David Del Rio
Glimpsing Into the Future with Maggie
By Jay S. Jacobs
Suppose you had the ability to see the future just by touching someone else. What if you touch a stranger you have met at a party and you have a vision of yourself marrying him. Then, later when you touch him, you see a vision of him marrying another woman?
This is the high concept behind Maggie, a charming new sitcom debuting on Hulu on July 6. Rebecca Rittenhouse plays the title clairvoyant. The possible Mr. Right is Ben, a high school teacher played by David Del Rio. The ensemble also includes Chloe Bridges as Jessie, the other woman in Ben’s life, Angelique Cabral as Ben’s sister, Leonardo Nam as her fiancé, Nichole Sakura as Maggie’s bestie, Ray Ford as Maggie’s mentor and Kerry Kenney-Silver and Chris Elliott as Maggie’s doting parents.
This is Del Rio’s second comedy lead in a couple of years. He also played Mateo, aka mix-master DJ Cubano, on the Netflix favorite series The Baker and the Beauty. Del Rio also has a history in musicals, appearing on Broadway in In the Heights and also in the film Pitch Perfect and the TV performance of Grease Live. And, to keep his hand in, he also directed the horror film Roadhead last year.
A couple of weeks before Maggie was set to debut on Hulu, we got on the phone with Del Rio to discuss his new show, his career and what he’s looking for in the future.
What is it about the storyline of Maggie that intrigued you when you first saw the script?
Well, I was auditioning, really. (laughs) Once the job was booked, I started my investigation in terms of the things that I really liked about the story. What parts that were being called to enhance. The thing that I had so much fun in exploring is the fact that we’re dealing with a really unorthodox occupation for a character. What I really love about what the writers did led, by Justin Adler, Maggie Mull and then directed by Natalia Anderson. Natalia of set up that tone in what was going on for the rest of season, that it was just so heavily accepted and so quick. What we are exploring, and what we’re watching in the first season is, yes, Maggie and going through her life, the with this gift that she has, but [also] how is everybody else around her? How does it cause friction or cause any enhancement in their life to be part of Maggie’s world? What I really love is that we just get over it pretty quickly, because it is about Maggie as person, and not about the gift. That’s a really important message. It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you are as a person. That really struck a chord with me, where I was like, “Oh, well, we’re not talking about it anymore. Now we’re just talking about relationships here.” I think that once the audience starts to watch, they’re going to really appreciate that not every episode is really talking about the occupation, but really talking about who the characters are.
Do you think that the ability to see somebody’s future just by touching them would be a gift or more of a curse?
I think it would be a curse, to be perfectly honest. (laughs)I don’t envy anybody who can do that. But that’s what I love about the show, too, because it really does explore the process one takes, and what’s really important. Is it really important to tell someone flat out what the truth is in the future or appropriately guide them? I think that the relationship between Angel and Maggie, played by Rebecca Rittenhouse and Ray Ford, really touches upon that. How to harness your gift in making everybody’s lives – as well as your life – better around you. I love the exploration of that.
I had noticed Rebecca a few times in films before this, but she was playing more dramatic and even more horror type of things. In Maggie, she’s a terrific comedian. What is she like to work with?
A real pro, just a real pro. When it came to, schedule-wise, I mean, it was her every day. All day every day. She really was carrying the show. I remember texting her after I saw the first season going, “That was a hard tough schedule for you. Watching the show… you did it. You handled it and you handled it like a boss. It really comes off the screen that this was something that was really important to you.” Genre was not a thing that was a pause for any of us, because we weren’t trying to be funny. We were just trying to play the reality of the situation. Rebecca does it beautifully.
Another thing that I noticed, both in this show and in The Baker and the Beauty, family was really a huge part of the storyline. How important is family to you and your personal life?
Oh, 100%. I have a very close family. My cousins are my best friends. We all grew up together. Family is basically the core for which people make their decisions and not make their decisions. To be part of a show once again where I have such a close relationship with my sister, is something really important to me. This dynamic between Angelique Cabral and I, once we met, we hit it off right away. Okay, she’s my sister, and I’m her little brother. We really hit it off, because in the core of it, it’s about protecting your sibling. And that was something that Angelique and I kept on exploring, and we had a lot of great, great scenes together.
Ben is a teacher. Did you look into teaching or visit any schools to prepare?
