Richard Cabral Q&A: ‘American Crime’
“It’s going to be loud!” admits newly-minted Emmy nominee Richard Cabral ("American Crime") during our recent webcam chat when asked about his reaction should he win on Sept. 20. “I think there’s going to be a lot of tears. But joyful tears. It’s going to be a really special moment for me and for my friends in the neighborhood. No one has seen the Emmys before in the neighborhood, but [this time] there’s going to be Emmy parties!”
In this acclaimed limited series created by Oscar-winning writer John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave"), he plays Hector Tontz, a young man fighting to rise above his troubled life of crime and incarceration. "Amercian Crime" landed an impressive 10 Emmy nominations, including one for Cabral in the competitive Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor category.
During our revealing conversation, the actor candidly revisits the challenges of bringing this character to life, the similarities between Hector and his own inspiring personal story, and his highlights from working on the series.
Fans of the show gravitated to Hector because his story is one of hope and ultimately redemption. The last frame we see before the series fades to black in its powerful finale is Hector breaking free of his troubled past, happily proclaiming the words “I feel…”. It was an ending that Cabral himself agrees was the perfect way to sum up the show and his character’s journey. “I loved it. The greatest form of art is when you leave it to the audience. I’m not going to force feed you and tell you what it should be. We’re on this journey together.”
Recalls the actor, "I remember talking with John [Ridley] that day when we were shooting that, and he was like ‘Whatever comes out Richard, whatever you feel.’ After filming that, and after it aired, I remember people coming up to me on the street and they interpreted what they thought it was.”
He is now looking forward to the show's second season, where we'll see him in a completely different light, as much of the same ensemble of actors will play different characters in a whole new storyline. "We’re in Indianapolis, and it revolves around a rape. A male to male rape, so something that I believe television and film hasn’t really seen," says Cabral. "It’s exciting for me because I’m coming back as a totally different character. They’re taking off my hair and they’re going to change me up. And plus, throughout my career, my young career, I’ve played the bad guy! This time it’s a whole different spin."
Now that he's come so far from such a troubled past to his first Emmy nomination, Cabral is soaking it up and enjoying the journey. And he knows that his inspiring story also carries an important message with it, especially if his name is called as the winner next month. "This is not just for me. If this victory comes, it is to really let people know that it doesn’t have to be that way, you don’t have to end your life in the way that it has been set. We write our own destiny, and that’s what that Emmy will stand for."