Álvaro Rico @alvaroricoladera is the Spanish actor who made us fall in love with him not only for portraying Polo, one of the most enigmatic characters in the worldwide hit Netflix teen drama Elite but for being a joyful person who is never afraid of showing the most honest version of himself while spreading his message of self-acceptance, diversity, and love.
In case you did not know it yet, he is from Toledo, that city with an indisputable legacy that was the hometown of unforgettable artists like the poet Garcilaso de la Vega, or the enigmatic painter, sculptor, and architect is known as El Greco, among many others. In spite of being acting since a young age, Álvaro Rico drew the attention of everyone in 2018 when Elite came out and instantly became one the most famous TV series of the world and every teenager found out they were obsessed with trying to unveil the mysteries that surrounded Las Encinas private school and its somehow-inscrutable group of students.
If you have been following Elite, and I bet you have, you already know in the last season the character of Polo received a dignifying closure. The good news about it is that Álvaro Rico has not stopped ever since he has been involved with major TV projects you can stream right now like The Legend of El Cid or La Caza, sharing his music skills plus lots of amusing content on his social media, and this year he also has been touring in Spain with the play Dribbling, a thriller directed by Ignasi Vidal that explores some of the darkest places that lie beneath European soccer, fame, money, allegations of sexual abuse, and media rhetoric.
Unlike many actors his age, he has always been doing his best to keep his feet on the ground by staying focused on working hard, avoiding peevishness and disdain, respecting people, making everyone feel welcome, and helping others in need, especially during these difficult times of pandemic and lockdowns. And if hard for you to believe these words, check out what his coworkers say about him and all the kind word every person who knows him has to say about who he truly is. I cannot tell you how gladly was to know he wanted to share with us and talk about his life and projects for this issue of Vanity Teen; therefore, I hope you enjoy the following interview with Álvaro Rico and may know even better his just a common guy who dreams big, offers the best of him in each work, and will always do whatever he can to make you smile, let you know how much you matter, and remind you that no matter the situation, we can do better to make this world a nicer home.
…And then, a high school uniform changed life as he knew it
VT: I presume Elite changed your life when that TV show became a successful global phenomenon, but it also changed the lives of lots of teenagers who follow the stories portrayed on the show. What can you tell us about Polo (your character), self- acceptance, and media representation? Yes, Elite was a groundbreaking event not only in my career but in my life. It was like condensing several years of my career in just one year, which made me achieve some goals and having a global repercussion, those things are hard to get or even, sometimes, you never get to experience them. Elite is an iconic TV show that represents a generation. If I have to be proud of something is that in that show today´s youth have some references about sexual freedom, the consequences of sexual diseases, and other topics past generations did not have. Polo is one of those characters that come into your life and somehow never leave. I know many viewers will always remember me as Polo, and that is not a bad thing, it represents the bliss of feeling lucky enough to be part of all that.
VT: Elite talks about some issues most of the young people do not talk about with their parents or introduce some topics they do not want to share with them; what do you think about that, and the fact Elite has allowed young people to openly talk about those issues knowing that other ways it would be hard for them to open up about? I think I talked ahead and already gave you that answer. So I am going to repeat the idea I told you before: Knowing that young people have some characters they may feel identified with and may help them to live more freely is a wonderful thing. Elite is like a welcoming universe where there is a place for everyone.
VT: Have your parents and close relatives watched Elite? What have they said about those somehow unconventional scenes you have performed on the show? Sure, my parents and relatives are fans of Elite, hehe! About those unconventional scenes you mention, the truth is I have not asked them and neither have they. Every scene is seen with total comfort, the way it should be, like if they were any other scene in the high school corridors. They are part of my job, part of the character; therefore, there is not any kind of awkwardness with us, not at all. Life after Polo
VT: After Elite became a milestone in your career, you have become one of the most recognizable actors in the world; but it was not always that way, man say that acting is not an easy ride, therefore, what would you tell to all of the teenagers who are wishing to start a career in acting, modeling, arts, or other media? In this career, I was reborn with a phrase that has become like a mantra to me: “It is a marathon, not a sprint”. Fame or success might come as the result of our work, but those things should not be part of our goals, our job is something else; in fact, there are times that fame might not come and there is no reason it should associate with a successful career. A huge success is also ephemeral, we have to learn how to handle it, and select the best of it to keep staying focused on our career and not being forgotten.
