Salas was born in Lima, Perú. Before dedicating himself to acting, he studied at the University of Lima where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. We had the honor of Interviewing him .
[MIS] When did you start acting? what got you started?
[Oswaldo] I have always been attracted to the arts. At Elementary School I participated in the dance group in my classroom, we danced Peruvian and international dances, I liked it a lot and the comments, when they saw me dance, were that I had a lot of rhythm for the dance. In the last years of high school (between 1976 to 1978) it was my approach to acting. We performed comic skits in school performances with my classmates. We had a lot of fun creating the lines and performing them. Then I didn’t do anything else related to the arts until 1990, when I decided to study drama at Club de Teatro de Lima (Lima Theater Club) here in Lima, Peru.
[MIS] From Industrial Engineering to Acting, what caused this shift?
[Oswaldo] Although I was very attracted to the arts, I was a good student in school, got high marks, and was very good at math. I wanted to be an electronic engineer. My parents, seeing that I liked the arts, feared that I was going to give up my interest in engineering and that I was going to dedicate myself 100% to acting. They talked to me and advised me (it was different times) to first study engineering and then when I graduated and had a job, to study acting as a second career. And that’s what I did. In 1980, I started studying Industrial Engineering at the University of Lima. And I referred to Computing. It went very well for me, I ended up working in the Computer Center of the same University of Lima for almost 11 years, I started as an operator of the main computer (the IBM mainframe), before PCs and networks existed, and I ended up as a Programmer Analyst. And at the same time, I first studied drama and then developed my acting career with time constraints due to work. Already at this time I had realized that my true vocation was acting. There was a cut in staff and they offered to get out of work, I accepted the proposal (it was 2001). I went to try to study in the USA for two years some computer courses, but by chance of fate they denied me a student visa, something that I now consider very positive, and I returned to Peru at the beginning of 2004 and made the decision to dedicate myself 100% to acting.
[MIS] Who do you consider to have had the biggest influence on your acting career?
[Oswaldo] My theater group “Comunicando”. It was formed in 1991 and we did a lot of plays until 1995 and then 2001 before I traveled to the USA. We premiered for the first time in Peru the French classic “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Ronstand (it had never been professionally premiered in Peru), with great public and critical success, which was considered one of the best 5 works premiered in Lima in 1994. With the group, the idea that acting was my true vocation was consolidated. Unfortunately when I returned from the USA we could no longer put it back together, several members of the group were already working on other things, already with family, etc.
Trailer Sonata for A Calendar
I returned to Peru at the beginning of 2004 and made the decision to dedicate myself 100% to acting.
[MIS] Between Alfonso in Sonata for a Calendar and Angel in Holestepper , who is your preferred character ?
[Oswaldo] I like the two equally because one is very different from the other.
What I like about Alfonso in “Sonata For A Calendar” is that he is a character who has to convey his emotions without saying a single word during the entire short film. The director Carmen Rosa Vargas, when we were going to shoot each scene, she told me what it was about and what she wanted Alfonso to show in the scene. It was shot without rehearsals. Of course I had to get completely into the emotion of the character, otherwise the performance was going to be false and not credible to the public. The best compliment I had for my performance was from a friend who smokes (I don’t know how to smoke or cigarettes because I suffered from asthmatiform bronchitis until I was 15 years old) who told me that every time he saw the scene of my character smoking pot, it provoked him smoking because it really conveyed the enjoyment of smoking it.
With Angel in “Holestepper” there was a script. What I loved about the character is that he shows something that is not normal in movies: bullying from students to their teachers. Generally, what is shown in the movies is bullying between students. I also loved that he was not the typical character who suffers from bullying, he is a human character, he is not a martyr or a superhero, he is a human being with virtues and defects like anyone else.
[MIS] What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
[Oswaldo] For me as an actor it is bringing to life the character that the director wrote in his script for the film. Although in rehearsals the actor can suggest things to enrich the character; the director is the father of the child (the film) and can accept or reject such suggestions. There is nothing more satisfying than the director telling you that the character you created was exactly how he imagined it had to be.
[MIS] Between acting on stage and in Movies, which one do you prefer?
[Oswaldo] I feel like a fish in water acting in movies. Acting in films makes the record remain, that transcends, it´s not ephemeral. Someday I will no longer be on earth, but my jobs will. But that doesn´t mean that I would never return to the stage. Theater is my base and if the opportunity of a very good role presents itself, I would accept it. Unfortunately, in these times of pandemic it is very difficult to act in theater.
[MIS] Of all the roles you have played in the past, which is your favorite?
