Welcome back dear readers, sadly it’s time for us to bow to the First Order, with our new guest David M. Santana! As we know, the First Order rose from the dark side, but David did not.
David appears in three Star Wars films as a key First Order Stormtrooper in Force Awakens, a Stormtrooper Commander in The Last Jedi and clearly they don’t check with HR within the First Order because in between that he was a Scarif Rebel in Rogue One.
David isn’t just a Star Wars actor; he’s featured in 2015 blockbuster Everest and seems to have got his big break now with roles in upcoming TV shows that we will talk about. We discuss his career so far, the strange lack of Spanish speaking roles and David gives us a guide of how not to approach Harrison Ford…
Thank you for talking us through your story David. Lockdown has been very difficult for actors so how have you been dealing with it?
Just before it happened, I was working in Morocco on a new TV Series called Glow and Darkness with Jane Seymour and Denise Richards and ten days after I got back, lockdown! Right before that I moved into a new place, so I was surrounded by boxes and empty cabinets. Inside of my house it was like Christmas because I was opening boxes and finding figures that I hadn’t seen in the last ten years. I have also been refreshing my acting skills and doing some online classes, even before our interview I was doing a webinar.
A good way to keep busy then, what got you into acting?
I’ve been surrounded by movies since I was a kid. My grandfather was a massive movie posters collector and he watched a lot of movies. I used to recreate a lot of scenes from the movies I watched like Conan, Terminator and Beverly Hills Cop.
Here in the Canary Islands I should explain the film business has not been so big in the past but recently due to changes in taxes there are a lot of big productions here like Wonder Woman 1984, The Witcher, Solo and more. In the past I didn’t find much acting work here, so I studied Translation and Interpreting and as soon as I finished that I started studying Drama in London at the Identity School of Acting.
You seem like you had a lot of roles in shorts and then, boom, Force Awakens comes along. Is that how it went?
Yes, to be honest. I was studying in London and I met a girl from the Canary Islands, she gave me a card and said they were looking for extras and stand ins for the movies business. I thought it would be good to know how a blockbuster works from the inside, so I submitted my CV and the very first movie I got was Everest working as an Italian climber. After that, a company called We Got Pop got me the role in Force Awakens as a Stormtrooper.
All that while you were still studying?
That’s right and it’s funny because on set we met John Boyega (Finn) and he told me and some friends that he got the role after studying at the Identity School of Acting. He said it’s really good to express yourself and so I studied there for three years thanks to his recommendation and it helped me a lot as an actor.
You were with him in the first scene, right?
Yes, I was directed by JJ Abrams in the scene where we are in a circle and when the cameras travels onto Finn, I’m the Stormtrooper on his right.
I was so excited that day, I was a huge fan of JJ’s work especially Lost and Star Trek. He was wearing his Star Trek – Into Darkness sweater which was cool and he asked if I prefer being called Dave or David, I said I have no problem he can call me whatever he wants ha-ha. We filmed in six or seven takes, I saw JJ every day and it was really cool to get some personal direction from him.
A fun story, I also used to work in Forbidden Planet (Comic and collectibles chain store). I was attending my classes one day and I went by to say hi to everyone and my colleagues were talking and they said “Your boss is downstairs”, I thought that was weird because my boss is their boss but they explained it was JJ. I went downstairs, he was reading a book and I briefly introduced myself, explained I was a Stormtrooper and he relaxed a bit. He was reading a book of Star Wars art!
Very cool! What’s your best personal memory from the three Star Wars films you were in?
I never thought a Star Wars fan like me would be able to be a part of these films. The best memory as a collector of figures was meeting Han Solo. Han Solo is my favourite character in the history of cinema ever. I met him at Maz Kanata’s castle and got to shake his hand. Here is the thing, I didn’t shake Harrison Ford’s hand, I shook Han Solo’s hand…
I had my helmet off; the whole set and location is there and they created everything to scale. I see a meter from me is Han Solo waiting for action to be called. I looked at him, I said to myself “Be professional, we are here to work” but the kid inside of me was talking back. I thought to myself, don’t look at him, and as soon as I thought that I looked at him about 50 times! On the 51st time he looked at me and said, “Are you alright son?”, I took my glove off and introduced myself and he said he was glad to meet me and saw me enjoying it and that he would see me around.
I turned back to my colleagues…do you remember when you get a girlfriend in high school at 12 or 13 and all of your friends give you hugs, it was the same as that. It’s a memory that will stand out to me until my last days on earth.
I guess these roles get you out on the signings circuit throughout the world?
I never thought I would get these opportunities. In February 2016 I did my first one and as a fan I was treated so well, like an A-Lister. My colleague and I, Sandeep Mohan are known as the ‘Nope troopers’. Do you remember when the two Stormtroopers are walking down a corridor and Kylo Ren is smashing up a room, those two Stormtroopers are me and Sandeep. Thanks to that scene we have been to Japan where there is even a ‘Nope Café’ open there named after that part of the film!
Since Star Wars your other roles have been picking up so what direction are you trying to go in now?
I’m working on the show I told you about and I finished a movie recently called Vampus Horror Tales, a creep show kind of movie. I’m doing a casting for a DC Comic based TV series and I am hopeful for that! In this lockdown I’ve done more castings than the last 12 months, it’s been crazy. I’m a Spanish actor living in Spain but most of my castings have been in English, next week I am doing my first one in Spanish for a year, how curious is that?
When you mention you worked as a background artist you get told not mention it on a CV because it’s considered a different career which I understand completely but for me Star Wars has opened a lot of doors. When I mention it, people are interested and then you can discuss the other work you’ve done, it helps to get people’s curiosity. If I didn’t do those films, I am not sure if I would get the opportunities I get now.
Are you more comfortable with Spanish speaking roles?
I’m Spanish but being from the Canary Islands we have an accent compared to mainland Spain. I prefer English roles, it sounds weird, but I get a lot of castings looking for people like me.
You’ve said that it’s helpful to be known for the Star Wars films and you’ve kind of highlighted that it’s provided you a springboard to other roles, does that bother you?
To be honest, if what catches their eye is Star Wars, that’s fine and I’m happy with that. I’ve got their attention and I can get inside the room where the magic will happen. Hopefully, soon I will be also known for Peacemaker on Netflix and Glow and Darkness. But if it’s Star Wars that people are interested in as a start then I am more than happy.
Thanks to David for joining us! In the absence of conventions David can be contacted to autographs here.
Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.
Did you enjoy reading this interview? Why not check out another Force Awakens story featuring creature performer Keith De’Winter. Keith featured as Goss Toowers in The Force Awakens, click here for more!