THE ROOKIE Director Jon Huertas Shares Why He Decided to Step Behind the Camera (For Now) - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE ROOKIE Director Jon Huertas Shares Why He Decided to Step Behind the Camera (For Now)

November 4, 2022 by  

The Rookie director Jon Huertas

Credit: Diana Ragland

After spending the past 15 years acting on television shows—GENERATION KILL, CASTLE, and THIS IS US—Jon Huertas is focusing his time on another passion: directing.

Huertas is no stranger to the craft, having helmed a number of shorts, as well as two episodes of THIS IS US. But when he got the call to direct the Sunday, November 6 episode of THE ROOKIE, it came out of the blue.

Though Huertas has a tie to the ABC drama (THE ROOKIE creator Alexi Hawley worked on CASTLE for years, as did series star Nathan Fillion), the request came through official channels. “I think what happened was Alexi knew that I was directing because of THIS IS US and decided, ‘Hey that’s somebody I’ve really liked working with over the years we worked together on CASTLE,'” Huertas tells Give Me My Remote. “[I think] he thought if he’s good enough to direct THIS IS US, maybe he’s good enough to direct THE ROOKIE. Alexi didn’t even let me know that he was considering it! So it’s a huge welcome surprise [and] felt really good to get that call.”

“It was a great experience,” he continues. “Nathan, of course, has been one of my favorite people for a long time and is just so wonderful to work with. He sets a great tone for the rest of the cast, the crew, and the writers. Alexi is not only a friend, but a phenomenal showrunner.”

Huertas wasn’t a complete stranger to the rest of THE ROOKIE crew, having guest starred on the show in 2019. “I had a great time when I [was there as an actor],” he recalls. “It was a nice, different departure from what I did on THIS IS US for so many years…back then, I got a sense of the type of set that Alexi and Nathan and the crew have, which is very warm and welcoming; about collaboration and having fun while we’re doing this. I knew that going back as a director, we were going to have fun. And that’s a dream job: when you actually love your job enough that you have fun doing so.”

But, he acknowledges, despite the familiarity, it was different directing a show he wasn’t regularly intertwined with.

“On THIS IS US, it was just built-in trust,” he says. “It’s really important, as you want your cast and crew to trust who you are, and, hopefully, what you’re going to bring to the show. But maybe Nathan and Alexi sent a memo or something to everybody—everybody was so nice to me, so accommodating.”

Tonally, TIU and THE ROOKIE are very different shows, but “prep is always the same, and very important,” Huertas says. “I think it’s the most important part of directing: how you break down the script as the director. And then working with the crew in prep…if we’re gonna have fun, everybody has to be prepared; that’s the way that filming goes smoothly enough for us to enjoy the process and know that we’re creating something enjoyable.”

“Of course, there’s a different kind of lens that you look through when it comes to tone on THE ROOKIE as opposed to THIS IS US,” he continues. “Or right now, I’m currently directing an episode of THE ROOKIE: FEDS; it’s a slightly different tone with THE ROOKIE: FEDS—it’s not too far off, but it’s just slightly different. You have to figure it out…what is that show and how does that affect how you speak to the characters, their development and their journeys in their arcs. The story engine is always gonna be different, but the process is always going to be the same.”

As Huertas balances his on- and off-screen presence, a former THIS IS US executive producer is, in many ways, his ideal role model. “Ken Olin is a good example, I think, of what my career moving forward might look like,” Huertas says of the actor-director. “He definitely mentored me when I first started on THIS IS US. My first week, before I even shot a frame,  Ken asked me to come into his office—he knew that I was trying to direct and he was very forthcoming [with] advice.”

Post-series, the duo remain connected. “He lives a block away from me, so we’ll go and take walks,” Huertas shares. “I’ll just mine his brain for information, advice and help. For me, I might end up being in front of the cameras as an actor more often than Ken is, but for right now, it’s primarily focusing on directing…But I’m an actor in my heart.”

In addition to getting joy out of the directing experience, the position of power is also allowing Huertas an element of creative control. “It’s important as a Latinx actor or an actor who happens to be Latinx,” he says. “For me, the next on-camera role needs to be something that I feel good about, that is elevating Latinx characters to a place above menial workers or drug players in that game. We need to see our romantic leads and our heroes. I’m not gonna work on something on camera unless there’s substance behind the character, whether it be a romantic lead, a very positive or heroic character, in that way. Otherwise, I’d rather be behind the camera and try to find Latinx characters that I can put into great roles as a director, if I can, and tell diverse stories.”

“I really love stories that represent what our planet looks like,” he continues. “I think I can do more as a director than I can as an actor for hire. I’m also producing and developing content that hopefully speaks to that mindset. That’s a goal of mine.”

THE ROOKIE, Sundays, 10/9c, ABC


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