Actor Nelson Ascencio Talks White House Plumbers

Nelson Ascencio stops by on Close-Up Culture to chat about his role in the new HBO show, White House Plumbers.

The show follows how Watergate masterminds E. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux) accidentally toppled the Nixon presidency that they had been trying to protect.

Hi Nelson, welcome to Close-Up Culture. You have a role in the new HBO show, White House Plumbers. What excited you about this project?

So many things: getting work on a series that would focus on an event such as this, its relevance, and the cast, as well as director David Mandel (Veep), and its writer creators Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck. It was also exciting that it included a narrative that involved Cubans. And as a Cuban, American, I loved that it was important for HBO, the director David Mandel and the creators/writers to have Cubans play the Cubans in this series.

What can you tell us about your role as Virgilio?

Virgilio “Villo” Gonzales was a Cuban activist, a locksmith who was one of the five arrested during the Watergate Break In. He was living in Miami, and like most Cubans that left their homeland at the time were proud America patriots! They wanted nothing to do with communism, except to prevent it from happening here in the U.S, and to take it down! In this case the opportunity came in the form of several botched break in attempts.

What was your experience like on the set of White House Plumbers?

I loved working with this ensemble, it’s like a team, not one person takes the blame if it doesn’t work, it usually does though, especially if you have the group of cast and crew we had, we had great chemistry between all of us. It was so much fun playing, improvising, which for me is a gift as opposed to having to memorize lines. There were lines, but David allowed us to play and bring in our own flavor to the Cubans! In fact it was a show all on its own.

And when you’re on a series that takes a few months to film, there is no choice but to connect and enjoy the many talents a crew also brings. I mean, it’s a great looking show! C’mon, we had Emmy winner cinematographer Steven Meizler who was a genius, also amazing Hair Makeup team, not to mention the costumes by Leah Katznelson, the sets, all of it was like being transported to that era. Every day I was blown away by the attention to detail.

I understand you were homeless for a short while in New York. What can you tell us about that time in your life?

You mention a small detail like that and it keeps coming up. As a struggling actor, musician, artist, we’ve all had tough times, I did on and off for a couple of years back in the day. Luckily I had friends to allow me to sleep on their sofas, etc. Weirdly enough, it was exciting, you look at things very differently when you’re in your 20’s, or at least I did, I just knew I would land on my feet, and I did, time and time again.

Actors often have to work tough survival jobs as they try to break into the industry. What was your journey like?

My story isn’t that original, I worked many many jobs during my 20’s, 30’s, and even 40’s, I’m an eternal day job survivor. In this industry there’s less and less of a middle class, you’re either not working, or a little here and there or you’re a movie star. I’ve always landed somewhere towards the bottom middle. So, yes, being old school-immigrant myself, I’ve always had a side hustle. But, to recall a few memorable ones, I’ve worked anywhere from a Swensons to a sex club at one point. It’s just a job.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

This will sound corny, but I’m just proud to get any job! Seriously, no one, not my friends, not my family really know the statistics or the low percentages to getting an actual acting job. Sometimes when I book something, I see it as a miracle! Lol. So I’m proud of all of them. I really do try and celebrate each of them. It’s not easy, but it’s what I’m wired to do: to be creative, to hustle, be broke, depressed, rewarded, and to be inspired whenever I can.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?

Simple, to keep working, growing as an actor. Call me! Anyone! I’ll most likely say “yes”!

1 comment

Leave a Reply