Close-Up chats with actor Heath V. Salazar who is set to recur as Arrow in the second season of the highly acclaimed series Sort Of, which follows a gender-fluid millennial who straddles various identities, exposing the identities and labels that are no longer applicable.
You are set to star in the second season of the highly acclaimed series, Sort Of. How did this opportunity come about for you and what excited you about this project?
I became involved in Sort Of through the pandemic’s newfound invention – zoom auditions! I have to say that the show stole my heart from the first episode, but it was the nuance that Sort Of toys with through its intergenerational relationships and friendship dynamics that solidified its place as a favorite for me. When I received the audition, I remember feeling like Arrow and I had met before, which I think is a testament to the writers involved. They offered a real gift through this character, and it meant a lot to get to embody that alongside our team.
You play Arrow, an internet influencer who has 7ven’s (Sabi’s best friend and confidant) heart. Can you tell us more about Arrow and your experience playing this character?
My experience joining the Sort Of team in the role of Arrow has brought so much joy into my life in a way that I never anticipated thanks to the people that I’ve gotten to work with. On my first day, I remember secretly being nervous because I held great respect for the show and wanted to honour the work that had gone into developing Arrow, but I knew I couldn’t let it show. When I walked into the trailer for hair and makeup first thing in the morning, I’ll never forget our Assistant Makeup Artist Antonio Hines greeting me. They learned my name and introduced themself, and then they cupped my hand in both of theirs and said ‘Welcome’. I remember it felt like my body settled and I immediately knew that I was part of a team. Across the board, every single department I interacted with in my role as Arrow was made up of supremely skilled and caring people. It says so much about our creators and the culture that’s been cultivated behind the scenes. It’s something that’s definitely going to stick with me because it instilled in me a new standard for the way I want to make people feel when I work with them.
You are a graduate of Randolph College for the Performing Arts. What are your early memories of performing and falling in love with acting?
One of my earliest memories that made me fall in love with acting was performing an ensemble version of Singing in the Rain when I was ten years old. It was summer camp in Sudbury, Ontario and we had an end-of-week showcase for the parents. There were group numbers and silly scenes and, during our Singing in the Rain number, we got to dance with our umbrellas. Once the cheering subsided and we were on our way home, my mum told me that Singing in the Rain was her mother’s favorite musical. She said she’d loved overhearing it play in our house throughout the week and, I remember that when she told me, she looked sad and happy at the same time. I didn’t grow up with my abuelita – I was born and raised in Canada while my grandparents lived in Colombia. If I recall correctly, it was the first summer since she’d passed. That moment was the first time I realized that art could connect us to the people we loved the most, even the ones that felt the farthest away.
Among other things, you are an active member of the film union via ACTRA Toronto’s queer committee OutACTRAto. How do you try to use your voice and experiences to help and inspire others?
I’ve truly enjoyed the work I’ve gotten to do thus far with OutACTRAto. If I had to name two of my favourite moments with them, the first would be helping to organize our virtual Pride celebration while we were in the midst of lockdowns in Toronto, and the second would be when I was invited to work as a consultant with ACTRA Toronto in 2021 to assist in re-naming the ACTRA Awards to take steps towards making them more inclusive for gender non-conforming and non-binary actors.
Personally, I feel my role varies from day to day in the context of my career when it comes to using my voice and experience to help and inspire others. I don’t think of myself as an expert because it’s such an individual experience to navigate our industry as queer and gender variant people, whether we choose to be out publicly or not. I’ve had the great pleasure of offering mentorship to trans and gender non-conforming actors as well as to actors who are considering their options when it comes to figuring out how they’d like to navigate their transition in relation to their career. I’ve also gotten to work in schools by being invited to speak at GSA’s and being brought in as a lecturer and speaker at a number of universities and colleges across Canada.
Whether it’s something formal like working as a consultant or private one-on-one conversations, I often see my main role as being that of a listener. I can’t speak for an entire community, nor can I ever know someone better than they know themself. One of the big parts of my work consists of listening to dialogues taking place within the communities I belong to and alongside so that I can provide as much nuanced and informed feedback as I can, and even still, knowing when to refer companies or people to individuals that may be more specialized in the fields or supports needed. Ultimately, I just know that with the progress I’ve witnessed during my lifetime alone, the potential for our future is so much bigger than I can ever imagine, and it means a lot to me to meet and work with the people that are bringing it to life.
What do you like to get up to away from performing?
Away from performing, I actually work as a writer. I initially fell in love with poetry and then expanded my work into writing for theatre as well as songwriting. I’m currently in residency at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the largest and longest-running queer theatre in the world, developing a rock musical with a very dear collaborator of mine, Katelyn Molgard of Bad Waitress.
Outside of work, honestly you can probably find me sitting in a park with a close friend drinking coffee and giggling with excitement at people’s dogs. They’re my absolute kryptonite.
What type of roles and projects would you love to take on in the coming years?
When I think of the types of roles and projects that I’d love to take on in the coming years, I know that there’s not a clear roadmap for someone like me in our industry, so I’m stoked to take a big juicy bite out of everything that excites me.
I’d love to take on roles in action films and learn to do my own stunts because I’ve really enjoyed working with combat directors during my work in theatre. I’m also a sucker for romantic movies and would love to dive into queer love stories whether they’re modern or historical. Simultaneously, I’m deeply moved by directors like Guillermo del Toro and the worlds he creates in films like Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth. There’s a beautiful depth that lives in the universe of what’s considered fantasy and I think it’s because it’s able to tap into the parts of ourselves that language can’t always reach. I would love to work with and learn from creators with that kind of vision.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
There are two sides to my plans and ambitions for the future because there’s professional and then there’s personal. Within film, I’m excited to continue expanding my work as an actor with a primary focus on projects that celebrate intersectional forms of queer and trans representation. I’m also very interested in expanding into writing for film and television because I think it’s a form of storytelling that allows us to document the nuance of human experience, even when it’s on a grand scale.
On a personal level, I plan to make my loved ones feel as valued as humanly possible. I plan to always return to my roots and to honour the people who’ve helped me grow into the better parts of myself. I plan to push myself to continuously be learning. And, finally, I plan to remember who I’m fighting for and the people that have fought before me so that I can be brave when faced with adversity and vulnerable when faced with love.
The series will make its premiere on HBO Max on December 1st. Watch the trailer here!
Photo creds: Victoria McEwan