Giannina Esquivel was born in San Jose, Costa Rica to a family of what would eventually be three daughters and was raised on the coffee farms of Heredia, Costa Rica. At the age of 15, she attended the prestigious boarding school The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT, where she first began to foster her love of acting, a passion that had been born at a very early age. She worked in several school productions and attended the summer program at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. After graduating, she attended Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where she completed a double major in both Theater Studies and Economics. During her time at Swarthmore, she worked in various theater productions, including “Uncle Vanya” by Anton Chekhov, “Spring Awakening” by Frank Wedekind, translated by fellow Swarthmore alumnus Jonathan Franzen, and “Innocence” by Dea Loher.
Furthermore, she expanded her theater training by attending the Midsummer in Oxford program at the British American Drama Academy in association with the Yale School of Drama in Oxford, England. After graduating from college, Giannina returned to Costa Rica where she worked in various theater productions and commercials, culminating in playing the supporting role in the Costa Rican horror film “Insomnio”, which premiered in Costa Rican movie theatres in October 2017, and was selected to play at the prestigious Feratum Film Festival in Mexico.
Giannina continued her studies by attending the 2-year intensive program at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles, which boasts notable alumni such as Mark Ruffalo, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, and Chris Cooper. During her time at Stella Adler, Giannina had the opportunity to play such extraordinary characters as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare, Fern in “Candles to the Sun” by Tennessee Williams, both Blanche DuBois and Stella Kowalski in separate productions of “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams, Julia in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” by William Shakespeare, and Elsa Von Grossenkneuten in “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” by John Bishop.
Giannina recently completed production on several short films including “Corruption”, “Listen”, and “Guardian” which will be submitted to film festivals, appeared in season 2 of the HBO tv show “Insecure” and season 4 of the FX tv show “You’re the Worst”, and appeared in the music video for Round2Crew’s “Turn Me On”. In the coming year, she will be seen in the second season of the HBO tv show “Westworld”, the new tv show “Mysteries of the Unexplained” playing the legendary figure of the Black Dahlia from the 1940’s, and will begin production on a tv show, “Luna”, directed by Sharif Abdunnur and Krystle Houiess, and the film “Happy People”, directed by Sidney Jorizzo.
Hi, Giannina! We’re excited to learn more about your career. You have starred in several, high-profile short films, which has been the one that launched your career?
Actually, it was a feature film, “Insomnio” that launched my career. It’s a low budget suspense film that I filmed several years ago in Costa Rica and ended up going to international film festivals like the Feratum Film Festival in Mexico. It led to my move to Los Angeles and my subsequent work, including the short films that will be released this year. They were written and directed by talented up-and-coming directors and I’m so grateful to have been a part of them: “Listen” by Jonathon Ferino, “Guardian” by Ameer Azfal, and “Sad People” by Sidney Jorizzo.
We have no doubt that you’re looking forward to being in the second season of the hit show “Westworld.” Congrats! What has the experience been like, thus far?
I can honestly say it was one of the most incredible learning experiences of my life. It was one of my first jobs on a high budget production and simply getting to see the cast and crew working, seasoned veterans and pros of the industry, was so rewarding. The first season introduced us to Westworld, a futuristic form of theme park for customers interested in living the wild west experience, complete with androids meant to immerse the visitors in the setting. When the androids begin to exhibit traits of real human behavior, it leads to questions about what it means to be human, to have a soul. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to speak about the second season since it hasn’t aired yet, but it will be worth watching.
Was there a particular event or time in your life, when you decided acting was going to be your career?
I had felt it strongly ever since I was a child, this constant pull towards acting. I’d been doing it as a hobby my whole life, right up until college. However, it wasn’t until I was cast as Yelena in a production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” that I realized I simply couldn’t do anything else, that nothing would fulfill me the way it did. I had dabbled in every subject I could think of to try and talk myself out of acting as a career, simply because of how unstable a life that proves to be, but once I began work on “Uncle Vanya”, I just knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
As you enter the realm of the film industry, what makes a film role great for you?
Complexity. The hidden layers that take work and imagination to discover. The spaces between the words that you speak. People constantly say things that they don’t mean, they use their words to hide or to seem like something they’re not, to present to the world their idea of who they should be. But it is when you discover what lies underneath, what lies between and informs the words, that characters come alive. That complexity is fuel for actors.
It is said that it all starts with a dream and an opportunity. What are your thoughts on this?
Yes, definitely a dream and an opportunity, but there is one element missing there: hard work. Once the dream has been established, and the opportunity strikes, it’s up to you to be prepared. You have to be ready for that opportunity and to embrace it fully, and the only way to do that is to work hard. Learn to research, to create backstories, memorise your lines obsessively, have monologues in your back pocket, read the acting books, keep your abilities fresh. If those opportunities catch you unaware, you can miss chances that don’t come around often.
What has been the most important lesson you had to learn from working in the film industry? How did that lesson happen?
I think patience is one of those things that isn’t talked about very often in association with what people consider the “glamour” of filmmaking, but patience is key, and is a major component of filmmaking as opposed to theater. Filmmaking is a painstakingly slow process involving a large number of people, and everyone has a job to do. Moving from one scene to the next can take hours at times, and as the actor, it’s up to you to keep the emotions and intentions of the story alive from moment to moment. Learning to patiently handle the hours of waiting that inevitably happen onset is crucial.
You’re also known for your stage performances. What keeps you inspired?
Storytelling of all kinds is my greatest inspiration, be it great literature, theater, film, or history. The idea that I could be a small part of our storytelling tradition, something that humans have done all over the world since the beginning of civilization, is all I need to inspire me. It makes me feel connected to something greater than me, to feel like I’m in service to something outside of myself.
Thus far, what has been the best experience working in the film industry?
Purely from a fan’s point of view, getting to work on “You’re the Worst” was incredible! I’d been a huge fan of the show ever since it first premiered almost four years ago, and to find myself working on the same set as the brilliant Chris Geere… it was a surreal experience.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
I’m working on a pilot with the wonderful filmmakers Sharif Abdunnur and Krystle Houiess… stay tuned!
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to do anything I want, I would do ___________.
Write my own films and plays. I’ve been working on a couple of scripts, and dream with one day actually completing one and getting it produced. Greta Gerwig has been such an inspiration with “Ladybird”. I don’t know if I have the talent, or if it’s in the cards for me, but one can dream, right?