Rafael Cebrián was born in Spain, trained in London, and educated in Providence, Rhode Island (as a Brown grad). His multicultural background and not to mention fluency in Spanish, French, Italian, and English helped nab him a variety of diverse roles in both the U.S. and overseas—from Canal+’s Borgia and Netflix’s Narcos, to his most recent film—2020’s Sonora.
Fittingly, he’s about to have his moment in the sun with a starring role in Apple TV’s new bilingual comedy series, inspired by the box office hit How to Be a Latin Lover, about a couple of cabana boys at a popular resort in flamingo-hued 1984 Acapulco. For our recurring Get to Know column, he tells us all about it.
Acapulco premieres Friday, October 8th, on Apple TV +.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Madrid, Spain, but I moved to the U.S. at the age of 17 after getting accepted into Brown. I never intended to stay in the country past graduation, but I got a job shortly after and it prompted a change of coast. So here I am, 14 years in, and living in Los Angeles.
Tell us about your current project.
Acapulco is a fast paced, high concept, grounded comedy set in the 1980’s. It follows Máximo’s rags-to-riches story from the streets of Acapulco to securing a job at the most glamorous, fancy hotel in the city: Las Colinas.
I play Hector The Protector, the head of the pool department and Máximo’s rival. Hector would do anything to keep his job, and he won’t let Máximo step on his toes.
What drew you to the role?
Comedy, comedy, comedy! Due to my track record, people tend to think of me as a dramatic actor, but I’ve been keen on doing a comedy since I can remember. I’ve always felt very comfortable in that world, and yet, for some reason, I’d never had the chance to explore a big comedic role until Hector The Protector came along.
Not to mention the fact that people like Austin Winsberg, Chris Harris, Jay Karas, Eduardo Cisneros, Jason Shuman, and The Tannenbaum Company are behind this project. I’m also a huge Eugenio Derbez fan. What a dream team really.
Did you have to learn any new skills or do any specific training for this?
I had to unlearn 14 years of American dialect coaching to go back to my original Spanish accent I had when I first got to the U.S! It was much harder than I thought it would be—rolling those r’s.nI was constantly watching a lot of early Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem interviews—icons and true legends. So much respect.
What has been your favorite part of working on Acapulco?
First off, getting the opportunity to work with such a talented group of people was a true luxury. I was challenged in so many ways. I’d like to think that I came out of Las Colinas Resort a better actor and a better person. Second, I had a lot of fun getting to play such a loud and wild character. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
Most challenging part?
This first season of the show was shot in Puerto Vallarta during the pandemic. We were essentially in a bubble. People were rarely able to come in or out. We basically lived where we worked, and even though it may sound convenient, it could feel a little heavy at times.
My favorite thing about getting to film abroad is the fact that we get to fully immerse ourselves in the culture of the country where we are working. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, we missed out on doing that this time around.
What will you remember about the making of this project?
I could go on and on about the fun memories we had on set. I will say that I will never forget the breathtaking sunsets in Puerto Vallarta. They’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Truly beautiful.
Who did you most lean on during this time?
My friend and acting coach Tom Draper who helped me create this character since I first heard of the role. He was constantly encouraging me to be big, take risks, and make bold choices. I’ve got to give this one to him too. He’s a big part of Hector, and I couldn’t have done it without him.
I’d also like to think that I leaned on John Travolta’s walk. There’s something about his quintessential performance as Danny Zuko that inspired me when bringing Hector’s physicality to life.
Do you have any hobbies that help keep you sane?
I LOVE to eat. One of my favorite things to do on a free afternoon is to get lost and discover new food joints around town. I also really enjoy cooking, but it drives me nuts. I’m very impatient and a little OCD, so I can’t handle a mess very well.
Who is your role model in your industry?
Anthony Hopkins and Will Smith are the two actors that made me want to become an actor.
CHECK OUT RAFAEL
As Hector in Apple TV’s Acapulco
As Alejandro Ayala in Netflix’s Narcos
As Enzo in Netflix’s Greenhouse Academy