I’m a teacher. I had the opportunity to go speak in a lot of acting classes in New York, and in Miami, and here. I also think teaching is such a great exercise of learning. Once people remember that you figured out a way to be truthful and helpful to the students out there. What I love about Ben, as a teacher, is that he is a history teacher. Ben is someone who tells students to really learn from the past to shape your future. To be at odds and to have chemistry with a character like Maggie who can see the future, it’s just such a great contradicting and clashing relationship dynamic.
Have you ever gone to a psychic? If so, what did they tell you is going to happen?
(chuckles) I actually think I did go to a psychic. I did go at like a Universal Halloween Horror Nights one time. I barely remember what she said. I do remember that was really, really freaked out by how accurate it was. I was trying to lie to myself, that wasn’t that big of a deal, don’t worry about it. Then it haunted me for the next 48 hours, but I really just don’t remember what it is. I even remember that the fortuneteller said she was also a life coach, as well. Based on what she sees, she can guide you and that’s exactly what Maggie does. That’s the thing that I was also very interested in with the idea of we’re really diving into the occupation, which I really love what the writers did.
Another similarity between this show and the last show was that you both have a major character who is a social influencer. Why do you think that the influencers are so big and so interesting to people?
I think it’s the idea that as an influencer, we are living in a time where you have the opportunity to be your own boss. Who doesn’t want to be their own boss? I was just saying earlier on another podcast, sometimes I watch reels and I’m such a hater because I’m so jealous. These three second videos can take their kids to college. But I also wouldn’t envy an influencers schedule. (laughs) We as filmmakers have blocks of time for development. With influencers it is just an expectation of constant rapid distribution of their material. That might take a lot of their time, but I think the attraction to be an influencer has really a lot to do with that if you find the market and niche that makes you successful, my gosh, the world’s your oyster. You have no board of directors on top of you. You are the board of directors yourself. I think that’s what really, really gets people going. It gets people really, really interested. I think it’s an occupation that should be discovered and should be explored a lot more in TV series out there
I’m a huge fan of Chris Elliott. I know your character has limited interactions with him, but what’s he like to work with and just have around?
He really is a very sweet man. You would think that he’s heard so many times how much There’s Something About Mary was an influence on so many comedians today. But I was like, I’m working with him. I’ll never get this opportunity again. He was always so gracious with his time. He’s always ready to take direction. He’s so eloquent and calm in his approach when he has ideas to give to people. I was so surprised by his character arc and relationship with Maggie. It’s such a beautiful relationship between a father and daughter and that dynamic. Watching Chris on screen is like a breath of fresh air, especially for this character. To have him around you, there’s this air of like, I just really want to impress him. I feel the same way with Kerri Kenney-Silver as well. I was a fan of Reno 911 for a long time. So, being in a scene with those two, you think to yourself, yeah, I can’t believe this is my life. Like, I cannot believe this is my life. It’s a real treat. I really hope that if it gets picked up or season two, that there’s more to explore there.
Both Maggie and The Baker and the Beauty have been released through streaming services, rather than the old-school traditional TV network model. Do you think of the fact that there’s so many different places out there for television opens up the opportunities both as actors and for an audience to connect with shows like yours?
Well, The Baker and the Beauty made a splash on Netflix, so much so that people thought that it was Netflix original series, when really about six months prior to that we were an ABC show. We were a weekly ABC show. We got cancelled. Then we had a second life on Netflix, so much so that people were so mad that Netflix didn’t pick it up. Hey, listen, I don’t care what route it is on, I just really wanted to continue to add story. But I think that to be with a streamer, such as Hulu, you know, Hulu really cares about their storytellers. They really do care about the people telling the story and people working on it. They really are behind the show 100 percent. They really believe in the show. That’s the feedback that we’ve been getting from Hulu, for which I’m so grateful. I think that part of the attraction for audiences to dive into streamers is that they like to see a beginning, middle and end. There’s no way around it, you really want the grand scope of the beginning, middle and end. They’d like to divide into three, four days to watch a full season. To take in and digest the three episodes that they’d seen before. Prepping themselves. There’s a process. People love to watch streamers. I’m exactly the same way, the third episode and an update, you know what I mean? Like, third, and then we’ll save it for tomorrow. There’s something really fun about that.
You have a background in musicals and theaters as well. You’ve been in things like In the Heights, Pitch Perfect, Grease Live…. How different is between TV and theater and do you feel more comfortable with either one?