[Oswaldo] Police detective Waldo Mamani, in “Extirpator of Idolatries” by director Manuel Siles. It was my first leading role in a feature film. In addition, it was a great challenge for me, considering that previously in cinema I had only acted in a minor role without text in a feature film. But I have always been lucky to fall into the hands of very good directors. We rehearsed a lot with Manuel before shooting. We had enough time for rehearsals before filming, which was postponed for a year due to budget constraints. I remember that during rehearsals we created four Waldos. With the first three we were not very convinced, at one point Manuel suggested certain details of the personality for the fourth Waldo, we started the rehearsal of the scene and Manuel immediately told me: “Oswaldo, this is it! This is Waldo! ” The filming was simple since we had rehearsed most of my scenes, I had learned them well and Manuel told me I had the character created and well defined, and I could even act in character even in an improvisation without the need to rehearse. There was no tension or nerves during filming. I remember that, on the first day of filming, when we were about to shoot the first scene, it was a scene with the actor who played my assistant, I told him “Oscar, I’m not nervous” and he replied “neither did I”. The film was a public and critical success, it was selected to many festivals, I traveled to present it in some around the world and I even personally enjoyed when it won in three of them and I received the trophies. Thanks to Waldo Mamani in “Extirpator of Idolatries” I won my first awards for Best Actor. If it weren’t for Waldo Mamani, you wouldn’t have seen me on “Sonata For A Calendar” and “Holestepper”.
[MIS] Which of the characters that you have played do you consider to be the most challenging and why?
[Oswaldo] It’s definitely Angel in “Holestepper.” The challenge of having to show his disability (lameness) and also show that he is a human being like any other, not necessarily perfect, and make it completely believable. With director Sergio Fernández Muñoz we had several days of rehearsals prior to filming. We rehearse the scenes until we have them ready the way he wanted them to be. And we also rehearsed Angel’s limp until it looked real, as a non-credible limp would ruin the short film. I was very happy with the rehearsals, since both Sergio and I are perfectionists and if we had to rehearse many times, we did it.
I have won, between awards and nominations, 54 achievements for Best Actor, this is crazy!
[MIS] What is your advice to beginner actors and what would you suggest to them in order to succeed?
[Oswaldo] As my main advice I would tell them to always be humble, wherever they are. Never let the fumes rise, or be problematic, that makes the doors close instead of open. If you are a problematic actor, not at all humble, that transcends, of course it transcends! it´s commented in the film environment and they won´t be called again. Nobody wants to work with problematic actors, especially in independent cinema. And remember: there will always be someone equal to or more talented than you to play a role. No one is irreplaceable.
Always prepare, take acting workshops, be in constant training.
[Oswaldo] The luck factor also has a lot to do with it. Manuel Siles, director of “Extirpator of Idolatries”, does not do castings. With me it happened that the main actress of a short film that Manuel shoot before Extirpator, is a friend of mine and invited me to the premiere screening and when she introduced me to Manuel after the screening, it turns out that I was physically the detective Waldo Mamani, that he had on his mind. In the case of “Holestepper”, Sergio didn´t know me, he hadn´t watched “Extirpator of Idolatries”, but his assistant director, who is also a film director, recommends Sergio that I play Angel, since he had watched me in “Extirpador of Idolatries”.
[MIS] After receiving more than 348 Awards & Selections in International Film Festivals, what do you consider to be your next challenge and ambition
[Oswaldo] I can’t believe how much the movies I’ve acted in have achieved so far. I consider that I have been very lucky to act in films that have had excellent reviews and have won so many awards and that I personally have won so many Best Actor awards. For example, never, but never, not even when we shot Holestepper, did I imagine that at this moment I have won, between awards and nominations, 54 achievements for Best Actor, this is crazy! I still don’t believe it and if I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up.
Among my challenges and ambitions, I would like to play characters with complex personalities, never repeat characters, not be pigeonholed, act in a musical movie (dancing and singing), also in a comedy (in theater I did a lot of comedy, you still haven’t seen my comic side at the movies) and doing voices again in an animated film (I voiced three characters in the Peruvian-Argentine animated feature “Rodencia y el Diente de la Princesa – A Mouse Tale” by director David Bisbano).
[MIS] Can you give us a bit of details about your next project?
[Oswaldo] For now, the only existing project is a pandemic short film, where I will play a father who has a conversation with his daughter about a momentous decision he has made. The project is currently under script rewriting.
Filming here in Peru is almost zero due to the pandemic. I have refused to act in two projects, but I already have my second dose of the vaccine and I could start to do it, of course with all the care of the case to avoid to get the virus, because the fact of being vaccinated does not prevent one from getting infected, but rather it avoids let the disease get worse and die.