INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR DANTE BASCO
What attracted you to begin your career as an actor?
What attracted me to my career as an actor goes back to before I came to LA. My brothers and I were breakdancers in the streets of San Francisco. We’ve been performing for as long as I can remember. First time I did some kind of little play for Halloween in elementary school, I was just good at it, people liked me playing the role, I felt good up there performing. A lot of kids dream of being firemen or racecar drivers; for me, it was always acting and dancing. John Travolta in Grease, that was like an early memory of what I wanted to do – to be like Danny Zuko.
When and what was your first role as an actor?
The first role I booked as an actor was the first thing I auditioned for, I played a Native American kid in an old 80’s show called “The Wizard.” See if you can find that somewhere online!
How did you hear and get the role of Rufio, the leader of the Lost Boys in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook”. What do you feel about the role and your performance? And what was it like to be a child/teen actor?
Rufio is a special part of my career, I auditioned for the role, but oddly I was cast off one audition. In the book, I discuss what this role has meant to me in my life and what it’s come to mean to the world.
How did you learn your craft?
I learned my craft by studying more than 20 years in a conservatory. Along with my brothers and sister, we studied acting and voice and movement. It was an amazing time, being young, becoming an artist, being creative, doing things you’ve never even thought you could be a part of. Training is an important time in a young artist’s life.
Were family and friends supportive of your acting endeavors? Are your siblings also in the industry?
My family was always supportive of my career, as I have been in theirs. My story is in a lot of ways their story too. We all came to Hollywood together, and we’re all still here, working on individual careers, but finding many things to work on together. Currently, I’m directing my first film, “Fabulous Filipino Brothers,” starring my brothers and sister. A film I wrote with my brothers, it all takes place around a Filipino wedding, four brothers, four vignettes, a linear story told out of order – brothers and lovers and cockfights.
How would you describe your acting style?
After many years of acting and studying, when I think of my style, or any other’s style really, I find you develop your own thing. With me, it’s just the search for truth. Find out where I and the character intersect and try to have some honest moments in the depiction of the scenes.
What movie genre do you like best for watching?
I watch everything! I love classic films, see what the masters did, see how I can add to it. I love romantic comedies; it’s like a guilty pleasure. I like to think, in the end, everything will work out.
Who is your favorite actor? Has your experience of acting changed your movie viewing experience?
One of my favorite actors to watch as far as the pop culture goes is Robert Downey Jr. When he came in to play Ironman, he changed the game, really. this expert, an Oscar-worthy actor, coming in to play a superhero flick. He’s just so exciting to watch, the choices he makes, it’s vibrant, I love watching actors act and feeling like anything can happen.
And when you become an actor, it’s hard to watch films in the same way as you did before, because filmmaking is your craft. When you watch other filmmakers work, you have to see what is working, what isn’t, how this is informing you of the next project you’ll be working on. Still enjoy films and storytelling, but always you are open to how it is impacting you and how that will affect your own work.
How do you think you’ve have matured as an actor? How do you work on honing your acting skills?
I’ve matured as a human. I’ve matured as an actor. They’re connected, and they inform each other. As far as honing my acting skills, I just keep working, keep acting, on my stuff, on friends stuff, I write, I perform. I was told you are what you do most of the time. I try to stay creative.
Ever had a terrible day but had to perform?
Of course, no one is perfect, but even when you’re on stage bombing, and no one is laughing, it’s interesting to pay attention to how it feels, it’s still apart of it all. And you learn you don’t go down with the ship, fight your way through the performance, try to get the audience back, the moment back. Even setbacks are places to learn, you might even learn the most from them, so are they really setbacks anyway? It’s just part of the process.
Do you have a role model or ideal in the acting industry?
Role models in the industry, I always was taught to study the masters. It’s like chasing legends, Brando, Pacino, Clift, Dean, Dinero, Hoffman, Nicholson… the list goes on! I mean, watch their films, read their bios. We just wanted to be great. Chasing greatness.
What have you learned from more experienced actors that you’ve worked with?
When with great actors, know that you’re in the presence of greatness. Listen, ask questions. I learned how to work, how to attack a scene, what questions to ask. I’ve learned how to treat my fellow co-workers on set, not just other actors, but the whole village it takes to make a movie. When you’re around more experienced actors, you can feel the acting change, with myself included. It’s like what they say with tennis players; they play to their competition. Sometimes, it feels like it’s almost a different language.
What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
Great directors challenge you, or more than not, ask you the questions you may have overlooked. I learned from all the directors I’ve worked with, things that worked, things that failed. Now that I’m directing, a lot of those past experiences come into my mind, hopefully, help me make the right decisions.
What are some great tips for becoming a successful actor?
Actors always ask me for tips; it’s hard. There is no one way to succeed in this industry, if there was, it would be the industry, the world, and your family telling you not to get into because you’ll never make it. I can only tell you to study and find out how others you want to be like made it, knowing you can’t do exactly what they did, that’s not how this town works. Still, if you know how to apply all the lessons you learn to yourself, you’ll have a shot at making it. The trick is, your the only one who will truly know how to apply to you because you’re you.
What have you learned from your acting career that can be applied in everyday life?
This career in acting is not for the light-hearted; it’s been a long journey. The things I’ve learned from it all, it’s really what you are made of. The highs have been high, and the lows have been deep. What will you sacrifice for what others may deem dumb or unsubstantial? Why do you even want what you want? And maybe you can just make something meaningful, and perhaps that will matter. Ultimately, in making all this art throughout my life, film, and television, music, poetry, even writing this book. You just want to make sure the life you’ve lived in the best piece of art you created.
What brings you joy?
My family and friends. I have been involved for the last decade in Asian American film making, producing a handful of films. I feel all a lot of satisfaction in creating opportunities for others, especially the next generation of Asian talent.
Can you tell us about your new book?
I was approached by the publishing house ‘Not a Cult media,’ and they wanted me to tell my story, a story of an Asian kid growing up in the Hollywood industry. I thought I was far too young to write a biography, but I also thought it would be good to give a blueprint the the next generation of artist coming to town, especially people of color of some of the mistakes me and my family have made… You’re defenitely going to make mistakes, just maybe avoid some of the ones I made! You can get the book on Amazon or at https://www.notacult.media/ books/rufio. Also, I’m touring Barnes and Noble so you can catch it at your local bookstore.
How and why did you found DPL- Da Poetry Lounge?
Co-founding DPL-Da Poetry Lounge is definitely something I’m very proud of. As legend would have it, and it’s true… one of my co-founders, Shihan, was living on my couch for a small stint and we met at Roni’s Backstreet Poetry, we were doing open mics around town. I ended up throwing a venue in my living room and the place was packed! For those around LA at that time, they were apart of a some pretty special artistic happenings. It’s grown over the years and now resides as a staple in the LA art scene as the largest weekly open mic in the country, giving a live platform to thousands of artists.