Juan Riedinger may not be on his best behavior as Teo in season 2 of TNT’s “Good Behavior,” but getting the chance to play in the gray with a character is always a fun prospect for the Alberta native. He’s been keeping audiences on their toes both as an actor and as a filmmaker since first falling in love with the craft while attending college and has contributed his talents to everything from the Netflix hit “Narcos” to the popular Canadian series “The Romeo Section.”
We recently sat down with Riedinger to discuss how taking an elective to round out his course load led to a career, why being a director makes him a better actor, and what the most memorable aspect of working on “Good Behavior” was.
TrunkSpace: If you take a look at your filmography, one thing is very clear – you work a ton. Do you love the work itself or do you have the kind of personality where standing still isn’t an option?
Riedinger: It’s definitely a combination of both. I mean, standing still is definitely not an option, but it’s also important what you’re filling your time doing, and it needs to be something that you love as far as I’m concerned. I love everything about being an actor and a filmmaker as well. I direct and I edit, but my focus these days has definitely been acting, and I can’t complain. Things have been pretty good.
TrunkSpace: What first drew you to the industry?
Riedinger: It all started out in an acting class that I was taking in university. I was studying to, at first, to be a veterinarian, so I was majoring in biology, and then I volunteered at a vet clinic one summer and, as much as I love animals, I just couldn’t see myself in that position doing that for the rest of my life. So I kind of shifted gears and started to take English classes, literature, with the idea of potentially pursuing being an English professor or something along those lines because I was always good at writing essays and I enjoyed that, but, again, it was not something that I absolutely loved.
Then, in my third year of university, this was all in Calgary, by the way, I took a theater class because they asked me to take an elective to fill my course load. I’d never done that before and I figured, “Oh, it sounds like it might be an easy credit.” I just remember we had to do monologues in front of the whole class, and I was the first one selected to do it. I didn’t get to see anybody else do it. I just kind of got up and did this monologue that I had prepared, and it was just… that’s definitely the moment that this spark ignited in me because I just realized, “Holy cow, what an amazing thing to be able to do!”
It was definitely more of a gradual process to sort of commit to doing that as a full-time career, but that’s, to answer your question, that’s where the spark started.
TrunkSpace: It was probably a bit of a gift that nobody went before you because you had a clean slate and didn’t have to compare internally. You just did your thing as you envisioned it.
Riedinger: Absolutely, and if I had gone out to party instead of put the time into learning that monologue and I wasn’t fully prepared for the experience, that might have put a bad taste in my mouth and my entire life course could have gone in a completely different direction based on that singular moment, which is just, to me, blows my mind.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned how you’re also a director. Does being a director make you a better actor and vice versa?
Riedinger: I like to think so, yeah. One general rule that I’ve stuck to is, I never cast myself in any of the projects that I’m directing because I like to keep them very separate. When I’m directing, I like to focus entirely on that. Having directed the projects that I have, it’s really opened my eyes to what it is to work with an actor, which has sort of taught me, when I’m acting, what it is that a director is trying to tell me.
It’s just a different kind of language, and I feel like it’s definitely sharpened my skill as an actor being on the other side of the camera, and the same with editing. Being an editor, what it’s taught me is that not every single moment is as precious as we tend to make them out to be as actors. If you have a little moment where you’re just not feeling it or it didn’t go the way you planned it to, that’s okay because that’s what editing is for. I feel like it’s really allowed me to not make things so precious and to trust the fact that, in the end, everybody’s going to be doing everything they possibly can to make this as true and as authentic as it possibly can be.
TrunkSpace: Does that make you more open to taking notes from a director and applying them to your performance?
Riedinger: Absolutely, yeah, and it also depends on the director that you’re working with. You get directors of all shapes and sizes and experience levels and the levels of talents for the craft of directing. I think that a big part of the director’s job is to gain the actor’s trust, and, once they do that, then I think an actor will become much more malleable and open to adjusting the performance in ways that maybe that actor didn’t originally envision.
TrunkSpace: You’ve joined the cast of “Good Behavior” in season 2. For those you have yet to catch up, can you give us a sense of who your character is and where his journey will take him?
Riedinger: I play a character named Teo, who’s kind of this mysterious figure who appears. He’s a childhood friend of Javier’s, played by Juan Diego Botto, and also of Javier’s sister, Ava. He sort of appears in their lives after many, many years, and you don’t really know what his intentions are at the beginning. You don’t know if he’s up to good, if he’s up to bad, and that’s something that just sort of begins to become clear as the story progresses.
TrunkSpace: It’s got to be fun to play in the gray and keep people guessing.
Riedinger: Yeah, you don’t want to reveal too much early on. You want to keep the audience on the edge of their seats that way.
TrunkSpace: From a character stance, did you know where we was going when you signed on or was that a learn-as-you-go experience for you as well?
Riedinger: That’s funny, because I spoke to the creator, Chad Hodge, before we started shooting, and he actually gave me the option. He said, “Some actors like to know every little thing about the course of where the character is headed and some actors don’t want to know anything.” I think I am more in the middle. I like to know kind of the broad strokes and then just sort of fill the gaps as we go along. I did have a general sense of what we were going to be doing with Teo, but there were also a lot of surprises along the way.
TrunkSpace: Performance-wise, what was the most memorable aspect of playing the character for you?
Riedinger: I was acting in two languages, which I haven’t had the chance to do a lot. Teo is from Argentina, and so, even though I speak Spanish, my mother is from Peru, I haven’t had the chance to act in Spanish a lot. And not only Spanish, but Argentinian Spanish. It’s something that I definitely wanted to get right, and so we had a dialect coach. She was originally from Argentina, and she was helping us with that. Also, I was getting help from my fellow actors who were also Argentinian. So it’s getting the Argentinian Spanish, but then it’s also getting the dialect when you’re speaking English because the Argentinian accent is very different actually than, say, Mexican Spanish.
For me, that was a very big challenge, but everybody seemed to be happy with it. I felt happy with how it went in the end, too. I got to watch a lot of movies from Argentina, which opened my eyes to filmmakers from a part of the world that I wasn’t familiar with. Yeah, that’s definitely something that I got to take away from that experience.
“Good Behavior” airs Sundays on TNT.
Featured image by: Noah Asanias