INTERVIEW: Catching up with OLTL alum and Empire star Tobias Truvillion
Posted Monday, June 19, 2017 7:13:10 AM
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Tobias Truvillion (ex-Vincent Jones, One Life to Live) dishes on soap memories; his emotional new film, Cigarette Soup; and his megastar status as Empire's D-Major.

Former One Life to Live actor Tobias Truvillion (ex-Vincent Jones) has become a big star on the hugely popular primetime soap Empire, but that doesn't mean he has blown off the soap opera world. In fact, the lovable actor -- who tells soapcentral.com he hasn't become "too big for his britches" -- not only attended this year's Daytime Emmy Awards, but he also speaks very highly of his former daytime comrades. And the feeling seems to be mutual: General Hospital executive producer Frank Valentini (who used to be executive producer for OLTL) was caught happily chatting with the New York native during April's red carpet event. So does that mean Truvillion would be open to some future appearances on GH? And what else is the star up to these days? We caught up with him to get the answers, and we're pretty sure fans will be quite happy with what he had to say about his soap future and his new film, Cigarette Soup, which follows the story of a journalist who's embedded with a small band of American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.

soapcentral.com: In your new film, Cigarette Soup, you play a soldier who's fighting in Afghanistan. Did you undergo any special kind of military training for the role?

Tobia Truvillion: Yeah, actually. We had advisors who were on set with us who were in the military and spent time over there in Afghanistan and in the Middle East, and they gave us pointers on how it was to be in the service and advised on technical things, and what it was like, the camaraderie of being one of the guys. They spent so much time together, and [we learned about] technical things like how you would roll as a unit when you entered a building, and carrying all the stuff these young men have to at all times as they fight for our country. Picking these guys' brains was such a wonderful experience. And we filmed it in a month, and spending that amount of time in a bunker, even though we weren't really at war, you really got a sense of brotherhood and how it might have felt being over there, fighting in the real war. Some of the stories that I got from some of the guys, they were life-changing experiences. Some of their best buddies didn't make it back.

soapcentral.com: Wow. Was that pretty emotional for you?

Truvillion: It was. It really was. A big purpose for myself was them seeing us perform for them. They were honored.

soapcentral.com: So what can you share about your character, Monti, and what he goes through in the film?

Truvillion: At first glance, Monti is this hardcore, no-nonsense guy, the muscle of the unit. He carries one of the bigger artillery machine guns, and he's kind of the guy who really plays no games. But once you kind of get past the first layer, you start really getting a chance to know him, and you realize that he's just another young man who doesn't have it all together and is fighting for his country and who at some point in the film realizes that if he doesn't open up [to the journalist embedded with the unit] and tell his story, it may never be told; he may never have a chance for his voice to be heard. So when we get to that point in the film, you get to find out who he really is.

soapcentral.com: Is this guy like you at all in real life, or was playing a guy like this pretty new to you?

Truvillion: I played a lot of sports growing up, and football is a team sport, and being a team player is the kind of person I am. I know how to lead, I know how to follow, and I would even be able to be coachable. So rolling in the unit and playing Marines, it kind of reminded me of the locker room feel, the camaraderie, the brotherhood between the boys and stuff like that. So there are elements of me in there, the camaraderie and wanting to get the job done and wanting to participate in the mission at hand. I could see myself there. But I'm more of a person who's outgoing, and Monti is more closed off. He kind of rolls around with a chip on his shoulder. I'm the total opposite of that. I'm more open and free and like to talk to people. Monti was a little bit more closed off. But there were little elements and pieces in there.

soapcentral.com: Would you say it's more challenging to play a character who's totally different than you, or a character who's a lot like you?

Truvillion: Well with any role, I want to do my best with it and be honest with it. Even the role that I play now on Empire, I play a man who is what they say is "on the down low," meaning he's gay. And with me being a heterosexual man, that was a stretch and territory that was different for me. For myself, as an actor, we always want to have characters and material that challenge us; it should be stuff that [makes you] a little bit fearful, because we are artists. So characters and stories that make you a little nervous, that give you a little bit of fear, that's where you want to be. That's the kind of work that I want to do. So challenging myself and finding interesting ways to play these characters, even though sometimes it might not be what's on the surface or on the paper, it might read a certain way, but trying to get underneath and finding out the different dimensions of the character, who they really are, is a challenge. And playing characters who are outside of my comfort zone or are really not at all who I am, that's the work that I want to do. That's the work that I do now, and that's the work that I'll continue to do.

soapcentral.com: In the soap opera world, fans sometimes get confused and think the actor is actually the character. Has that happened to you?

