Adrian Lastra is one of the Spanish actors with the fastest growing popularity. A stage veteran, he achieved on-screen fame through movies such as Primos or his role in famous TV series Velvet.
Today, Saturday July 1st, he will be in the Festival presenting his film Primos and picking up his award Un Futuro de Cine at the closing gala of the 32nd edition of Cinema Jove.
All the biographies we’ve found about you highlight your initial calling as a musician. What initially attracted you to it?
I started singing. At home I’ve always listened to a lot of music, but I had never really paid any attention to it. One day, watching a TV show a long time ago, a group of singing boys drew me in. I started singing as well and some people commented “wow, Adrian, you sing very well”. So I went up to my high school teacher and I said “hey, I want to sing”. And, well, she said, “Let’s do some try-outs”. She did and she said: “I’m going to take you to a friend of mine that teaches lyrical singing, so she can hear you and give you advice”. She listened to me sing and said she would love to give me some classes. From then onwards I started doing more interpretations courses, concerts, performances, until a saw a musical and I said “I want to do this. I want to sing and act at the same time.”
You’ve participated in the best-known musicals of the country, such as Hoy no me puedo levantar and 40, el musical. How important were these roles in your career? What did you learn from this experience?
Well, I learned the trade. Which I think is the most important thing and what you learn least about at an acting or musical theatre school. In a musical theatre school they can teach you how to perform, how to create a character in musical theatre, how to parody it, how to do anything. But the stage is the stage. The stage is life. I had never studied acting. So I learned by intuition how and where to take these characters. I remember Hoy no me puedo levantar. There were a lot of things from my background that could help me identify with the character, understand how to act, where to go. And I started to look from there.
Then you moved into TV series, such as Yo soy Bea and Los hombres de Paco. What did you learn from your first contact with the TV industry?
The truth is that I was pretty lost. I didn’t know how to do it. Nobody ever told me “look, Adrian, that was a bit too much.” I didn’t know what a camera roll was; I didn’t know how to look for a light… So you start learning from everybody. I love to be a sponge wherever I work, even now, soak it all in. I love to learn from everybody, from the colleagues I have in front of me, from the camera people, from the light technicians, from the script writers… Of course, when you are filming episodes there aren’t too many pauses. It’s like jumping into a moving car. The car is not going to stop to show you how to get into gear. You have to get into the car and make it keep rolling.
Your first important role was as Juan Manuel “Boogie” in the series Lalola. When does one understand that their career starts to be relevant, that you start to become known?
Actually, I think more than in Lalola, it happened with Hoy no me puedo levantar. I do think a lot of people recognized me from there because it was a very popular musical. But I’ve never felt in my head something like “this is growing” or “this is working” until just lately. Not even when I did Primos, no matter how many Goya awards you get and whatever, I didn’t have the feeling of “this is working.” I’m an optimist, and a realist, but I am also very self-critical. I don’t like to see more than what there is.
Your jump to the big screen was through a small role in the comedy Fuga de Cerebros. How did you live the experience of the transition?
It was strange, of course. It was strange because I remember that in Fuga de Cerebros they gave me a character that was so small that I told my brother, “this is not even worthwhile to put in my video book.” The character was called Junkiei 1, he had two sentences that were, “hey, give me some drugs” and some other thing. So it was more the experience of being in a filming set than actually what I lived. I really didn’t do anything (he laughs). I went out to say the sentence absolutely thrilled, of course, not because you only have one sentence do you say it with less emotion or badly, but, of course, it was weird. It was more about the atmosphere, where you were and the people that were surrounding you than the job itself.
Then you worked under Daniel Sánchez Arévalo to film Primos, with a starring role. What did this jump mean to you and how was it to work with Arévalo?
It was a gift. I was doing the musical Hoy no me puedo levantar. I got introduced to Dani at a dinner in the Galileo Galilei concert hall and he said “Adrian, I’m writing a script and I have a role for you.” Of course, it really caught my attention, knowing that I was talking to Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, and he had just finished the film Azuloscurocasinegro. When we were rehearsing, I asked Dani “how are we going to do this? I don’t know how to do this”, because, in the script, the character was almost a caricature. A person that doesn’t move, a brutal hypochondriac, that has an eye patch; it was very complicated. I remember we rehearsed the anxiety attacks in very high intensity, until I would tell Dani, “no, let’s try lesser [energy]”. Less, less, less, until everything was reflected in a single gaze. It was the biggest gift of my life.
