Breakout Star Rafael Silva on Playing Queer Cop on '911: Lone Star'

Sunday August 2, 2020

That Fox's breakout 2020 hit "9-1-1: Lone Star" comes from the team of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear, it is no surprise that one of its central relationships is between two LGBTQ characters.

On the show, which premiered in January and has been renewed for a second season, T.K. Strand (Ronen Rubinstein) plays the troubled son of New York firefighter captain (Rob Lowe) who travels with his dad to Austin to start a new life. There, Strand starts a relationship with fellow cop Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva), a Latino with issues about his same-sex attraction.

For Silva, the role is his first on a network series. When he auditioned for the role, he says he cried afterward because he felt "did nothing in the audition," he told Digital Spy in an interview. To his surprise, the next day he was offered the role of Reyes.

"This is a first for me," Silva explained in an interview with Media Village. "It's my first [series] booking, so it's pretty exciting and pretty humbling. It's also amazing to be able to act opposite somebody [like Ronen] who's been doing this for a little while but treats it like the first time every time."

That he admitted crying in the interview is only proof of how far Silva has gone since arriving in the United States as a "naturally shy and introverted" 13-year-old from Brazil.

"Coming from a very machismo country, what is praised when you're a child is that the man is supposed to provide. The man that is more quiet and goes through life without complaining is the man to be praised and the ideal to what you should be," he told Digital Spy.

"As a kid going through all of this, being closeted completely and nowhere near accepting the fact that I was gay, I was just going through all of this quietly thinking that I was actually being the ideal man, the ideal Rafael."

Once he got the role, he took a deep dive into understanding the culture his character (Carlos Reyes) came from and what it is like to be a cop. To that end, he trained with a retired LAPD cop. "I read the Austin manual handbook to be a police officer, which is about seven hundred and eighty pages, maintaining that consistency, studying. I'm someone who loves to study," he told the website StyleRant. "I also trained with Chick Daniel. Fox has provided a personal officer to train me. We have met several times. The support that I receive from Fox for this role has really been amazing."

StyleRant also notes that "Rafael is a fitness fanatic, and before he got his role in '9-1-1: Lone Star,' he engaged in different forms of martial arts. He is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist, and we can tell that he was a blue belt from his Instagram."

The show is a bona-fide hit, averaging a 1.2 rating and 6.31 million live viewers in the United States, making it FOX's highest-rated new series of the 2019-20 season, and has turned the surprised Rafael into the show's breakout star.

"I didn't really pay attention to what the reaction would be. I mean, I hoped it would be positive and people would like what they saw, but this wave of Tarlos fans — like I have fans now? What? Not ever did I ever think I personally would ever have fans. It's great and I'm extremely grateful and humbled," he told DigitalSpy.

And he speaks eloquently about how he feels that '9-1-1: Lone Star' especially in the manner it portrays the Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities.

"I think that's what the show depicts so beautifully," he added. "They're medics and firefighters and police officers, but what and who's underneath the uniform? It's not [just] a firefighter. It's a Black trans male who happens to be a firefighter [played by Brian Michael Smith], it's also a young immigrant kid that is training to be a firefighter [played by Julian Works] and it's a really wired-tight, gay man that also happens to be a police officer. You start to demystify their title and see them as a human being."