Truvillion: Oh, yeah! When I played Vincent Jones on One Life to Live, my character wasn't really a bad guy, but some of the storylines gave him a bad rap because he did some devious things to some of the other characters, so that used to happen to me. People would come up to me and say things like, "Don't do that anymore!" or "You can't treat Cristian [David Fumero] like that!" [Laughs] People love their TV, they love their content, they love the stories and the shows. They're invested in them, and sometimes they blur the lines when they see you in the street and think you're the actual character, and it's like, "No! That's not me, it's not who I am!" [Laughs]

soapcentral.com: Do Empire fans also do that? Or is it just the soap fans?

Truvillion: Yeah, it happens with Empire, too, and sometimes people aren't exactly sure what to say. They'll come up to me and refer to me as if I am D-Major, and I kindly and politely have to tell them, "I'm Tobias. The character I play is D-Major." But for the most part, people know you're playing a character. And I've been a working actor for my entire adult life, and people know my work, so sometimes when they see me, they acknowledge me as an actor. So it's a little of both. Some people know me from Empire and know, "Okay, this guy is definitely not gay, and he's playing D-Major," and they say, "You're doing a great job." But you also get the people who are like, "Man, he's doing such a great job, so I'm not sure -- is he really gay?!" [Laughs] But it's our job to play these characters to the best of our ability, so I guess when you do that, people get invested and believe it, and that's what you want.

soapcentral.com: What would you say you're most recognized for: One Life to Live, Empire, or something else?

Truvillion: I would say Empire. It's big. It's the number one show in the world. You're talking 12 million people watching it every week. And it has definitely changed my popularity tremendously. People may have known my face or they might not have known my name before, but now people say my name when I'm walking down the street. Or I'll introduce myself, and I'll be like, "Hi, my name is Tobias." And they'll be like, "I know who you are!" [Laughs] And that's really trippy for me! I mean, I'm just a regular guy; I'm from New York, I ride the subway, I teach in the schools, and sometimes I pop up in the stores, and when that happens, people are really blown away; they're blown away that I'm standing there with them. So Empire has had a powerful impact.

soapcentral.com: I love that you still introduce yourself, even when you may not need to give an introduction. That's really sweet.

Truvillion: Yeah, my grandmother gave me manners.

soapcentral.com: That's good! And I hope you remember that, no matter how big you become. And speaking of that, your soap fans are fierce and still follow you and your career. How does it feel to know that they still care about you and follow you in your new projects?

Truvillion: Oh, it's wonderful. Being on the soaps was great. I think about all the people who I worked with at the time, and I look at them now, and it's like, David Fumero [ex-Cristian Vega] is on Power, and Tika [Sumpter, ex-Layla Williamson], who's doing wonderful things, and Renee Elise Goldsberry [ex-Evangeline Williamson], who is destroying the stage on Broadway. I think about all my friends, and they're doing big things and flourishing on other shows and other platforms. And the people that follow us and support us, they've been there the whole entire time. It makes you feel so good, and it's a wonderful thing. They're excited to see you work and see you continue on in your career. I enjoy that, and I'm very grateful for them. Every once in awhile, I'll meet someone who says, "I remember you from the soaps!" But sometimes people get confused because I like to transform into different characters and have different hair, and then when they get to see me on Empire or Law and Order or something, they'll say, "Oh yeeaaahhhhh, that was you on the soap opera!" So it's a wonderful thing. Soap fans are so loyal, and I'm so grateful for that. I even went to the Daytime Emmys a few weeks back! Just to be around the daytime world and the fans, and it was a wonderful experience. And it had been a long time since I had seen so many people. Like my buddy Lawrence Saint-Victor, who's on The Bold and the Beautiful [as Carter Walton], and [former OLTL executive producer and current General Hospital executive producer] Frank Valentini; I got to talk to him. These people support me, and I like to support them. It felt good to be around the daytime folks and hang out with fans again. It felt great.

soapcentral.com: Did Frank invite you to come make an appearance on GH?! A lot of former OLTL actors have been popping up on the show lately.