In Primos you coincide with other relevant actors and actresses of your generation. If you had to choose one quality, what do you think defines these artists?
(surprised) Good question. There is a large group of them which I would catalogue as “brave”, as people that take risks. There are a lot of them that don’t, but a lot of them that do, especially if you talk about the people with whom I shared the filming of Primos, which were Raúl [Arévalo], Quim [Gutiérrez], Clara [Lago], Inma [Cuesta]. They risk so much that they just jump in, and they do it with honesty, they believe in themselves. It fascinates me. I feel much identified with them. I think I am a person that risks a lot and goes full in. If I screw up, I screw up completely. I’ve never liked to stay in the middle. I’ve never known how to.
From there you pass to some comedies like Temporal, by José Luis López González, and De chica en chica, by Sonia Sebastian; but you also film Noctem, your first contact with terror films. As an actor, what do you find in the different genres?
I think it’s from where you approach your character. Doing a comedy, a drama, a director’s film or a thriller… I think the emotions are different, taking into account that, for me, I think the most difficult thing is comedy, even if it is so poorly valued in this country. People on the street say “I don’t like what you do there because you are portraying somebody dumb.” But no, I think they don’t understand it. It’s not a dumb character, it can be a very good character, a character that might be sick, a character that might be lacking, but it’s not a dumb character at all. People are not dumb. People can have good qualities or bad qualities, but dumb people don’t exist.
It seems like a must that we mention Pedro Infantes, your character Velvet. If you could speak to him, what would you say you owe him? “Hey, man, thanks for…”
Well, thanks for changing my life. Thanks for giving me something so beautiful. Because the experience of doing this story, this wonderful story with the incredible team that we’ve created with the production company, with the Velvet actors and actresses… and special thanks to Cecilia, because without Cecilia Freire the character of Pedro would’ve never existed.
In Velvet you’ve worked with some of the big names of the Spanish film industry; artists such as José Sacristán, Aitana Sánchez Gijón and Ángela Molina. What have you learned from them?
Well, you know, especially with Pepe (he is the one I worked with the most, because I coincided very little with Aitana and Ángela) I learned what this job is really about. I learned what the trade is, because he is somebody that can really teach you. If you put Pepe Sacristán on a stage, he shows you the reality of the trade, of being an actor. He is an example to follow, at least for me. The way in which to view your work, the way in which to value where you are working, who you are working with, value that you “are” working – which is rare enough these days, taking into account the small percentage of artists that actually make a living off this trade. All of this added to what he can teach you of the profession itself, of what it is to perform, to listen, to feel.
Did he give you any important advice?
“You are not better than anyone”. (Pauses) That you are not better than anyone, it doesn’t matter what name you have, you are the same as your colleagues, you are the same as the camera person, you are the same as the microphone holders, you are the same as the make-up technician, you are the same as the runner. Because without the runner that takes you to the set, you can’t film anything. If you don’t get your make-up done, you can’t go out on stage. If the camera technician doesn’t focus the camera on you the way they have to, what you want to show won’t appear. If the light doesn’t light you where it’s supposed it, it won’t be seen either. Everything has to be done with the entire group. Everything is relevant.
If you look back and think about what you’ve achieved, what would you tell the young Lastra that was just starting?
Be who you are. Knowing everything that is coming, be who you are. Be the Adrian you have always been. Be happy, enjoy life, enjoy time, because tomorrow doesn’t exist, yesterday doesn’t exist, only today exists, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, beautiful things are coming. Not too long ago I was in a small town called Rivas, close to Madrid, and a kid walked up to me and said: “ look, Adrian, I also want to be an actor. What can I do?” and I said: “wow, well… I don’t know. I guess to fight. Then to have infinite patience. And to have the passion you need to get into this craziness. And overall, believe. Believe in yourself. You always have to believe in yourself, because if you don’t, nobody will.”
Looking towards the future, what would you like to do that you haven’t done? Who would you like to work with? Tell us some of your dreams.
(He laughs) I have lots of dreams, but they are all long-term. It’s like goals. When they ask you about your goals and what goals have you achieved or if you have already achieved them I say “no, no, what the fuck?” I’m 33 years old and I haven’t achieved my goals yet. My goal is to die doing what I love. That’s my goal. I have dreams, I would love to do a special director movie, work with such and such actor, but my main goal is to be able to say in x amount of years (very many, if I live enough): holy crap, I’m still a kid.