Temperatures rose quite significantly for viewers of The Young and the Restless during Wednesday’s episode, when during a shocking entrance, Marissa (Sofia Pernas) was in for the surprise of her life when a handsome “stranger” said “hello” to her. That moment marked the debut of actor Miles Gaston Villanueva in the role of the wealthy and mysterious Luca Santori! As savvy Y&R fans know, this isn’t Villanueva’s first appearance on the number one daytime drama. Back in 2013, Miles played the part of Father Martin, who assisted Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) and Paul (Doug Davidon) search for the child she gave up for adoption, which later proved to be Dylan (Steve Burton).
Now back in Genoa City in his new recurring role, Villanueva is about to set the audiences hearts-a-flutter with his good looks, charm, and acting chops! But just what is going on here? What is the connection between Luca and Marissa? Could this be a husband she never mentioned? Could Noah and Sofia’s romance be headed south? Could this have anything to do with the evil Jack doppelganger, Marco (Peter Bergman)? So many questions left to be answered, but when a new interloper emerges one thing is for sure: the sparks will fly.
On-Air On-Soaps sat down with Miles at CBS Television City to get the lowdown on: how he landed the primo role, and what viewers will learn about what is driving Luca. Miles also weighs-in on: if he would like to play the soap opera bad boy, how he plans to handle being labeled a daytime “heartthrob”, and what is had been like sharing scenes with his new on-screen partners: Sofia Pernas and Robert Adamson (Noah). Here’s our get-to-know chat with Mr. Villanueva. Let the speculation begin!
Miles, how did this all come about that you landed the role of Luca?
MILES: They remembered me! They were looking for an actor and I am sure they had plenty of auditions before they brought me, but Jill Farren Phelps (executive producer, Y&R) said, “Hey, what about that guy that played the priest?” They brought me back in to read for the casting directors, and then I had a producer callback, and to read in front of the network executives. Afterwards, I got a call from my manager that I was booked for Y&R, and I was like, “Yeah!”
What did Jill Farren Phelps say to you when you met her the first time when you were at Y&R playing the role of Father Martin?
MILES: Jill came up to me after they cast me as the priest and shook my hand and had this smirk on her face and said, “I’m the one who hired you!” I thanked her so much, because this was my first TV gig. I have done a lot of theatre, previously. She mentioned: “We could have gone older and more mature with this role of the priest, or we could have gone young and handsome. I chose young and handsome.” (Laughs)
What did the powers-that-be tell you they wanted the character of Luca to possess on-screen?
MILES: I know they wanted the mystery, this edge, sex appeal, and this confidence about him. I know when we did the casting call, Y&R casting director; Judy Blye Wilson came out and gave notes to everyone on what they were looking for. When she mentioned this, I went, “Yes!” I felt like something opened up in my body, and it opened it up for me to go into the audition, and just run with it, and go for it. I think her notes helped me tremendously.
What happened when you found out you were chosen to play the role of Luca Santori?
MILES: I ran into Sofia Pernas (Marissa), after I read with her in the room. I was getting in my car in the parking lot and my agent and manager are talking a mile a minute. I look back out of my window and I see Sofia looking for her car. So, I popped open my window and I go, “Hey, guess what! I booked the part!” She said, “Congrats! I knew you would get it!” She related that after I left the audition room everyone went, “Yes! We found the guy.” I think it was the energy that she and I had, the conversation I had with them, and I think a bit of my history with Jill and having been on the show before, that eventually nabbed me this terrific part.
In your own words, what do you remember happens during your first scene when Luca encounters Noah (Robert Adamson) and Sofia at the Underground?
MILES: Noah says, “Hey buddy. You can’t come in, we’re closed.” And Luca goes, “That’s OK. I’m not in here for business. I’m looking for my wife.” Marissa then turns around and Luca goes, “Hello, Marissa!” She is kind of, ah, surprised! It would appear that Luca has come from Europe and has gone on kind of long trek to find her.
Everyone is speculating that Luca is actually Marissa’s hubby! Anything you would like to share? (Laughs)
MILES: There is lots of speculation all over the place: Am I a husband? Am I an ex? There all sorts of different theories.
Do you want Luca to be a bad boy?
MILES: I want him to be complex and layered. The thing is I have been craving to play the anti-hero. So people may not agree with stuff that he is doing, or the way he may be going about it. But, I would love the audience to go, “But, damn. He is charming. He has that vulnerable side, and he looks good in a suit!” (Laughs)
It’s clear from the way he dresses that Luca comes from money! I think it’s always more interesting and intriguing on a soap opera to be a character that comes from wealth; you get to yield some power!
