On CBS’ The Young and the Restless, Miles Gaston Villanueva plays the not-to-be-trusted Luca Santori, who soon may just wind up being the husband of Summer Newman (Hunter King), but not if Summer’s mother, father, and grandfather have anything to say about it. If all that daytime drama isn’t enough, Miles has been one busy actor in Hollywood these days working on some exciting projects.
In fact, last weekend Villanueva just completed moonlighting in performances of a workshop production presentation of a new play, God Looked Away. And, it’s not just any play workshop, but one that Miles co-starred with Academy Award-winning actor, film, TV, and stage legend, Al Pacino, and alongside two-time Tony and Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress, Judith Light (Shelly, Transparent and Ex-Karen, OLTL). God Looked Away was directed by noted stage and film director, Robert Allan Ackerman. Quite the heavy hitters!
After what Miles calls a “life-changing experience”, there was more in store for this rising star’s immediate future when he was booked for an upcoming role on the CW’s hit series, Jane the Virgin, opposite series star Gina Rodriguez! On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Miles, as he filled us in about his whirlwind last several weeks, and gave us the Intel on his role in God Looked Away, and his takeaway from his time with the iconic Pacino and Light.
In God Looked Away, Miles plays the role of ‘Baby’, who is closely tied to that of Pacino, who portrays the legendary playwright, Tennessee Williams. “The story in the play gives you a peek at Tennessee Williams trying to mount one of his plays, and the struggles he goes through to produce, and write a play in his later years,” Villanueva explains. “It’s joyful, and it’s heartbreaking. My character ‘Baby’ also begins and ends the play talking about Tennessee, and his time with him. ‘Baby’ was Tennessee Williams’ lover for 14 years in the play. The character of ‘Baby’ is based on our playwright, Dotson Rader (pictured with Miles right), who wrote this from his own experiences with Tennessee.”
Before they hit the Great White Way, or London, many plays find their initial creative footing, and financial backing starting in workshop production presentations that are closed to the public, and just for industry only invitees, which was the case for God Looked Away. Miles let us in on how top secret it really was! “We had the workshop production presentations last weekend in a theatre in West Hollywood. We had to keep it under wraps, and very hush-hush. Producers and backers came in mostly from the east coast in New York, and in Los Angeles to see it. They have had meetings this past week following the performances, and they are figuring out what is the next step. The feedback has been very positive, and the word is there is going to be life after the workshop presentation, and likely pretty soon before the year is up.”
So what happened when Miles found out he would be working alongside Al Pacino, known for such classics as: Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Angels in America, and more? According to the young actor, the enormity of it didn’t quite hit him initially! “My manager went: ‘Hey Miles. This is kind of a big deal!’ And I was kind of going: ‘Yeah, that is a cool opportunity.’ However, he kept drilling into my brain that this could be ‘life-changing for me.’ It didn’t sink in till I started working with the man, and sharing the stage with him.” Once Miles was in a collaborative process with the likes of Pacino, nothing but superlatives was what he shared about the nature of the powerhouse talent: “Al is incredibly warm, sensitive, sincere, and so generous. He is incredibly funny both as himself, and in the role that he is playing, and is insightful and creative.” As to if Mr. Pacino gave Mr. Villanueva any acting tips, Miles related: “Al was so encouraging, and he would give me positive feedback on certain things. After we all did our first run-through you could see the excitement on Al’s face, and he said, ‘Can you just imagine what this would be like if we were running this for a few months?’ Our bond was offstage and on, and when you bond offstage, there is more depth on stage.”
Soap fans everywhere would have loved to be fly on the wall when the effervescent Villanueva met up with the one and only Judith Light. Miles says that she is what you would expect and did not disappoint one iota: “She is a glorious woman, both on the inside and out. Judith calls everyone either ‘Darling’ … ‘Sweetheart’ … ‘Baby’… and it’s like everyone is a ‘dear’. She treats everyone with sweetness. She kisses you on the cheek when she greets you, and when she says goodbye. Judith and Al were on the same level with their warmth, and generosity, and their courtesy. There is a complete lack of ego with both of them, and they have every right to have an ego, you would think, but they are not that way at all. She is just as beautiful and fierce as a person, as she is in her work. In God Looked Away, Judith plays the role of Lady Estelle Bagmoor, a longtime friend to Tennessee Williams. And if there ever becomes an opportunity for people to see her in this, she is unbelievably stunning.”
Miles admits he did have a moment to exchange some soap biz chat with Judith, especially because of their collective daytime experience: “Yes, we talked. Judith knew I was doing double days. I would shoot Y&R and get called in at 7:30am in the morning, and then I would finish at 11:30am or noon, and then I would go rehearse the play. I talked to her about the challenges of doing both, and the dialog line load, and all that stuff. Judith is nominated for a primetime Emmy for Transparent, so when we found out she was nominated, she came into the theatre for rehearsal, and we all applauded her. But, I have to say I did look up that courtroom scene of hers from One Life to Live and it was pretty nuts, and she was amazing. Judith was fascinating to watch in it!”
When the weekend performances were over it was time for Judith, Al, and Miles, and the cast and crew to go their separate ways: “Judith said: ‘See you soon’ which I thought was lovely. The director Robert Allan Ackerman, the playwright, and the crew, we all are a family now. While it was a whirlwind, (we rehearsed for five weeks and then we had three presentations of it) it all of sudden seemed like, ‘Well, that’s it?’ We were all hopeful, and are hopeful, we will do this again.”
As fans of Villanueva know, he announced via social media that he landed a role on an upcoming episode of season 3 of Jane the Virgin! But one should look no further than the magic created on stage during God Looked Away that sent him in the direction of working opposite series star, Gina Rodriguez: “I actually had a casting associate for Jane the Virgin come see me in God Looked Away on opening night, and then he texted my manager right afterwards and said, ‘We want to bring Miles in for this role.’ So, I came in to see them on Monday and I booked it a day later.” For Miles it was a joyous capper to his God Looked Away experience: “This has been incredible, surreal, and profound working with Judith and Al, and our director Robert Allan Ackerman, who has worked with everyone in this business.”
Miles ended his week working with Gina Rodriguez on the set of Jane the Virgin, who he says is “unbelievable.” And just what will he play when he guest-stars on the CW series?
Miles teased: “My airdate is tentatively October 17th. What I play is a secret! I could be a rival, cousin, a brother … you will have to tune-in and see! I was telling my all my friends, especially my female friends who are huge fans of Gina, ‘What ever you think she is, she is that times 100!’ I have to say we have gotten along famously. We have talked about all sorts of things, life, love, relationships, and career. It’s just a pretty stunning thing to be working with her.”
So, what do you think about Miles Gaston Villanueva’s last six weeks of workshopiing a play with Al Pacino and Judith Light, and the experience he shared? Are you excited to find out what he will play on Jane the Virgin come October? And isn’t is nice when a performer can share his triumphs with his fans as he continues to build his career as Miles has? Share your thoughts on his story in the comment section below and of course continue to watch what plays out in the coming weeks for Luca Santori on The Young and the Restless.