Fuse is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with Future Hispanic History Month, highlighting rising stars who are creating history before our very eyes. Today we honor Oscar Isaac, the 37-year-old actor who's begun skyrocketing with work like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, the sci-fi indie Ex Machina and HBO's political true-story miniseries Show Me a Hero.
Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada was born in Guatemala to a Guatemalan mother and Cuban father; they relocated to Miami when he was a baby. He played guitar and bass in several bands and ultimately ended up at Juilliard's acting program. His recent interviews have featured an important insistence for actors of color to be defined by more than their race. "They define you—'Latino actor, we'll just bring him in for Spanish commercials,'" Isaac told Rolling Stone in a May cover story. "I'm interested in telling stories about the human experience that are not necessarily just about my personal circumstances."
When he starred in 2015's A Most Violent Year, about a Colombian immigrant turned American entrepreneur, Isaac relished the complex portrait, telling Variety Latino:
“I think it was a great character, a very unclichéd look at a Latin American man. I can’t really remember the last time that we’ve seen a movie that’s in English, that treats the main character that is a Latin American man in this way. It’s so individual and idiosyncratic and that is just one aspect of the character. It’s an incredibly important one, but the whole movie isn’t about defining that aspect of him."
Isaac added that "sometimes as an artist you kind of want to be a citizen of the world," while telling RS he knows that Guatemalans may "want me to kind of carry the torch." One way he did that was to point out to writer/director J.J. Abrams that 1977's original Star Wars filmed its final scene at Guatemala's Mayan ruins at Tikal. Then he asked that his Rebel pilot character, Poe Dameron, be from the planet Yavin 4, where the Tikal scene was set.
In 2017, Isaac will star in Star Wars: Episode VIII (with an expanded role) as well as a New York City production of Hamlet. (He's done Central Park's Shakespeare in the Park twice.) Till then, you might catch him speaking out against Donald Trump's racist rhetoric, like he did in Rolling Stone:
"Because that's me, that's my family. We're immigrants. What could be positive about it is that Trump could help to rally a lot of disparate parts of Latin America together. Because Latino is not a race—it's a culture. There's Chinese Latinos, there's very white Latinos, there's very dark Latinos, there's black Latinos. There's all sorts of variants—it's not one thing."