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The Kingdom actor reveals how his love for dancing got him discovered

My mom woke me up one Saturday morning, screaming. She told me I got a casting call for a movie. I didn’t even know what a casting was at that point. An hour later, our doorbell rang. Juan Pablo Felix, the director of Karnawal, along with four other boys, stood at our doorway.  I stared at them, fascinated.

  • 11 months ago
  • March 14, 2023
6 min read
Martín Lopez Lacci stars in the Netflix series The Kingdom, a show about a controversial televangelist that becomes Argentina's presidential candidate after the murder of the former candidate. Martín Lopez Lacci stars in the Netflix series The Kingdom, a show about a controversial televangelist that becomes Argentina's presidential candidate after the murder of the former candidate. | Photo courtesy of Pablo Lapa
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Martín Lopez Lacci was born in Campo Quijano, in the province of Salta. Since a very young age, he has competed in several competitions, dancing the malambo. He won the provincial dancing championship in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. He also won the national award in 2016.

He starred in the film Karnawal at the age of 14. The film was released in 2020.
He had a brief part in the Amazon Prime Video series Night Sky, and recently finished recording the second season of The Kingdom on Netflix.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Karnawal is an auteur film and a co-production between Argentina, Brazil, Norway, Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico. The film had its world premiere on March 21, 2020, during the Toulouse Latin American Film Festival. It received fourteen nominations at the 16th edition of the Sur Awards, of which it won eight, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Male Revelation (Martín Lopez Lacci).

El Reino or The Kingdom is an Argentine series, originally from Netflix, that tells the story of a vice-presidential candidate and leader of an evangelical church, who takes the place of the presidential candidate when he is assassinated in the middle of the electoral campaign. It stars Diego Peretti, Chino Darín, Mercedes Morán, among others.

SALTA, Argentina — Growing up in a small town like mine, my options felt limited. I loved to dance and didn’t care whether I would make a career of it or not. From that passion, a world of new opportunities opened up. From acting in my first movie as a dancer, to working on productions for Amazon and Netflix, my life feels like a dream. 

Becoming a national malambo champion 

When my older brother heard about a folk dance happening at a nearby school, I did not feel particularly inspired, but I accompanied him anyway because I like trying new things. The only dance I knew was cumbia in the style of Los Wachiturros. When we got there, I saw some boys rehearsing. They tapped their feet in a very particular way, which intrigued me. I watched them all evening, trying to memorize their moves. At that moment, I fell in love with the malambo forever. 

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I enrolled in classes and learned all the basic movements. The teacher told me they saw great potential in me, and introduced me to the provincial selection to go to the national championship.  When I danced, I felt as though I no longer controlled my own body. My feet moved by themselves.

I wanted to dance all the time, everywhere. At school, the adults frequently scolded me for it. Every time I had a presentation, I tapped my feet while I talked. They would tell me, “Martín, stop stomping, you’re not going to make a living from dancing.” Everyone grew tired of it, but I could not stop.

Eventually, I became a five-time malambo champion in the province, and I won the national title. I felt overjoyed, like I had finally found my path. During the national championship, I heard a rumor that a film director was looking for a dancer for his next project. I tried not to think much of it at the time, but the idea buzzed around in my mind. 

My first opportunity to act in a movie

My mom woke me up one Saturday morning, screaming. She told me I got a casting call for a movie. I didn’t even know what a casting call was at that point. An hour later, our doorbell rang. Juan Pablo Felix, the director of Karnawal, along with four other boys, stood at our doorway.  I stared at them, fascinated. It felt like a dream. My dad cooked a barbecue, and we chatted all afternoon until we went to the train station for my first audition.

It felt crazy that this was happening to me. It all caught me by surprise. I knew my friends at school would not believe me. These kind of things never happened in our small town. I tried not to get my hopes up because there were 400 candidates auditioning for the same character. They advised me to take it easy and just relax. From all my competitive dancing years, I had learned to loosen up, and worry left me. The audition went smoothly, and I returned home to wait for the news. 

Soon after, they called my mother and announced that I got the part in Karnawal. I felt so excited, I jumped up and down, screaming. It felt like life was finally rewarding me after so many defeats. It took me a while to see acting as a job. When shooting began, I saw the cameras and how the team ran from one side to the other. I felt fascinated by the process. Being the youngest on set, they pampered me. It seemed like a vacation because I could got time off from school. 

From films, to Amazon, to Netflix

After the shoot, they invited me to a festival in Mexico to view the film. It was a very special moment. A member of the jury told me wonderful things about my work and made me consider acting more seriously as a career, in parallel to dancing. It motivated me to dream bigger.

When I returned to Campo Quijano, the mayor and some members of the press greeted me. They named me an “illustrious citizen.” People began to see me differently, sometimes asking for photos or autographs. I always grew up very shy, and those situations often made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I am still processing all of it. 

Martín Lopez Lacci, at age 14, dancing during a competition. | Photo courtesy of Pablo Lapa

A few months later, I got a small part in Night Sky, a series produced by Amazon. It looked like a huge production, which shocked me. Being on set made me feel at home, and at the same time, like I entered a whole world of make-believe. I grew up with people often mocking me for the things I loved, but here, I could be anyone I wanted.

Last year, I also recorded the series El Reino for Netflix. I worked with some actors I admired, and it felt unreal. I plugged away at becoming less shy, but it proved difficult. They were all ten years older than me and had a lot more experience. I felt a little out of place. Eventually, I got out of my shell and discovered how lovely they all were.

Finding my path after years of uncertainty 

When I think back on how this all started, it still feels surreal. I always knew dancing would remain a big part of my life, but I never anticipated I would make it this far.  Ever since this happened to me, I make it a mission to seize every new opportunity that comes my way.

I moved to Buenos Aires with my brother, and took theater and dance classes, on top of the castings. I still want to participate in dance competitions and hopefully be a national champion again. My legs beg me to dance. I started to feel that same drive with acting now, too. 

When I am alone, I repeat dialogues out loud, and imagine little scenarios in my head. I create a world around me and fill it with stories. Sometimes, I rewatch my favorite films over and over again, picturing myself lost in them.

I felt different my whole life, and now I know it was never a bad thing. That feeling served to push me further and to build my confidence. This whole experience taught me that as long as you love what you do and keep doing it for you, the rest will fall into place with time. 

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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