TED LASSO: Cristo Fernández on the Joys of Playing Dani Rojas - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

TED LASSO: Cristo Fernández on the Joys of Playing Dani Rojas

September 17, 2020 by  

TED LASSO Cristo Fernández

Cristo Fernandez in “Ted Lasso,” now streaming on Apple TV+.​ (Credit: Apple TV+)

When a character, like TED LASSO’S Dani Rojas, is a pleasure to watch, there’s always a hope that the actor portraying them is just as interesting. I’m happy to report that Cristo Fernández is even more thoughtful and joyous than his character. It was a pleasure to sit down with him and talk through how Dani Rojas is a good stereotype, how his sports and acting past have come together for the role, and what he’d like to see for Dani in season 2. And he also shares some encouragement & advice for young people whose acting or sports programs have been delayed.

Read on!

The character of Dani Rojas has really resonated with viewers because of the joy that he brings. How do you contribute to the character and its development, and how do you keep it from being a stereotype?
I’m very happy with the reaction that people are having with Dani Rojas, and I’m very grateful for the production team, Jason [Sudeikis] and Bill Lawrence, the creators of the show for letting me put so much of who I am, Cristo Fernández, as an actor and as a person, as a Mexican and a Latino, and to give so much to it. [Dani] is from Guadalajara, I’m from Guadalajara. I like to celebrate with Mezcal, he likes to celebrate with Mezcal… [Laughs.]

Most importantly, I can play someone who has cool stories about him. The fact that I can play a Mexican/Latino with good vibes, we welcome everyone in our homes, and if someone is hungry, we give them what’s in our fridge. So, I’m happy to play a character who represents that.

Talking about your experience, I know you have played football (soccer) successfully in the past, and that requires a lot of discipline. You’ve talked on your website about how you’ve channeled that discipline into the craft of acting. How has that been? Has it been strange to act as a footballer, or has it been very natural?
People HAVE approached me, “Hey Cristo, how much did you prepare for the role, like one month?” [Laughs.] And I said, “I prepared my whole life for this role without even knowing it.” Football was my life before, and I played at a professional level. When I had injuries, I began to pursue studies in communications and set new goals in life, and I fell in love with acting and filmmaking. I got away from football. Though even when I did act, people would still want to ask me about football!

It’s so funny how life works sometimes, and my first opportunity [for acting] comes with football. It feels very natural, because that is who I am, and that is what I did, and have been doing for most of my life. It’s a combination of experience and fulfilling some dreams in football and acting. It’s been a really nice experience for me.

The show has been renewed for a second season. What storylines would you like to see for Dani in Season 2?

More than anything, I look forward to seeing what this talented people are going to create for all of us. As soon as I read the scripts for season one, I knew that it was going to be great. I know Jason’s work and Bill Lawrence’s with SCRUBS, and they were very cool in letting me create some things. Like a scene from my audition, they let me keep in the show, that was very cool. I look forward to what they will do. We’ve seen Dani happy all the time, so maybe we could see a time when he isn’t happy…and what it is that makes him happy. I’m excited to see what they come up with, and they are always willing to listen to what I think about it.

The show prides itself on having an international cast. Can you talk about that experience, even behind the scenes, of getting to know the rest of the team?

It’s a plus on our show, lots of nationalities and cultures. And that is something that football is known for…many beliefs and thoughts, and football brings it all together. I’m very grateful for the cast and crew. My character appears in the sixth episode, so they’d already been working together for almost two months before I arrived. They welcomed me and made me a part of the team.

Everyone is amazing. I was really impressed, from the cast and crew, the catering and those behind the camera with the mics, everyone is so nice. And I think that comes from Jason and Bill; they are always working hard to keep that positive attitude to allow the great work to happen. And I’ve learned so much from others in the cast. I have a French friend now, a Nigerian friend…English friends, Canadian, American… that is all very cool.

A lot of young people around the world have had their sports and theater programs suspended or cancelled due to the pandemic. What encouragement would you have for these young people to stay positive and motivated?

Right now, it’s tough. These are complicated times. I find that when [cancelled programs] happen, it can allow other opportunities to happen to work in other areas. I invite people to be more proactive instead of waiting for opportunities to happen. I try to create those opportunities. For example [for acting], I do short films every year. They are indie, sometimes even with my phone, but that is how I can feel positive and keep creating.

And for kids out there who can’t play football right now because we can’t all hang out together at the moment…if football is your biggest passion, think about all of the ways you can make it happen. Maybe hitting the ball against the wall and practicing; it’s how I used to do it. It’s not going to be forever…whatever dream you have, right now is the moment to just play. More than ever, if you fail or don’t succeed, it’s not important—it’s just a game. And I think that’s how Dani Rojas thinks too. He’s willing to learn and enjoy the game. Sometimes we forget in our stressful worlds, but we LIKE it! It’s good to remember.

And even if you’re older, it’s never too late to start these things. I started late in acting, but I always have said that I have lots of experience in life…maybe not in acting, but in other parts of life or jobs I’ve had in the past. So, I invite people to think, in these crisis times, about positive opportunities. We have to see it like that. It’s about being proactive and creating those opportunities and doing them with passion! Like how Dani plays football!

Finally, what would you like to share with your fans and fans of TED LASSO?

For those who are watching the show, thank you very much; the response means a lot to us. For those who aren’t, I invite you to, because it’s not just a comedy where you’ll laugh and that’s it. In this world we’re living in now, the show has a nice message that in life, we might not have all of the experience or knowledge in certain areas, but if you’re willing to try and do it with passion and are willing to learn and fail from people who know about that area, you can be really good at it. And I identify a lot with that.

I think that’s who Ted Lasso is. He’s someone who is experiencing the professional, high pressure, high performance Premier football league, but he’s a great leader and is always looking to get the best from his people. That’s a great message coming from the show, and I think people can see that and feel better about themselves. And thank you to everyone at Give Me My Remote, thanks for watching and for the good vibes, and I hope we can talk again soon.


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