Ray Santiago plays Pablo Simon Bolivar, the first ever Latino sidekick in the horror genre, on the new Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead.
Santiago got the acting bug 19 years ago when, as a twelve year old Puerto Rican kid from the South Bronx, he snuck down to Manhattan without telling his parents so he could audition for his first play. The audition was a success as he got the part and met his first manager there. Ever since then, he’s had a passion for not only acting, but also for playing hero in real life.
During his teenage years, Santiago attended F.H. LaGuardia High School for the Arts—better known as the inspiration for the Fame franchise of films, television shows, and musicals. He credits the school for teaching him everything he knows about acting.
Perhaps more importantly, the school also taught Santiago to stand up for his beliefs. While attending LaGuardia, he had a major impact on the decision to change one of the school’s most controversial policies.
“When I was going there,” he told me, “you weren’t really allowed to leave school to go work, and I was booking things so consistently when I was in high school that they started to change the rules. People would get kicked out, and I sort of rallied for the fact that the whole point is to work. And so I was a heavy influence in them changing the rules and allowing their students to work while attending the school.”
In the beginning of his career, Santiago mostly played stereotypical Latino characters. I asked him how he felt about playing those kinds of roles, and if he’s trying to move away from that kind of acting.
“I’ve made a living off of playing gangbangers and drug dealers,” he said. “I think that’s because it’s what people like, and I think those stories have to be told. I don’t shun people who tell those stories.”
However, Santiago seems to enjoy playing a much more complex character on Ash vs Evil Dead.
He went on, “I think with Pablo and this show, I finally get the opportunity to play someone a little bit closer to myself. I think both Pablo and I want to be the heroes and leave our mark on the world. As an actor, I think I’m starting down that path and I think Pablo has found, in Ash, a group of people he believes is going to save the world from evil. So in some way or another, both of us are leaving our mark on the world and becoming the heroes that we can be.”
Story by Cody Fitzpatrick
Photography by Jessica Czarnecki