The entire world is a stage. I was very shy until the beginning of my youth. Paradoxically, I worked at theater. I got panic when I use to talk in front of an audience without the character mask. I use to hide myself. I just showed my characters on stage. Marlon Brando said that everybody has an actor inside. Joseph Beuys said that everybody is an artist. Caetano Veloso said that people are to shy. Shakespeare said that the entire world is a stage. After learning that, I became the main character of my life. The sculptor of my actions, the writer of the story of my life. Everything became real, intense, funny, dramatic, and tragic. The colors of the world were intensified. I love to put a suit and play with the world. I am on the scene all the time. At the scene, I do what I know the best. In addition, I am giving my heart and soul to the audience.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dionisio Neto, 48, a Brazilian actor, writer, director and producer. He was born is São Luís — Maranhão, an island in the north of Brazil in 29/12/1971. He wrote eighteen plays released in the books of Giostri and Benfazeja, like “Perpétua”, “Opus profundum” (presented in the BluePrint Series Festival at the St. Mark´s Church in New York with American actors), Nico & I and others. He performed in plays directed by Antunes Filho, Bia Lessa, José Celso Martinez Correa, Lucia Segall, Ivan Feijó, Marcio Aurélio, and others. In movies he acts in Carandiru (Golden Indian Catalina Best actor award) and My Hindu friend (with Willem Dafoe) directed by Hector Babenco, Up against them all produced by Fernando Meirelles, and others. On TV, he performed in soap operas such as Dulce Ambición, A favorita (Globo) among others. He plays the journalist Dionisio Silva in Crime Time (Canal+, Netflix). He was the bandleader of a rock´n roll band Krepax. He also wrote articles for Vogue Magazine and the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in a colonial house in front of a movie in São Luís — Maranhão, Brazil — the extinct Cine Passeio. When I was a child, I was like the kid of the Italian movie Cinema Paradiso. I remember the first time that I got in a projection room. It was magic. The film was a western spaghetti, in the ’70s. I wish were there, inside the widescreen. Naturally, at the age of nine, at school, I wrote, produced, direct and acted in a play called The Do, re, mi family, about a family of musicians. It was a big deal at my school. Until my adolescence, I was an ordinary middle-class boy, and only lived for the school. I lost my mother in an abortion at the age of six. It was very hard for me. I didn´t know my father, I only met him at the age of forty. He was a politician, the mayor of the city, and I didn´t know him. My mother was Miss Maranhão. She was an avant-garde woman, very beautiful. I was adopted by an incredible woman, a doctor. She put me in the best’s schools of Brazil. She wasn´t rich, but she knows that education and culture are the great treasures of life. I always knew that I was a naturally gifted artist. Then one day I went to the theater to see two Nelson Rodrigue´s plays directed by Antunes Filho, who is one of the most important directors of the whole world. Nelson is our Shakespeare. It was like a rock´n roll live show. I had the feeling of belonging to that world — the theater world. After some years, I was there, in the Macunaima´s Group. I spent three years with Antunes. I quit my College in São Paulo University to be there, after a Latin American tour with a theater group, performing the theater adaptation for the Mexican book Comala. It was the most important phase of my professional qualification. There, at CPT (Theater research center), I knew Marlon Brando´s work at A streetcar named desire; the movie that changed my life forever. After seeing Brando, I had inside me the strong feeling of being an actor forever. After this period, I wrote, produced and acted in my first play — Perpetua, in 1996. It is very updated nowadays because it is about a couple who are stuck in a room during a night because of a curfew. In addition to that it is about a feminicide. It was a blockbuster. The most important media vehicles spread the word about my plays and me. They called me the Brazilian “enfant terrible” of the 1990´s. I wrote three plays at the same time. One of them, Opus profundum, was presented in New York, with American actors at The Blue Print Series Festival at St. Mark´s Church, directed by Natalia de Campos, and The New York Times gave us at the first page a good article about it. The theater send me to the movies and the movies opened the television´s doors. Now I realized that I am making my own dreams coming true. I did not give up on them, besides all the instability of this amazing roller coaster profession. Now I am here talking with you. Life is beautiful.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
