Who are Esteban and Gabrielle Diaz? That’s probably the question on viewers’ mind when Callie Hernandez and JJ Soria’s characters bump into Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) at a Berlin hotel. Although they seem like a chatty couple, Esteban is seen cloning data from Cassie’s phone when he places his device near her purse.
Then there’s Benjamin Berry – the other new character in “The Flight Attendant” season 2 played by Mo McRae. As Cassie’s CIA handler, the actor explains that “he is extremely diligent about results related to his job and he has been said to take things maybe too serious and too personal”, adding that he’s quite the rule follower.
More of them in the interview below:
Q: What appealed to you about “The Flight Attendant” and how did you come to be involved?
JJ Soria: I read the material and saw what I could offer the character and once I started doing research and watching the show I was like, ‘oh wow, this is really fun.’ I had heard about the show from all the accolades and I had seen Kaley’s work and was a fan. It’s a talented group of people in front of and behind the camera. I grew up watching HBO – everything from Fraggle Rock! – so it was an honour to work on this.
Callie Hernandez: It’s really exciting to be part of the HBO family and to join a show that’s already such a carefully crafted cohesive world. It was easy to walk into, in my experience. My character Gabrielle is maybe not every actor’s dream, but she was mine. I like playing macabre, straddling genres of comedy and playing whatever weirdos they want to throw at me. I was thrilled to be a part of it.
Mo McRae: I was definitely a fan of the show beforehand. The interesting thing about my journey into the role is that I was beginning to get to the point in my acting career where I was more enamoured with the idea of filmmaking than acting. When my agent brought this to me, I was excited because it was the one new show I’d seen that I felt encompassed all the things I was into from an execution standpoint – the editing, the sound, and design were really impressive to me. I read this script and they wanted me to meet with Kaley for a chemistry read. I’ve had a couple of chemistry reads on Zoom where I’ve been like, ‘I don’t think this is for me.’ But I was such a fan of the show and as soon as I’d read the character I knew this was for me.
Q: What was it like joining the second season of an established show?
JS: The best way I can describe it is, I just couldn’t wait to get in the game and get in the field with the other players and just play. It’s such a great group of people to work with.
CH: I’ve had a similar experience to Mo doing chemistry reads that feel a bit awkward but I did not have that experience with this. It was immediate and everyone was so warm and welcoming.
MM: I’ve always looked at it twofold. On one level, there’s a lot of anxiety because you want to be a part of taking it to an even higher level so there’s a lot of pressure around it but then on another level, a show that’s already successful does alleviate a lot of the stress and uncertainty. I’ve done several pilots in my career when everyone is not sure about what the show should be and how it’s going to received. With this, the litmus test has already been done so you know exactly what it is and what the audience respond to and you kind of slide into that. It was like, ‘welcome to the party, have as much fun as you can!’
Q: Mo, your character is a CIA officer. What else can you tell us about Benjamin Berry?
MM: Benjamin is a bit of company man, he has very much bought into the idea of what the CIA represents and what it’s supposed to stand for. He’s ostensibly by the book, but as he gets more involved, the audience will start to question how committed he is to the rules and parameters of what he’s supposed to operate in. As it all progresses, his true intentions become even more blurred. I think this show does an incredible job with every character where you think you know them and then you don’t and Benjamin is very much like that.
Q: Did you use anything for inspiration?
MM: I used the script to guide me and inform me on what I should read. In the stage directions it would mention the books my character read because they were in his office so I went out and I made sure I read all of those books. I also pressured Steve and Natalie into having really long in depth conversations with me about the characters’ intentions and where he was going. I thought, I can’t do the best possible job if I don’t understand everything and investigate all the colours that they’re hoping to see. Most of my scenes are with Kaley and Cheryl Hines and they always gave me a wealth of stuff to work off. Kaley has the most expressive eyes. If you’re ever in a scene and didn’t know what to do, just look at her eyes!
Q: What’s Benjamin’s involvement with Cassie?
MM: Their relationship is complicated. I’m her handler so it’s supposed to be a straightforward working relationship but that would be boring if that’s all it was! Cassie has a way of complicating all the relationships in her life and her relationship with Benjamin is definitely complicated and nuanced.
Q: Callie and JJ, your characters Gabrielle and Esteban, are a couple of bounty hunters. How would you describe their dynamic?
CH: It was really fun to have each other to play off of. We had a buddy in each other so it was really exploratory in that regard and there was a lot of trust there. It’s all instinct. Gabrielle and Esteban really work together as a team but Gabrielle is fiery, passionate and maybe has a little problem with impulse control.
JS: Esteban and Gabrielle are very similar and that was actually a challenge for us because one of them has to be a bit level-headed. Someone has to pull the reins on a situation if need be. From the moment I heard Callie’s voice, it pulled me in, and I think that really helped me fall into it. Esteban would do anything for Gabrielle. There’s a toxicity in their relationship but it works so well. There is a method to their madness. They are these two wild cards. You don’t know what they’re going to do, but they work so well together. And Callie and I just have amazing trust with each other and great chemistry and we bounced the ball back and forth.
Q: Any particular highlights from behind-the-scenes?
MM: I’m incredibly competitive. I’m the most competitive person you’ll ever meet. And Kaley Cuoco is equally competitive! So everyone is playing Words With Friends and she decides to challenge me. She thought she was unbeatable. But I demolished her. The first time we played, I crushed her.
Images by HBO GO. Catch “The Flight Attendant” Season 2 only on HBO GO.
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