VT: Once you realized the success of Elite and found out how Polo is one of the most beloved characters on the show, have you ever felt afraid of thinking you might be typecasted in the shadows of Polo? How do you face new acting projects? Fears, we have a lot, but I think we have known well how to face the future after Elite. It was important to enjoy the high popularity that came with the show but also was important to design a good exit for me, and be sure the character I was portraying also had the farewell he deserved. I consider the way Polo ended was appropriate for the show and good for its standards. Besides, the projects that have come after Elite have given me the opportunity and freedom to keep developing my career, and for those reasons I am happy. About some of his most recent projects
VT: While I was in college, I took a course in Spanish Literature, reading Cantar del Mio Cid (The Poem of the Cid) was the mandatory assignment I enjoyed the most. Currently, on Amazon Prime Video is available The Legend of El Cid, a TV Show adaptation of the poem in which you portrait the loyal Nuño; that being said, what would you tell those who do not know the story of Ruy Diaz, the historical Castilian hero? Why should we stream it right now? The legend of El Cid is one of those big stories about epic feats that are always wonderful to be depicted in films. Being part of this great project that Amazon has ambitiously made happen is a gift, the perfect present I needed after Elite. Also, having the company of such an amazing cast is always an opportunity to learn from all of them. I think that those who do not know or have not met this hero are going to see the truth of this character from a fresh perspective that no one will ignore.
VT: Selecting shows about youth and controversial topics that make people talk seems to be part of the singularities of your acting career, even now, among your newest projects there is the very expected Alba, what can you share about that show? And how about La Caza: Tramuntana, and other upcoming projects? Alba is one of those stories that must be told, a story that I, as an actor, and as a citizen of this world want to share with others. It was really easy for me to say yes to this project. Alba is a girl who is raped by a gang. Jacobo, my character, is the leader of those hooligans; so, we will see a guy who thinks is beyond good and evil and, in many opportunities acts with some Machiavellianism. Alba will be released by Antena 3 (Spain). La Caza: Tramuntana is one of the projects I could film during 2020 with TVE, and is one of those nice collaborations that tell a powerful story due to the amount of talent involved with its writing. Agustín (Martínez), the creator of the show, has come up with a thriller to get passionate about. I was about to be part of the first season but it was not possible, but we could make it for this second season. Let us talk as if it is just you and me
VT: 2021 is already here, looking backward to the year 2020, how did you react towards the pandemic and the lockdown? How did you preserve your mental health? I reacted a little bit like everybody else; it was a sucker punch of reality, it almost looked like science fiction. I remember having lots of travels (trips to Mexico, to Brazil…), and new filming dates, but everything vanished in a blink of an eye. I was lucky enough to be able to spend the lockdown with my family far away from Madrid, having them around is always helpful.
VT: What does Álvaro Rico do and think when there is nobody watching him? What a great question! I am a really nervous person, which means I am always thinking about things or musing to come up with new ideas for the future. It is kind of hard to give you a proper answer, but let me tell you this: when I am alone and people let me dream… I think about creating my own story. Someday, I will be able to direct something.
VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen? I only wish this pandemic may end soon, so we can go back to a life more similar to what we had before. But, above all, I want to wish all these deaths around the world may stop. Let’s be strong!
When different from expected is a good thing
While growing up, most of us think that when an actor, or someone else who works in the media, achieves global success is always surrounded by lush and lives in unreachable ambiances; and maybe, some of them really live that way, but is always a pleasure know there are people like Álvaro Rico, a guy who, despite his insecurities, is capable of showing himself as a human being with fear and flaws, just like the rest of us.
Do not get me wrong, of course, his career has given him the chance to get some material belongings and going to places some can only dream of; but unlike many others, this time we are talking about a young person who recognizes life does not stop only in the highest moments of your life, that regardless of what you achieve in your career, we cannot lose humanity, we must keep working, keep doing good to others, and never cease of loving what you do because success is way beyond fame and the luxurious lifestyle of some celebrities.
In the beginning, I said Álvaro Rico and Garcilaso de la Vega are from the same hometown, that statement was not a random thing to say, seeing the naturality of the responses to the given interview, it came to my mind how the Spanish writer was never afraid of showing his frailest state of mind exempli gratia: let us remember when in his eclogues the author shows how affected he was due to the cold heart of his lover, saying her harshness has “harder than a marble to his mild complaints”.
Thus, we were able to see a young guy who does not see himself as perfect and in spite of his shyness decided to share with us his dreams, aspirations, point of views, and expressing his best wishes to the world we live in, a world that needs to heal to bring us closer.
Just one more thing
No one of us knows what the future holds for every person, but just like the present, we hope for the brightest things to Álvaro Rico and he may continue bringing us joy with his projects as he cares for relevant social contents that make us think about our the consequences of our actions, and such reflections may help us to be kinder to each other. So, let us keep supporting the work of Álvaro Rico, and remember the words he told us in this interview; and that way, let us try to follow his example and do our best to stay focused, be practical, and able to take care of ourselves even during those times when reality hits hard.