The first memory that I have of being another person was at my childhood, playing with plastic soldiers and plastic Indians in an imaginary war. Looking back to it I see how violent it was. Guns, death, fight… I remember the magical sensation of being them in that situation. I also remember of my Batman´s and my Zorro´s fantasy, and how powerful I was when I put them. In the afternoons, I watched some superhero movies series like Captain Marvel, Daniel Boone, S.W.A.T., I was mesmerized with that. The actor that I became after, started there have no doubt about it. My mother loved art and fashion. She brought me the theater and the movies. When I went back home, I intended to be those characters. At school, I was the actor. I think these were the things that I did my best. The experience that put me is this world forever was a tour that I did in Latin America acting in a play with no words, like a dance theater — Comala. At the age of 19, I had this amazing trip discovering a new world. I had amazing experiences in Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico. I performed in festivals and found out the feeling of being on stage throughout that trip. One day, we were in Manizales, Colombia, a beautiful city at the Andes Mountain Range. At the end of the play, we took of our clothes. The crowd was fully booked. Suddenly, the curtains starts to close in front of our eyes. Some guards appeared there. We were censored. It was crazy. I was very young and I didn´t understand exactly what happened. However, I understood that nothing would stop me. Never. My art is what I am and I am my art for good.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I am a close friend of Fernanda Montenegro´s family. Her daughter, Fernanda Torres is a very friend of mine. She introduced me to Rio de Janeiro like no other did before. I met her mother at parties at her house; we use to talk about life and art. She is one of the greatest actors of the world. I always looked up to her, but I never thought that one day we would divide the same soap opera together. Not even in my dreams. It was too good to be true. Brazil is the best country when it comes to soap operas. It is a national culture. Throughout decades, all the families stopped in front of TV to see the Brazilian soap operas that Globo produces. I am Walcyr Carrasco´s friend. He is the best soap opera author of Brazil and one of the world´s best. He won the Emmy´s for Secret Truths. He wrote a play for me — Love-less. One day, after an emotional presentation of it at the Satyrianas Festival in Sao Paolo, he invited me to work in his new soap opera — Dulce Ambición, at Globo, directed by Amora Mautner. When I was at the studio, I saw a paper with some photos of the actors that composed my family. When I saw the Fernanda Montenegro´s photo there, as my mother-in-law, my heart starts to beat faster. I remembered that some months before it, I was with her at the Sesc Consolação´s stage, and she embraced me and gave me a blessing. She said that she wanted to see me more. I never could imagine that one day we would work together, in such special project. When we finally met each other at the dressing room, she said it to me: “Oh, my son, the destiny has its moments.” I think that was my coronation. Being at the first chapter of the main product of the main TV studio of Brazil with the leading actor of it was more than a dream come true. It was real. I was there.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
José Celso Martinez Corrêa is a very important theater director of Brazil nowadays, and is among the very important names in the world, like Peter Brook or Thomas Ostermeier. We met each other at the Oficina´s Theater stage, when I was fifteen. I got naked there in a performance of an Oswald de Andrade´s play. I was a performer before I became an actor. I didn´t have any acting technique, I was a very intuitive actor. One day, when I was twenty-two years old he called me to substitute an actor at the Shakespeare´s Hamlet, which he was directing. I saw his play. It was a masterpiece. Shakespeare and Zé Celso together was explosive. I went to Oficina´s trembling. It was crazy to be there, almost without rehearsals. I was thrown to the lions with a crowded audience. Suddenly, in the middle of a tragic scene, I got inside it, very wrong. I realized that I was not supposed to be there. I can´t describe the horrible feeling of walking through a Hamlet´s famous scene, in a clumsy way. I wish to disappear, with that creeping experience I learned that an actor have to study a lot to improvise. I learned also not to show something before it is ready. Never.