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Whatever Works / Bruno Campos

Charm and a Big Dream Did the Trick

April 26, 1999|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bruno Campos won an American Latino Media Arts Award this month for his role as Diego on "Jesse" (NBC). Campos, originally from Brazil, began studying acting when he was 14. In 1995, his senior year at Northwestern University, he played one of the lead roles in the B1918990953Goodman Theater in Chicago."

Campos then returned to Brazil, where his parents had retired. "I was there for 4 1/2 months trying to establish myself when 'O Quatrilho' was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film."

Campos attended the Oscars. "I bumped into Anthony Hopkins going down the corridor . . . and he kind of smacked into my shoulder. I can get impetuous and say, 'Hey, watch it pal,' you know, but it's Anthony Hopkins. You almost want to thank him."

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Question: After all that whirlwind, you decided to try Hollywood.

Answer: I'd always wanted to go to Hollywood and all of that experience gave me the courage. Had I known how difficult it was going to be, I probably wouldn't have come.

Q: What happened when you tried to get work out here?

A: I moved to Hollywood in May of '96 and I didn't even have a work permit. I came here as a tourist, thinking that I would get snatched up by an agency and within a couple of months I would be doing rather well, working in movies and things like that. So anyhow, I came--and went. I mean, nobody cared.

Q: I'm sure you were trying to get an agent.

A: Oh, yeah. I met with a whole ton. I must have had maybe 25 meetings with managers and agents and nobody gave a rat's ass.

Q: Nobody cared about you.

A: No, and I'll tell you exactly why. The first two months I was blase and the next five months I was petrified. I had a total of eight months on my visa. I had around $20,000 when I came and that was it, that was my life. By the time I got an agent, I had around $1,500 left because I was renting a car.

Q: How did things finally turn around for you?

A: I was in the last stretch--the last month--and getting desperate, but something happened to me and it was a pretty defining moment.

I couldn't sleep regularly because I was watching my dream about to die. One morning I woke up at 4:30 in this little tiny place that I was renting in the Valley and I got really angry. I started running around the block. I said, "I didn't come for this, to not only spend my entire life savings, but to return with my head low and watch my spirit be amputated. Why am I letting this happen?" I got really focused and tried to turn that anger into a positive.

Q: Is that when you got an agent?

A: I went into an agency and said, "I have 3 1/2 weeks left." She started giving me excuses. I said, "You have a lot less to lose here than I do. This is my whole dream. So I can promise you that I'm going to fight with everything I've got. Give me a shot. What h1635149088my whole life." Or what I considered at that time my whole life. So, she was impressed, I guess.

Q: After you landed an agent, you met with Warner Bros.?

A: I was able to convince the [former] president of Warner Bros. Studios to give me a studio deal for one year. When I got a meeting with him, after five or six meetings with other people, I told him, "Look, you wouldn't have taken this meeting if you didn't want to say yes to me because otherwise you'd waste your time." That was my philosophy. 572673401"You refuse to leave the country?" and I said, "No, sir, I refuse to leave your office."

Q: He didn't call security?

A: No. I was very charming throughout. I wasn't hostile. I was rather exuberant. I was gutsy and gunslinger-ish. So that happened and they gave me a one-year contract, and two years later, here I am on "Jesse."

Q: Let's talk about your job.

A: I've just been doing the show the whole year and I don't have any other projects to talk about. Most people don't really know who I am yet on a personal level. I'm basically telling you all I got and I don't have that much living. I only have the 25 years.

Q: Is anybody a pain to work with on the show? Only kidding.

A: Yeah, right. That would make your day, wouldn't it? Are you interested in talking about the Latin aspects of the character at all? I haven't had a lot of people write about that, but a lot of people ask. There's not a lot of Latin guys on television, not a lot of Latin leading men and certainly not a lot of Latin funny leading men.

Q: Funny and he gives a sense of hope and trust.

A: Yeah. He's direct. He doesn't hide. I discovered a few years ago that whole concept of trust and faith more than ever before, and I try to lead my professional life that way because it's more satisfying and, I think, more successful. I try to lead my personal life that way too. So I try to bring that to Diego. He was set up to do that in the first place. I didn't make it up.

Q: Do you like him--Diego?

A: No. I love him. In college I once played this tortured, self-loathing, abusive, violent man. You do put yourself in the action and, even though you're pretending, you're still kind of acting out and it was very hard to do. I mean, I felt like I had thrown up ever2032168553reat guy to walk home from at the end of the night.

Whatever Works runs every Monday. Send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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