Truvillion: No, but I would love that! I'm not too big for my britches, which is something my grandmother used to say. Hey, as an actor, it is so competitive, and this is my artistry, it's my work, so to make an appearance on General Hospital? I would love to do something like that. Being able to jump into different vehicles and flex different muscles is always good. Daytime works different muscles than a lot of other shows, so to step back into that? I would love to do it.

soapcentral.com: I think one of the really special things about you is that no matter how big you get, you pay homage to your soap opera roots and you still volunteer your time with children. You actually have an organization called Yendor Arts, where you work with youth in the city, right?

Truvillion: Yes, I do. One of the main things that I always love is teaching drama to kids, and being able to pay it forward to them is very important to me. I wouldn't have been able to do half of the things I've been able to do if it wasn't for them, being a part of their lives, being able to reach back and give some of these kids my life story and share that with them. It's important for me to let them know that I wouldn't be anything I am today without the support of my family around me, and it wouldn't be possible if I didn't pay that back and give something to the youth and share my story and show them how things happened to me. I just want to be a positive role model in their lives. That's huge. That's really huge. And it's part of my success, being able to pay it forward and being able to give something back to the young people. That's what the universe receives, and it opens up more doors for myself. Yendor Arts. It's very close to my heart.

Sharing some craft techniques with aspiring actors during the Celebrity Scene Stealer panel at ABFF with my sis @1lisawu and my bro @lancegross 🙌🏽💯 #TobiasTruvillion #LeadingMan #Actor #Model #Producer #SMEGSavvyMarketingEntertainmentGroup #TalentConnect #SAGAFTRA #DirectorsGuild #AcademyAwards #ActorsEquity #Philanthropy #EmpireFox #FilmMakers #IndustryLife #IndieFilm #EntertainmentWeekly #TrailBlazers #NewYork #NewJersey #LosAngeles #Atlanta #Europe #Canada #International #Miami #Chicago #NoDaysOff #Hollywood 🎥🎬🎥🎬🎥🎬 #blackisbeautiful

A post shared by Tobias Truvillion (@tobiastruvillion) on

soapcentral.com: It sounds like you had a great role model in your grandma, who taught you all your manners. But did you also have really influential people in your life when you were young who maybe influenced you to be involved in this special way?

Truvillion: Yeah, definitely. There was an actress, Michelle Thomas, who played Myra Monkhouse on Family Matters and Malcom's girlfriend [Callie Rogers] on The Young and the Restless when Shemar Moore was on. She also played Justine on The Cosby Show. She passed away from a rare stomach cancer, but her mother, Phynjuar, was very, very close to me. She was a person who mentored me, and I was able to learn a lot from her. Things she learned from her family, she passed on to me, especially concerning the arts. And that's the way I was brought up. I met tons of people in the theater in Harlem, directors and producers, and they were always able to sort of give it back, pay it forward; it was a culture of artists who constantly supported us and constantly showed you the way. There are so many talented artists and performers who are really talented and never get the chance to make it or break through that glass ceiling and be seen, but they're so talented. So that older generation that I was brought up with, they honed me, they fed me, they fed my soul, they fed my spirit, and they fed me physically, so it's only right that I do the same for the youth today. It's very close, like I said, it's very close to my heart.

For more information about Yendor Arts, fans can visit the organization's homepage here.

Cigarette Soup is now available on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Verizon FiOS, and other streaming services. You can also purchase a physical copy of the movie on DVD and Blu-Ray. A portion of the proceeds from Cigarette Soup will benefit the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill, and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. To learn more about this incredible organization or to donate, visit semperfifund.org.

What do you think about our interview with Truvillion? Do you miss him in the role of OLTL's Vincent Jones? Would you like to see him make an appearance on GH? Will you be renting Cigarette Soup? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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