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Ironically, throughout this horrible pandemic, I am working a lot as an actor. I discovered the Digital Theater, a hybrid of theater, TV, internet and movie. I directed three plays to Companhia Satélite — A letter to his father, by Franz Kafka; The sorrows of young Werther, by J. W. Von Goethe, with Adriano Arbol; The beauty one (and the beast), by myself, with Giovanna Velasco and Scream Passion, by Walcyr Carrasco with me and Marisol Ribeiro. Of course, it will never substitute the theater experience, but it was a fascinating world to be discovered. I also did a short movie in a leading role — DNA, by Sarah Martins. I learned a lot with my character Renê, which is involved with a dead end with loan sharks. He teaches me to never be in despair. My next project in movies is Death, life and luck, by Alexandre Alencar. I will be Luiz, an executive, a shark one. Those movies are independent movies. I love independent movies. They are the best. The low budget increases the creativity of the crew. They are a real challenge. I am very excited about them. Two leading roles — one is rich and the other is poor. I do both of them with the same passion. I am also a writer. I am finishing my first romance — Perla Stuart (the ex-wife). It is about a free woman that live her dreams dionysiactically. 2021 will be better than 2020.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I was born in a miscegeneted country — Brazil. Beyond our boundaries, the world knows some part of our culture. Nobody hates Brazilians, God is Brazilian — and everybody could be a Brazilian — that’s what we were told. Miscigenation is the future of humanity. My parents are half Lebanese and half Brazilian, which means I am a little bit Portuguese; I little bit Indian and a little bit black. The color of my skin is “golden brown” like the Caetano Veloso´s famous Tigresa song says. Recently I made a life with Damian Mallepree, which works at Goethe Museum of Dusseldorf, in German. We talked about my rock adaptation of the classic The sorrows of young Werther. I told him how I mixed Goethe with Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis and other suicide rock stars, because in my vision Werther was like them. I think that we have an extreme facility of break the rules, which sounds very contemporary to me. We mix unobvious things in an original way. This ability comes from the miscigenation of all cultures. When I started my career as an actor I lost many characters to blond and blue-eyes actors. For decades, it was the beauty pattern, It didn´t matter if the actor was good or bad, was much more about his looks. He had to be like a Disney prince. I don’t think this was good for the evolution of art. Today, the pattern is the brake of the pattern. This was a turn for the good, because the industry finally started to think of me in characters that they never thought before. The world is changing quickly. The future looks bright to Brazil. It will change the whole culture of the world. We will see unthinkable ways of doing the same thing. As Burt Lancaster said in Visconti´s movie — The Leopard — “We need to change the things to keep them the same.” Let´s run away!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- There is no artist without business.
At the beginning of my independent actor career, when I founded my theater company (Satellite Company), I had a strong impulse of doing things. I didn´t plan anything. It was like a punk attitude in my life. It was amazing. I didn’t know how to do the things, but I wanted and I needed to do those things, so I go there and do it myself. The media, the audience and the people from the theater business acknowledged my first theater productions. It had fire inside. However, they were like a self-destructive bomb. Within time, I heard this quote, and I stopped to think about the real meaning of it. I started to plan my work before doing it. My tours started to be longer. There are some plays like Love-less by Walcyr Carrasco and Letter to his father by Franz Kafka, which I´ve been doing for the last eight years. Life teaches. I learn. I change. I am in constant evolution
2. The most important thing in life is the journey
Antunes Filho use to teach us the oriental culture from India, China and other countries. When I was at CPT during three years, I read books about it, like Tao Te Ching, The power of the myth, by Joseph Campbell, et alli. Marina Lima, a Brazilian singer and composer sang a song with this verse: “maybe the ends means nothing, and the path means everything Throughout my adolescence, I suffered a lot with a kind of thoughts and behaviors that society puts on our mind like a brainwash. After getting to grips with these thoughts, I started to be a better person, happy with the right here and right now. There is no end of the rainbow with a golden cauldron waiting for us. The path is the great treasure of life.
