Desiring Ricardo

<em>Desperate Housewives’</em> resident hunk Ricardo Chavira on starring in July’s <em>A Streetcar Named Desire</em> at the Guthrie Theater, why TV is easy, and the sex appeal of brutes

Actor Ricardo Chavira described Minneapolis as “obscure” back in 1999 when he first appeared at the Guthrie Theater. Still, the native Texan liked the experience enough to figure he’d stay in theater. It didn’t work out that way—to the boon of his bank account. Soon after moving to Los Angeles, his television career took off, and now he’s familiar to many as Carlos Solis from ABC’s Desperate Housewives.

On July 3, Chavira returns to his roots—and the Guthrie—joining local star Stacia Rice (Stella) and television and Broadway star Gretchen Egolf (Blanche) in the role that made Marlon Brando famous: Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.

What appealed to you about Stanley, a character often described as a brute?
He’s the ultimate alpha male. He is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he has a lot of insight. And he understands [women] far better than I think people give him credit for. More importantly, all he is trying to do is protect what is his: that house, but also Stella and the baby that is on the way. And then all of the sudden this flighty sister comes in—and I use the word flighty because we know within the constructs of the play Tennessee Williams uses a lot of symbolism regarding birds in reference to the women…. And so he’s kind of like the cock of the walk.

But isn’t he just…mean?
Yeah, he’s mean! And sometimes he’s trying to be mean and sometimes it’s this childlike kind of anger because of his emotional immaturity. There’s a lot of emotional immaturity that exists within him and within Blanche. I would say that Stella is probably the one who’s most mature. But what Stanley has is that god-given prowess, that alpha maleness. If there’s 20 guys in a room, he is the ultimate guy. He’s going to be stronger than everyone. He’s gonna talk brasher. He’s gonna be bolder than any guy in the room. I think if you cast with a younger age, you are going to get that guy that’s full of bravado, whereas if you cast him a little bit older the bravado just simply is.

How does theater compare to television?
I have been on my show [Desperate Housewives] now for a while; we just finished our sixth season and everybody knows what it is about. And that’s great and it’s been a big blessing. At the same time, from an actor’s standpoint, it’s not necessarily the most challenging. I mean no disrespect at all, but to me it’s not. The show is specifically called Desperate Housewives and it focuses on the women, and the men are kind of subordinate to the women. So I have a lot of time off and I don’t like free time. If I am working, I like to work. And theater is a place where you work. That’s how I trained when I was an undergrad and when I was in graduate school—I trained in theater. Television is more of a writer’s medium; it’s not an actor’s medium. So I don’t find it necessarily that challenging. To me, a challenge is working on a play as iconic as Streetcar.

What do you think of the new Guthrie space?
When I was there in December, that was my first opportunity to see it in person. It’s a beautiful structure, the architecture—it’s like this beautiful piece of art. I wish we had a theater community in San Antonio, Texas, where I call home, that was like the theater community that exists in Minneapolis. I’m a bit jealous.

Did you have any favorite places to go in the Twin Cities when you were last here?
I just remember where the old Guthrie was [by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis] and the park that was nearby, that had all the art [The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden]. I love that place. That was beautiful. Everybody keeps telling me you couldn’t pick a better time to get up there. I know a lot of people in the theater community up there so I really can’t wait to get up there and spend some time with them. And spend some time in Minneapolis. It’s been too long.

A Streetcar Named Desire
Opens July 3
Wurtele Thrust Stage
Tennessee William’s tragic tale follows the unraveling of a family when the wife’s sister moves in.
Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second Street, Minneapolis, 612-377-2224