MILES: Luca dresses like a million bucks, and he obviously comes from money. His last name is Santori and he comes from a very wealthy European family with a deep history. I do think having come from dough on a soap makes for more fun stuff to play! Y&R costume designer, Scott Burkhart put me in my first couple of suits and it’s been amazing to get to dress like that in addition to everything else. I get to feel like a million bucks before I hit the set, and it helps me inform the material, and whatever we craft while we are on-camera.
What can you say about your scene-partners; Sofia and Robert?
MILES: They are incredible. I am a little jealous, because they have been together for awhile. I see the ease, and the connection, and the chemistry. I see it all happening with them. It’s different, because I’m the new guy. I love how they are just messy with their stuff and what I mean by that is: I come from theatre and I am used to rehearsing messiness in a scene, if stuff overlaps or something like that. Robert will take the dialog and add some extras to it. He forces you in a good way to go with it, and the energy within the scene. It can be kind of terrifying some times. I will tell you that watching Sofia and Robert on screen together is really cool, and I get to learn from them too.
I am speculating that Luca is going to put a wrench in the growing relationship between Noah and Marissa, and it will be interesting to see who the audience ends up rooting for! Perhaps, it could end up being Luca! Perhaps, he will be spun off in another story with other connections in Genoa City?
MILES: It’s going to be interesting how the audience responds. I am working with Robert and Sofia … for now. I will be on the show with regularity in the coming months. That’s all I can say, but you will see how it unfolds.
When you portrayed Father Martin you had the opportunity to work with Y&R icons: Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) and Doug Davidson (Paul). What was your takeaway from that experience?
MILES: I was fortunate enough my first time here to work with Doug Davidson and Melody Thomas Scott. Everybody knows on Twitter how incredible Doug is. He made my first time here so easy. He was so complimentary, encouraging, and so much fun. He can be so goofy and has such a contagious laugh! Doug took any fears I had away with his sweetness, and his humor.
You have the perfect soap opera name in real life. I’m so jealous, truly! What is your actual ethnicity?
MILES: I’m a mix. I’m a mutt! My dad is Mexican, which is where I get the last name Villanueva. Gaston is the French part of my mom’s European mix. She is: French, Irish, German, and Jewish. That’s my mom; she is like all of that. Gaston is my mom’s maiden name, and all three of my brothers got that as our middle name. It’s a name I love having. My parents are incredibly supportive. I am sure they will be watching Luca’s debut on Wednesday.
How will you handle the soap fans, and the press calling you “sexy” and “heartthrob”? Will you embrace it?
MILES: First of all, it’s crazy. I am in awe of it and I have such gratitude. When people say, “Handsome”, “dreamy” and stuff like that, I just want to say, “Thank you.” I only wish I had them in person so I could hug them. and for them to see how big my smile is when I read comments like that. Here is the deal: compliments such as that can leave you a bit speechless, and that’s alright. When it happens to me in person, I need to get a little better about it and not shy away from it. I had a professor say to me once about things in life, “Own it.” He did not mean that to an arrogant degree. I will be fine with it, and I will be thanking people profusely for their kindness.
You were recently introduced at the 2015 Y&R Fan Event where you said “hello” to the crowd and then signed autographs. How was your first fan club encounter?
MILES: I wasn’t sure what to say when I addressed the crowd, but it was incredible. Fans were coming up to me and some were really effusive and really excited. There was general excitement and curiosity with everybody going, “So … what’s your storyline?” I would smile and go, “Don’t you go trying to find out little storylines!” (Laughs) No one knows me there, and yet I had a good chunk of people who showed interest. I remember signing my first autograph going, “You’re my first one!” (Laughs). The fans feel they know you. They are so invested in your storylines and these characters lives, but I think the fans are unbelievable. I met fans from South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Sweden!
O.K. it’s on! Everyone just saw Luca arrive in Genoa City. What are your hopes from this point forward?
MILES: I hope Luca will be stirring the pot. I think Luca wants what he feels is rightfully his, and he has his own ways of going about that. I am interested in the Y&R fans first impressions during Luca’s first few episodes this week, and how does he come off, and where they think the story is headed. Can’t wait to see their reactions!
So, who do you think Luca will ultimately turn out to be? Marissa’s husband, an-ex, someone trying to run a scam on her and Noah? What do you think of the casting of Miles Gaston Villanueva? What did you think of what he had to say as he teased what to expect from the wealthy Luca? Share your thoughts and theories in the comment section below!