Courtesy of AMC
Courtesy of AMC

Jose Pablo Cantillo, known for his roles as Yankee in “Chappie,” Caesar Martinez in “The Walking Dead” and Hector Salazar in “Sons of Anarchy,” paid a special visit to the UCR Theatre Tuesday night. Adam Daniels, the Student Organization and Orientation Advisor at Student Life, interviewed Jose, who insisted we call him “Joe,” as he talked about life, love and his experiences on the silver screen. Throughout the talk, which lasted over an hour and included several questions by audience members, Joe kept the tone light and irreverent, while dispensing wisdom on getting ahead in acting and other career fields, in a night of indisputable wisdom and unheard anecdotes that served to pierce the veil between the man and the character.

I arrived a few minutes after seven and sought to find a slightly more empty section of the theater, clutching a promotional poster that I had grabbed off a table as I walked through the theater doors. In finding my seat, I unknowingly brushed past Joe, who was chatting with several fans who made up the front row of seats. I didn’t notice at first, because I somewhat expected him to have a haughty air that some people falsely associate with actors. It wasn’t until he came up and introduced himself that I realized, “Oh, this is the guy who is doing the talk, neat.”

He asked to sign my poster, and asked my opinion of “The Walking Dead,” to which I replied that I liked it a lot more after season two, when stuff actually started happening. Laughing, he asked my opinion of “Chappie,” which I didn’t care for, before he asked about “Elysium.” “It was good,” I remarked, as he signed my poster. When he handed it back and made his way up to the stage, I looked down at it. “Rob — Guns Up!” was written above a distinct signature.

Daniels began the night with a brief introduction of himself and Joe’s work, pausing after each well-known title for emphasis. The crowd, which had swelled from a modest smattering to well over 50 attendees, gave the loudest cheers for “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Walking Dead.” After he was introduced, Joe walked up to the stage from the left side of the theater, even though he had been mingling with the audience a few minutes prior. After the initial applause, Daniels began his questioning, covering how Cantillo had gotten into acting and his experiences on the “The Walking Dead.”

Intermixed with small anecdotes about his girlfriend and living in a farm community in the Midwest, Cantillo explained how he got into theater in college as a way to fulfill breadth requirements required for his business major. It grew on him as time passed, to the point that he eventually made plans to move to New York to pursue acting. However, he had a hard time explaining his choice to his friends and family, saying, “It didn’t feel right to publicly come out and be an actor.”

The next series of questions dealt primarily with his best-known roles as Caesar Martinez on “The Walking Dead,” and his stories helped shine light on the dichotomy between his badass zombie-killing character and his mild-mannered, goofy self. “I got down into my birthday suit on day one of ‘The Walking Dead,’” Joe explained, mimicking the act of disrobing with his hands. He talked about how he had a run-in with a group of biting red ants while shooting his first scene on the show, and how the cast and crew spent a large portion of time between and during shoots playing practical jokes on one another. This would involve messing with character positions and props between shots, and that even during serious scenes the crew was probably in stitches a few moments before the cameras started rolling. Aside from technical aspects of filming, Joe also talked about run-ins with oddball fans, noting that on two separate occasions he was told, “I was so glad when you died” by fans at conventions.

Joe humorously remarked that there was “not much” of a difference between his characters and real-life persona before shifting the focus of his talks to his personal and family life. A family man, Joe talked about knowing his wife back in high school, as well as how his daughter still asks him what he wants to do “when he grows up.” The questions shifted back to practical experience helping him define roles, and while he mentioned that there was certain training in playing characters such as cops and soldiers, “there’s no technical advisor on how to be a badass.”

At 8 p.m., Daniels finished the questioning, asking, “If you could give one animal wings, what would it be?” Cantillo answered by describing hitting a deer back in his youth, remarking that giving deer wings would prevent run-ins like his. The floor was then opened to questioning, with students asking about acting advice, ways to get started in the industry and what he liked about certain roles. As time ran out, Daniels asked for one final question to end the night. Raising my hand, I chose to ask the question James Lipton used to end every episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” “Joe, if heaven is real and you go there when you die, what would you like to hear God say when you get to the pearly gates?” “That was badass,” he answered. “Then again, God would probably think it was just one of my characters, and that it wasn’t actually me.”