Here and Now, Alan Ball’s latest family dramedy, is very much an ensemble piece in every sense of the word. The series focuses on the Bayer-Boatwright family (with Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins at the helm) and their sprawl of adopted children from different countries — plus one, self-admittedly “painfully white” biological daughter. If Angelina Jolie is coming to mind, you’re on the right track. But through it all, Daniel Zovatto’s Ramon is smack dab in the center, with his visions (or is it hallucinations?) driving the family's most pressing crisis.
And he has more in common with his character than you think.
Much like Ramon, the 26-year-old actor oozes a slight otherworldliness over the phone. And they share similar experiences, too. Case in point? In one scene in the first episode, Ramon’s siblings — one black, one Asian — complain that their little brother was treated better by their parents because he passed for white. Which Zovatto knows all too well.
“When I started off, people knew that I was from Costa Rica. And I was going into all these auditions for Latino characters and a lot of the feedback was, ‘He’s good but he doesn’t look Latino,’” he says.
“It’s something that I’ve lived with my whole life, people not thinking that I speak Spanish because of the way that I look. [They’re like,] ‘How come you’re not brown and short?’”
Not many shows have had the audacity to take on passing so directly — especially within the first 15 minutes of the first episode — but Zovatto is hopeful about that, and the show’s message in general. “It kinda opens the door to people acknowledging that stereotypes are not good,” he muses.
Here and Now does quite a bit of work on that front, tackling all facets of Trump’s America with equal, overwhelming aplomb: casual racism, white supremacy, violent pro-life activists and much, much more.
“I feel like this show is perfect for the time because it talks about all the things that we don’t really want to be talking about,” Zovatto says. “I think —” he starts laughing, perhaps conscious of the temerity of what he’s about to say — ”that Trump is a good thing.” Say what now?
He quickly clarifies. “He’s bringing [out] all these conversations that have been kind of been subdued for so many years. Trump is a product of basically what’s going on in the world, if anything.”
This world being, according to Zovatto, one where we’ve distanced from ourselves from each other thanks to social media and reality television. “Our society is more focused on reality TV shows and talking about stuff that really doesn’t matter,” he says. “To be part of a show that brings these conversations to the table, it’s valuable and very needed. And it feels good.”
Another thing that makes the young actor feel good? His art. When I ask about his paintings, he demures. “Paying attention to what’s going on with you and expressing yourself is important,” he says. “Some people go to the gym and lift weights and look at themselves and are like, “F—k dude, I look good!’
“But for me, [painting] just gives me a peace of mind,” he says. “I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
Here and Now premieres on HBO on Sunday, February 11.