “Sammy Jo’s” outfits and being able to live that life on-screen.
It was just announced that former Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan has been casted in the infamous “Alexis Carrington” role on Dynasty. How do you think this news is going to shake up the family dynamic?
Well, of course “Alexis” is a pivotal character on Dynasty and I can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for us and what Nicollette is going to bring to the table. I am sure it’s going to be awesome, because she’s definitely a pro at primetime. I’m just really excited. I haven’t read anything, I don’t know anything, but I know she is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Being a Latino immigrant in America today, how do you feel about the current politics and the way the U.S. is handling immigration?
Well I think that the current administration has a very non-empathetic, terrible approach to the whole immigration situation. I, of course, don’t agree with any of it, but I do think the current events have woken people up and brought people together. I think America is so much more than the ways of hate that the current administration has tried to make happen.
You are really fun and playful on social media. How do you decide what to share with the world about your life and what to keep as truly your personal life?
Well, you know, when you’re on TV and your job is in front of a camera, so much of it is exposed and out there that it’s hard to keep private stuff private. So, I don’t talk much about my personal life because usually your personal life involves other people and your choice to be a public figure is your choice and the people in your life don’t have to be involved with it.
I try to balance it out as much as I can, but I am pretty authentic on my social media. I don’t try to play a character or have a social media persona. I just post what I’m feeling like posting and hope that it does well. I think there’s a limit to what I share.
The original Dynasty lasted for nine seasons on television. If the viewership interest continues, do you see your series lasting for several years to come?
Well, hopefully. I would be happy to employed for nine more years.
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