Nerds, rejoice: Broadcast televisions only original science fiction film, Virtuality, is nigh indeed. Produced by Ronald D. Moore, he of Battlestar Galactica and Caprica fame, and directed by none other than Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Hancock), the two-hour movie is a shape-shifting hot mess, constantly blurring the lines between reality, virtual reality and various hitherto unnamed realities.
See, theres, like, a spaceship, and its on a quest to save the Earth, as spaceships are wont to do, and all the crew members keep dipping into a virtual reality to pass the time, but then theres, like, an evil glitch, and then what happens is, well, theres a reality show being filmed aboard the ship, and Etc. Anyway, character actor Jose Pablo Cantillo plays Manny Rodriquez, a genius scientist who just so happens to be gay. Manny is dating Valentine Orlov, played by Gene Farber.
We caught up with Jose to chat about string theory, playing gay and what were hoping to be the hottest youth movement of Summer 09: namely, Interracial Gays In Space!
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Jose Pablo Cantillo: Yeah, my characters a mathematician who specializes in string theory. My boyfriends played by Gene Farber, and our characters have been dating for about ten years.
Did you know Gene Farber at all before filming the show?
No. We did a chemistry test and it was the first time Id seen him. I didnt see him again until we started filming. We hit it off -- hes a very intense, funny kid. He likes to play chess. I mean, he has a chess piece tattooed on his back and he approaches chess as a metaphor for life. Hes a genuinely eccentric guy -- you know the kind? Theres a lot there and you want to get to know him. I would figure out ways to push his button -- I mean, hes hardcore. It infuriates him the way I set up my pawns. He has, like, a Charles Bukowski sense of theatre.
Do you have his phone number? Wait -- You guys are straight, right?
Yeah. Im married to my high-school sweetheart and have a ten-month old daughter.
So, how did you prepare for the role? Did you go all Stanislavsky, all method actor?
I didnt approach it as playing gay. I just broke it down in my analysis, as in, Gene Farbers character is the love of my life. Like any actor thats open, I just wanted to play it as a smart person whos in love and facing an important decision.
Theres a lot going on in the story here. Youre on a ship, and everyone aboard the ship enters into a virtual reality to pass the time, and theres a virus in the virtual reality threatening your mission to save the Earth, and meanwhile, youre all being filmed for a reality series. Can you geek out about this a little bit?
Well, thats pretty much it. Were on a ten-year space mission, exploring the current trends with global warming, and were aware that the Earth is dying, so were trying to find a way to save human civilization. Meanwhile, theres a reality series being filmed on the ship, so its a play within a play. And theres a virtual reality program that people plug into in order to escape from the humdrum of space.
Space travel can indeed be humdrum. The fact that youre being filmed causes friction between you and your boyfriend, right?
We try to figure out what should be off limits. We dont want to be, like, bickering. We dont want to be portrayed as a bitchy gay couple, but the producers keep saying, You guys are so dramatic -- well stop if you want, but if you play ball, well give your families visas So were encouraged to bicker about, like -- salt.
So you guys feel undermined?
Well yeah, because meanwhile our characters do high-level string theory math! See, on Earth, dry land is depleting and our characters have family in like, South Florida. So, with the producers offering us visas to ham it up, we start to feel degraded, thinking, like, Were in the future now and were still forced to play these antiquated stereotypes?
And then theres an issue about you two getting married?
Yeah. The idea is that our characters might get married, but my boyfriend wants us to get married on our own terms, versus getting married simply for a spot upon the ship.
Where does your character stand on this?
Well, my character turns out to be a little bit of a hypocrite, because initially I say I would never get married -- but when the opportunity to get onto the ship materializes, Im suddenly very forward and gung-ho about getting married.
Meanwhile, theres an evil glitch in the virtual reality program?
Yeah, theres an evil element creeping in. There are glitches, and they begin to effect the mental stability of the crew members -- but I cant give too much away. Im not allowed to talk about anything else thats going on. Maybe Ive said too much. Wait, let me check with my publicist to make sure I havent given away too much
Virtuality airs Friday, June 26 (8:00 PM ET/PT on Fox).