There is a huge difference. The joke that I always say is you can tell what the temperature of the day is outside based on how the audience is reacting to the numbers. Let’s say you got a soft little applause. It’s hot out there. They’re just glad that they’re there inside for AC and stuff. It feels like there’s another cast member in a play, and that is the audience. You can really feel in the silence the pull and the push of energy when you’re up there. Because you’re having them witness you, you live in the moment. Film you can edit yourself. Sometimes you can go if there is a problem, we can fix it in post. Everything is laid out on stage. There is a rush, but there’s also this feeling, with film, I don’t need a reminder that I love what I’m doing. Stage, I need a little bit of a reminder, because it really is moment by moment that you are living in front of the audience. Sometimes you go in, you’re like, “I love this. Man, I love this.” Then there’s a little moment in the play where you’re like, (anguished) “Oh God, I hate myself,” and they hate it already, too. Then two minutes later, we’re right back up on that roller coaster going,” Man, I love what I do.” I love the rush, So, it’s up and down when it comes to that.
I guess so…
When it comes to In the Heights that I did at the Richard Rodgers, in New York, there’s nothing like the feeling of leaving the stage door, and walking home. (laughs) I used to live in Battery Park. That’s about a 45-minute walk from the Richard Rogers. I would just walk every home every night to digest what the last performance was. And of course, theater is something very near and dear to my heart. Without really knowing it until four years later, I would meet the girl outside the stage door that became my wife. So there’s like a seed there. Theater is kind of really important to us, in that way, a very personal thing. When it comes to musicals like Grease Live and Pitch Perfect, the thing is, I wouldn’t really consider myself a singer. I consider myself an actor who gets hired to sing. When that happens, I go back to training. I look at the particular notes of the songs that I’m singing. I go to a coach, and I go, “I’m not trying to be Andrea Bocelli. I’m not trying to be like a great singer. But if you can get me to the point to sing this material for which I am employed for and nail it, that’s the thing that I’m a little bit more interested in.” Would I call myself a singer? Not really. But I love to sing. When I get jobs that involve me singing, you can’t hide away from it. When you’re singing, you can’t hide. It’s all exposed. There’s always that stress there. But singing is just part of the job really, as opposed to something I really love doing.
So, no MC Cubano tour coming up?
(laughs) Man, to be a Cuban from Miami, Mateo and MC Cubano will always really have a close place in my heart. It’s really nice to still be posting stuff. I still get comments, just saying MC Cubano. It’s just really nice, the effect that Mateo has had with a lot of people. If we continued to tell that story, Mateo would have had a tour and who knows where him and Vanessa would have ended up. It would have been a very interesting dynamic in terms of the love relationship between Mateo and Vanessa and what they both do to help each other with their careers.
Last year you put out the film Roadhead as your directorial debut feature, I believe you’ve done some short films as well. Is directing a goal for you, or do you want to continue to juggle it with your acting?
Roadhead is my sophomore effort into features, working with the same producers that hired me for my directorial debut called Sick For Toys. The thing is, am I a horror person? Not really. Am I a person that’s been handed an opportunity to tell people that I am a feature film director? Yes. I definitely jumped into chance and really gave my all. To be perfectly honest, you can’t just look at a script and go everything about this is perfect and it’s checking all the boxes. Like life there’s still so many unchecked boxes to check. So, when you look at material, you go, okay, there’s something there that is really intriguing me to dive in and explore with other likeminded artists and DPs and sound people. That can really enhance the game to tell the story. And there are other actors that I want to work with. To answer your question, of course, my phone is always available for an opportunity to direct. The last time I directed myself in something, I was like 15 or 16. I don’t know that’s something that I would do again. Maybe, maybe not. I feel like I’m a smart enough director to say that there are a lot better actors out [there] than me. I can help them get better. I feel like that when that time happens, that’s when I commit to just directing solely.
I get that.
Then when I’m an actor, I do my best to turn off the directing hat. Not in a way of trying to correct anybody or anything like that. The acting is about opening your heart and making yourself vulnerable for the camera to catch. There’s some bravery there. When you’re a director, you show an expectation that you have from your actor and expect your actor to really deliver while you’re just comfortably hunched up and watching. Watching them opening themselves and being vulnerable. So, there’s really a love. Also, here’s the thing, I don’t really find a difference. You give your heart and your head 100% to the job that’s been given to you.
