THE RISE OF RAFAEL DE LA FUENTE

Easy on the eyes, Rafael De La Fuente is ready to make his mark on Hollywood. Known for roles from Empire to When We Rise, the Venezuelan-born actor takes on the role of Sam ‘Sammy Jo’ Flores in the highly anticipated CW reboot of Dynasty, premiering on October 11. We caught up with the rising star to find out more.

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HYDROGEN MAGAZINE: You come from Venezuela. Tell me about your upbringing?

RAFAEL DE LA FUENTE:  I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and lived there until I was 19 years old, when I moved to the States for college, eventually staying permanently. I grew up in a very creative/artistic family with many of my family members being artistically inclined in some way or another.

My father, although a surgeon, is also a guitarist. From a very young age, I discovered my passion for music and my dad both nurtured and encouraged that creative outlet. We visited the States once, sometimes twice a year to see family and spend the holidays with them. I had a very privileged upbringing in Venezuela, I must say, because my parents gave me every opportunity which gave me the tools to be successful.

HM: When did acting come into the picture?

RDLF:  I always had an interest in performing, but had only really been focusing on singing. I dabbled in drama workshops while in high school but didn’t really “get bitten by the bug” until one day, a casting director of a network in Caracas saw a picture of me at my father’s office, and invited me to a meeting. She had me read a scene with her and immediately gave me a small guest part in a very popular show back then and that’s when I really fell in love with it all. From then on, I really took it seriously and started studying/pursuing it non-stop. I’ve been laser-focused ever since.

HM: What was your first real break into the industry?

RDLF:  “Grachi” for Nickelodeon Latin America really kick-started my career. It was my first series regular role and it was a massive international success all throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia. It was never broadcast in the US, but it gave me an audience and an incredible amount of camera training since we shot more than 200 episodes. My Hollywood break was definitely “Empire” for FOX, but the character of ‘SammyJo’ in “Dynasty” is by far the biggest opportunity I’ve had in my career thus far.

HM: Who are some actors that have influenced you?

RDLF:  That’s a really tough question. I really love Gary Oldman, Benicio del Toro, Javier Bardem, Edward Norton, Sir Ian Mckellen, Giovanni Ribisi. The list goes on.

HM: You’ve found success on shows including Empire and When We Rise. Tell me about those experiences…

RDLF:  Both shows were amazing experiences. “Empire” will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first Hollywood job and it opened such a massive door for me in LA, and being such a massive pop culture phenomenon, it certainly expanded my audience and following.

“When We Rise” was extremely meaningful because it was based on real people and true events that shaped our country’s history. I got to really dig into the LGBT civil rights movement and how hard the community has fought for equality and it just fueled my fire to be more involved and aware. Also, how devastatingly horrific the AIDS epidemic was. Playing ‘Ricardo Cantu’, a real-life person who was a victim of the AIDS epidemic certainly made me even more empathetic and grateful for the heroes that fought for America’s LGBT brothers and sisters.

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HM: Let’s talk about your new CW show, Dynasty, which is a reboot of the iconic series. Did you go back and watch the original show when you got the gig?

RDLF:  I watched it when I was in the auditioning process and since I got the role, I have been watching the show occasionally.

HM: Tell me about the character you play…

RDLF: I play ‘Sammy Jo’, Cristal Flores’ conniving nephew. A rebel at heart, who’s life experience has made him think that just as long as he gets ahead, his schemes and half-truths are justified. He’s not a bad guy at heart, but definitely a naughty one. He has a one-night stand with Steven Carrington, the night before his father’s wedding to Cristal.  

HM: What elements does this show take from the original and how does it differ the most?

RDLF:  It has all the elements that made the original a hit. The drama, the opulence, the cat-fights, fashion, sex…It differs in that, it is a much more diverse cast. Krystel is now Cristal, a hard-working Latina executive at Carrington Atlantic. The Colbys are black, as well as Michael Culhane. Steven Carrington isn’t struggling with his sexuality, he’s a proud gay man. Sammy Jo isn’t played by a white woman, but by a Latino man. It is now set in Atlanta and not Denver. The intention is for the new “Dynasty” to be it’s own thing and stand on it’s own.

HM: Funniest moment on-set…

RDLF:  There’s been plenty…I feel like I’m constantly laughing with this cast and crew. Whether it’s Liz’s funny stories and impressions of people, or Alan’s wit, Grant being Grant…They laugh a lot when I get tired and my accent gets really thick.

HM: What are some of your passions outside of acting?

RDLF:  Singing is my biggest passion. I also love fitness and being outdoors. I love nature and wildlife. A good wining and dining experience is my favorite too…

HM: Best life lesson so far…

RDLF:  Your ego is not your amigo…

HM: What’s the master plan?

RDLF:  CONQUER THE WORLD!

‘DYNASTY’ PREMIERES ON THE CW, WEDNESDAY, OCT. 11, 9/8C.

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RAFAEL ON TWITTER: @rafaeldlf

RAFAEL ON INSTAGRAM: @rafaeldlf

PHOTOGRAPHY: CARLOS MOSCAT

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