Grand Hotel star Shalim Ortiz dishes on the new ABC series
TV fans are checking into Grand Hotel, and Shalim Ortiz has stolen a few scenes on the ABC series as Mateo, the hotel manager who’s keeping a big secret.
He connected with Hidden Remote to discuss the personal connection that got him interested in the show, how he’s been able to have a successful career in both American and Spanish roles, and the guest star he was “starstruck” to work with.
Learn more about Shalim Ortiz in our interview below, then keep your eye out for him when the next Grand Hotel episode airs on ABC next Monday, July 8 at 10 p.m. The excitement is only just beginning!
Hidden Remote: It’s not a what, but a who, that first put Grand Hotel on your radar?
Shalim Ortiz: I’ve known Eva Longoria for many years and I hadn’t had the chance to work with her, so just the fact that she was the executive producer of the project was already a no-brainer
But added to [that], when I read the script and I saw what the show was about, I fell in love with it, because you really embody many different genres and different stories that are told in this hotel.The inclusion—the diverse cast and diverse characters that embody this project—was also very attractive to me.
HR: Part of the appeal of the show is its twists and turns. So how much did you know about Mateo’s story arc going in, or was it a surprise to you as well?
SO: Wendy Raquel Robinson said, and I agree with her, that the table reads were one of the most fun parts of the experience. Brian [Tanen], the head writer, and the whole team were very discreet and very quiet about what was going to happen next with our characters. The information was extremely limited.
We knew week to week what was going to happen next and we didn’t hear much about the story arc. They told me enough about my character to know what kind of tone he was going to have and his essence, but what he was going to do and where he was going to go, that was all a surprise for me.
HR: Grand Hotel is based on a very successful Spanish series. Did you look at the Spanish show at all during the season?
SO: I did watch a couple episodes before we started shooting, to get an idea of what the feel was going to be. I did watch the whole first season after we had kicked off our season [but] I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too inspired or directly influenced by the original, because I knew this was going to be a complete re-imagination [set in] present day Miami Beach. The original was in Spain in the early 1900’s, so it was a completely different tone.
HR: Speaking of the Spanish and American markets, you’re an actor who has had a career in both worlds, which isn’t a common feat. How are you able to work steadily internationally as well?
SO: I take it day by day. We are living in a Golden Age of content, in Spanish and English. So as a bilingual actor, thankfully, you get to play in both markets and you get to explore projects that are extremely attractive and extremely interesting. It’s almost like a new normal for a bilingual actor to juggle between both markets.
In my case in particular, I’ve concentrated most of my life and career, most recently between Mexico and Los Angeles. These are two of the biggest markets right now that are doing the most important content right now for all these platforms. I think the trick is to be in the right place.
HR: Is there another project in either market that you’d want Grand Hotel fans to see?
SO: Because [Grand Hotel] is a Miami-based show, one project that I was a part of five years ago was a show called Magic City, which was about Miami in the 50’s. If they can get a hold of that I think they would also enjoy it because it also celebrates the city of Miami. It was a period piece but it was interesting.
HR: As if that’s not enough, you also have a music career. But how likely is it that Mateo would ever sing in an episode?
SO: Honestly, I highly doubt he will, because it doesn’t go with the nature of this character. He’s a very mysterious, intriguing character. Very economical with his words. He definitely comes in at the very dense portion of the narrative. If I ever picture him singing, I picture him drunk because something went wrong, and he’s at a bar singing.
HR: You do get to work with a pretty fantastic recurring cast member, though.
SO: One of the great guest stars coming in this season is Katey Sagal. I totally geeked out because I’m a huge Sons of Anarchy fan, so to be working with Gemma Teller, I was very starstruck. Look forward to her coming into the show, because she has an amazing character with a great storyline.
HR: You come from a show business family. So is that where your interest in acting also came from, or how did Shalim Ortiz find his way into the spotlight?
SO: The short version of the story is, I was six years old and my dad was a television producer in Puerto Rico. I went one day to set with him on a new show he was just starting to record, and it was about little kids in a classroom. I remember seeing these kids in this school and the cameras rolling on the first scene of the show, and I told him, Dad, I want to be there. I need to be there.
He looked at me and said are you sure? And I was like yeah, I want to do that. That’s how it all got started. He put me in there without a school uniform, and that was my first line, “Why didn’t I bring my uniform today?” And the rest is history.
Source: Hidden Remote