I was also reading that you produced a movie with your wife as a star. Can you tell me a little bit about that project?
Yes. It’s called The Big Feed and it stars my wife, Katherine Del Rio, Ivana Rojas, and Manolo Vergara, Sofia’s son. It’s about two women who get hired for a cleaning service to clean at a mansion before a party. They realize that the mansion belongs to Dracula. Now the rest of their night is to survive the night using what they have in front of them, broomsticks, spray bottles, cleaning supplies. Try to really escape the night. It has this nice Shaun of the Dead [feeling]. Also, I’m not just saying this because she’s my wife, but the chemistry between Katherine and Ivana is just fire. People are just going to love their characters and love them as a duo. I’m really, really proud of my wife in this one. There are times where I’m so stressed, doing the producing job. She really picks up the slack as a producer too. She’s very, very good at doing a lot of things at once. A lot of hats to wear at the same time. That’s the special thing about being producing partners with her as well. We both speak to each other in a different language, flexing our muscles in different ways. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life and in business. I’m really hoping that it comes out soon. (laughs) There’s a lot of things that are out of your control when it comes to distribution. It’s hopefully slated to come out in October of this year. So hopefully, people will have a chance to see it.
You grew up in Miami. You went to school and worked in New York. Now, I believe, you live and work in Los Angeles. They’re all big cities with their own very different types of cities. Do you feel most at home at any of those places? What are some of the things you like about the lifestyles?
New York is something that I feel close to. In New York, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment with myself, two cousins and my brother. We had four guys in one apartment. We had a blast. We were all just young kids trying to figure out our life and being in New York. New York is one of those places that is not very heavy in industry. You can meet a wide array of people from many different industries and meet at Central Park and just really talk about books and life, that kind of thing. LA has the hustle and bustle. When you’re here you’re playing in the main Olympics field of our industry. But I have the most special friendships and relationships that I’ve ever had in my life coming from. Then going back to Miami, it’s home. When I go back to Miami I go, and I get my number one dish which is rice and beans with flat steak and grilled onions, and you’re home. Then the best thing about home is spending time with family. So every time we go back to Miami, that’s the number one thing we concentrate on, to spend time with family.
On a more serious subject, these last couple of years have been so crazy for the whole world. How did you deal with the pandemic? I know that you worked fairly regularly through it, but how did that affect your work and your life in general?
I was so grateful for the jobs that came during the pandemic. A lot of other people can’t say that. I’m just so forever grateful for the people who have trusted me to play the roles and also work during this troubling time. My wife has lived in eighteen places in her life. Because she’s an Army darling, she can’t be in one place for a long time. We decided to quarantine in Mexico. During that time, we wrote a lot of things that are in active development currently. [We] got to really spend time with nature. It was an eye-opening experience, a soul-opening experience, and one that I’ll never forget. These last two years show the will of man and woman. Also, if it didn’t show you of the bubble that we lived in, then it’s more than likely you’re going to end up where you started. And that’s not the point of the whole thing. We should come out a lot more grateful than before January of 2020. Man, it’s like a Black Mirror episode; like, what is it this week? It’s not even only about COVID, it’s just what is it about the human condition of a lot of people? Some disappointing and some absolutely triumphant. It’s basically how you based your time there. It was hard. It was hard. A lot of heartache came with it. But if it showed anything it is that really as a species of humans, we can get through it. We really can. I just hope that people continue to realize what they’ve learned. Take their lessons as accomplishments. Take their ways of thinking to an enhanced level. That’s what I hope. You know what? I’m an optimist. I don’t have a jealous bone in my body. I can’t say I don’t have a negative bone in my body. But I could say that I’m definitely an optimist. Sometimes it’s for survival. But sometimes it’s a reality if you can open your eyes and ears and take a look at the beauty around you.
Just one last question to finish off. If you had power to look into the future like Maggie, what would you like to see?
(surprised) Oh, man. Because it’s scary, isn’t it? Right? I would want to say like, “What would my kids look like?” That’s what I would want to see. It’s weird. It’s just weird. I would just like to catch a quick glimpse of what my kid would look like, to be perfectly honest. That’s what I would do.
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 5, 2022.
Photos © 2022 by Liliane Lathan, Richard Cartwright, Byron Cohen, John P. Fleenor & Raymond Liu. Courtesy of Hulu. All rights reserved.