3. If in the first day of work, if someone complains that the coffee is cold, fire him, because this coffee will become a monster.
Walcyr Carrasco, the master of Brazilian soap operas, said it to me in a phone call once. I am a producer also. I produce my own plays. I wrote, acted and produced a short movie called Too dramatic, directed by Ivan Feijó. I am always working with other people because the social nature of my work. There are a lot of wolfs in a lambskin all over the places. Unfortunately, I have worked with some enemies. I had the intuition of the danger, but I made some mistakes at the past. Today, when I start a new project, I say to my crew that I am working with facilitators. When the team wins, everybody wins.
4. The entire world is a stage.
I was very shy until the beginning of my youth. Paradoxically, I worked at theater. I got panic when I use to talk in front of an audience without the character mask. I use to hide myself. I just showed my characters on stage. Marlon Brando said that everybody has an actor inside. Joseph Beuys said that everybody is an artist. Caetano Veloso said that people are to shy. Shakespeare said that the entire world is a stage. After learning that, I became the main character of my life. The sculptor of my actions, the writer of the story of my life. Everything became real, intense, funny, dramatic, and tragic. The colors of the world were intensified. I love to put a suit and play with the world. I am on the scene all the time. At the scene, I do what I know the best. In addition, I am giving my heart and soul to the audience.
5. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to the producer, or the director, never lower your head to anyone.
Marlon Brando said it in his autobiography — Songs my mother taught me. When I was younger, I was very shy, I saw people with important positions and still afraid. I believe in a hierarchy but with respect. Some kind of directors screams desperately to get what they want. Nobody is better than anybody. Everybody is doing their jobs, all the people of the crew should be treated equally. When they start to scream, I start to speak low. They stop to scream. I don’t allow this kind of energy invade my territory. I am giving my best. I want something in return
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Live each day at a time. Work hard to build your dreams. Don´t spend all your money in things that you don´t need. If you buy something that you don´t need, you´ll have to send something that you need. Do your best in every little thing you do. The drama is like the air that we breathe. Be patient. The character of your dreams is still looking for you. You will find yourselves at the right time and the right place. It is written at the stars but you had better work to achieve your goals and thrive.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Listen to your heart. It knows what your soul really needs. All of us count on each other. To divide is to multiply. Everything ends at the coffin. I started a movement of kindness in every little act of my life. I agree that we plant and harvest like the third Newton´s law — action and reaction. Laughter is contagious, see the babies, is impossible not to laugh with them. The world needs a delicious big laughter. I started mine.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I lost my mother at the age of six in a tragic way. She died during my brother´s abortion. I was born in an island with Portuguese colonial architecture. Our neighborhoods were amazing. I was lucky to have The Vasconcelo´s family support to after that. I just knew my father at the age of forty, and he died of a heart attack three months later. My life is like a soap opera. When I was a kid, I naturally called my neighborhood’s parents. Two brothers. The woman, Marileide, became my tutor. She is a doctor. I use to say that she cured my life. She put me in the best schools, and she teaches me to open important doors of life for me. She is the most important woman of my life. There is only one love: a mother´s love. Smile. Be happy. Life is short.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: A certain one that wants nothing to be different, nothing in return, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary — but love it.” Nietzsche. Is something like “love your destiny”. When we follow the path of our bliss, everything that happens is a chance that life is giving you to carry on. The pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. I learned to love who I am, the life that I live, my wishes, my goals and my destiny. My name is the name of the Greek god of wine — Dyonisius. Nobody is called him impunity. Life is what it is.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
How can our readers follow you online?
Facebook: Dionisio Neto
Tik Tok: @dionisioneto1971
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!