Rafael L. Silva knows that representation matters. And he knows that especially for people in a community like the LGBTQ+ community, representation can be a a bit of good news and love in a world full of hate and discrimination and ignorance. So when his character Carlos got engaged to his boyfriend TK (Ronen Rubinstein) on this week's season finale of 9-1-1: Lone Star, Silva felt like he got to do something really special.
"We need this type of relationship on network TV. We need it right at the front. Right where it is convenient for people to see - and it might be inconvenient for those who don't come across the LGBTQ+ community very often," he tells Out. "It needs to create dialogue where dialogue doesn't exist about the community. Because if you live under the spell of misconception and ignorance of what this community is, then you're not going to have a clear picture."
The reason he knows it's so important is that he's always looking for that kind of positive representation himself in everything he watches.
"I, myself, as an artist and being part of the queer community, I look for that everywhere I go, too," he says. "I look for that as I'm watching movies. I'm extremely critical of whether I see queer characters in a movie, in a franchise, or a series. The sort of diversity that I want to be in the world, that I want to see in the world."
9-1-1: Lone Star has been doing a great job of showing that diversity, especially when it comes to the types of families featured on the show. And in doing so, Lone Star becomes a new type of "family values" series: one for a more progressive and inclusive generation.
"I think what our show also does really well is redefine what traditional values are, because what are traditional values? Is it something that you've been told over and over and over again in your life? And that, somehow, is tradition? Does it align with how you feel?" Silva asks. "Because as far as I know, we're all unique, complex individuals that have different tastes and values and points of view. So, to be able to be at the forefront with this TV show, in which we can just portray that family has no definition, Has no shape, has no size, has no cultural binding to any one person or any sort of culture [is wonderful]."
"So why is it that the 126 is more of a family or less of a family than the Reyes family, or the Strand family? These are all families," he continues. "And to be part of having this dialogue along and creating these conversations, that's the point. That's the point, is to get you talking. It's getting talking, either with somebody or with yourself. Start asking questions. What do I value? Who do I love? That's the point, to create the dialogue."
Silva knows that when it comes down to it, representation matters because when you see yourself, you feel like you matter, and you feel like you're invincible.
"You are here for a reason. You exist for a reason. And any day that you spend not nurturing the self that is you, the life that is you, the world experiences the disservice of not witnessing your brilliance," he says is his message to fans, especially queer ones. "So, if you watched that scene and you felt loved, and you felt seen, and you have your Carlos next to you, it's because you deserve it."
Filming Lone Star has been one of the biggest and most rewarding projects in Silva's career, and it's been a whirlwind since day one. He was in front of a camera shooting his first scenes just a week after testing for the show. Even more than that, one of his first scenes was a steamy makeout with TK.
"I don't know if you remember the second episode of season one, when TK and Carlos just burst through the doors, kissing in the chaos. That was my second day of shooting," he reveals. "My first day shooting was with Liv Tyler. I love Liv, I miss her. And the second day was me and Ronen just going at it."
It's a good thing the two actors have such great chemistry, because starting off that hot could've made building their relationship a lot harder.
"The chemistry was absolutely there, right off of [the screen tests]," Silva says of his relationship with Rubinstein. "But then, getting to know him as a person, and him getting to know me as a person, we share so many points of views, and the way we see the world, and the way we work as artists, too, and how we care about the things that we care about. It was, dare I say, effortless? Because it just worked, it just worked. You know, it's like two puzzle pieces, when we finally find a puzzle that goes together, it just makes sense."
And Carlos isn't only great when he's being a good boyfriend. This season especially, we've gotten to know Carlos in a deeper and more real way, and that's been wonderful for Silva.
When he was first introduced, Carlos was kind of a flawless character. He was handsome and kind, supportive, good at his job, and an overall good guy. But a flawless character is a boring character, and this season we got to know some of Carlos' flaws.
"I think this season we've seen that in Carlos, as much as he tries to be this man, he's still a boy at heart, too," Silva says. "And he really just wants to do his best, but his best is not necessarily the best for everybody else. Right?"
Silva mentions two specific episodes from this season as ones where we really got to know Carlos and see deeper sides of him. The first is episode 13, where Carlos meets TK's new sponsor and becomes deeply jealous of him.
"[You can see those flaws] especially on that episode 13, with the sponsor. You can have the intention to be there for somebody, but you need to listen to that somebody to know how you can be there for them. You can't be there for somebody when it's convenient for you, you know? And what does it mean to love somebody?"
Then there's the scene early in the season where Carlos expresses his feelings to TK when he's in a coma in the hospital. When he was told why TK and Carlos broke up (TK was afraid of the commitment of getting an apartment with both their names on the lease), Silva immediately felt the anger that he knew Carlos would feel. And he knew he'd have to bring it to the scene.
"We need to see that anger, because anger is not just ignorance or fear, it's the love that was there. That was completely denied," Silva says. "Because whether we want to accept it or not, the fact that Carlos put that boy's name down as he bought the loft, that was Carlos saying, 'Will you marry me? I see myself with you.' So, having TK just like [deny that] it broke Carlos' heart. So we need to see the anger."
We certainly did.
Silva's acting this season showed several new sides to the character, including his anger, his flaws, and his sense of humor. And Silva is excited to get to do more of that now that the show's been renewed for a fourth season.
"He tries his best, and I think that's what's beautiful about Carlos and what's been shown in this season," he says. "The boy's got layers and I think we can look forward to seeing that in season four."
Silva also has some ideas of what he wants to see Carlos do in season four. "I think I want to see Texas through the eyes of Carlos," he says. "I want to see Texas. I want to see this man in Texas. I want to see the Tejano side. I want to see the Latine side. I want to see the spice!"
"With Carlos. I want to see it. Because, especially in Texas, and especially in America, us Latinos, we're part of it, you know?" he adds.
"I want to get to know Carlos's Latine community. That's what I want," he continues. "I want that. I want to see the history of Carlos, I want to see TK at a barbecue with Carlos's, big-ass family - which, I think he does have a big family - and how he deals with that. And the culture, I want to see culture, I want to see the love of the Texan community."
We'll get to see even more of Carlos and his many sides next season on 9-1-1: Lone Star.
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