Giannina Esquivel is an up and coming actress who was born and raised in Costa Rica on a coffee farm. When she was fifteen years old, she moved to the United States to attend a boarding school in Connecticut. While there, she nurtured her deeply rooted love for acting by appearing in numerous school plays and partaking in the New York Film Academy summer program in Los Angeles, California.

After she graduated from high school, Giannina went to college in Pennsylvania and earned a double-major degree in Theater Studies and Economics. While attending college, she also appeared in many staged productions of classic plays.

Giannina further expanded her theater experience when she attended the British American Drama Academy (which operates in association with the Yale School of Drama in the English territory of Oxford) in the United Kingdom.

Once she graduated from college, Giannina returned home to Costa Rica and worked on many commercials and theater productions. During that time, she also landed a role in a horror movie called "Insomnio" which was created in Costa Rica and premiered in local movie theaters in October of 2017. The film was subsequently selected to be viewed at the Feratum Film Festival in Mexico.

After enjoying these successes, Giannina returned to America and continued studying her craft at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles and also acted in many plays and short films during that period.

Most recently, she has been getting into television and has secure roles in shows such as HBO’s “Insecure,” “You’re the Worst” on FX, and “Mysteries of the Unexplained,” “Luna” and “Westworld”—which will air later in 2018. Moreover, she had been slated to play a role in a film called “Happy People.” She also starred in a music video by Round2Crew for their song titled “Turn Me On.”

Giannina recently gave an exclusive interview where she discussed her rapidly developing career and all her exciting plans for the undoubtedly bright future.

Costa Rica, acting, and characters

Meagan Meehan (MM): So, what started your love for acting?

Giannina Esquivel (GE): My love of acting started very early on in my life, through a fascination with my father's camcorder. I would create mini-Movies and episodes of TV shows with it, casting my stuffed animals and unwilling sisters in the process!

I was introduced to great cinema by my parents at a very early age, films like "Doctor Zhivago" and "Gone with the Wind" and somehow always knew that having some part in the creation of "movie magic" was my dream.

Costa Rica was a beautiful place to grow up. Very remote, but beautiful. We grew up climbing trees, running around outside, riding ATV’s through the coffee farm, learning to pick coffee along with the workers. There were always adventures to be had. It makes for a lovely childhood. However, it didn't have the same cultural opportunities as other more developed countries did, but I had the privilege of being raised in an artistically enriching household. Reading great literature, listening to great composers, learning about the great visual artists, this was par for the course for me and my sisters.

We danced ballet, learned to play the violin and the piano. We never lacked culture or creative opportunities.

It wasn't until I attended boarding school in Connecticut at fifteen that I truly began to apply myself to acting and theater, but I had already been self-identifying as an actor for years.

MM: Was it difficult for you to move to the United States and what surprised you about the differences in schools/cultures?

GE: I was eager to move to the U.S, which probably made a move easier on me. Boarding school was something I had been looking forward to for years. I was excited to go to a new country and to be exposed to a new environment. I'm sure movies like "Dead Poets' Society" and "School Ties" and books like "A Separate Peace" had something to do with that!

There was definitely a culture shock though, not only in the suddenly rigorous academic requirements but also in the way students interact with each other. Economic class played as much a part, if not more, in social interactions here as anywhere else, which was disappointing. The interaction between the sexes was also more complicated than I had been used to. It seemed to me that students were much more mature for their ages, perhaps because of the insular nature of the school, something that terrified me. Easy, casual, close friendships between boys and girls were the norm in Costa Rica. In boarding school, those friendships were put under a magnifying class and carried certain expectations with them.

I was also a new sophomore, so it took extra effort to join a class where friendships had already been cemented the previous year. I was lucky to have a roommate that first year who was also new and quickly became my best friend. We were each other's source of support.

MM: What kinds of opportunities for acting did America offer compared to Costa Rica?

GE: The opportunities to train as an actor were markedly more available in the US versus in Costa Rica. Actual methods were applied to the training, even in boarding school, instead of the simple line memorization that had been the norm in Costa Rica. I learned about Stanislavski, Adler, Meisner, Strasberg, and Uta Hagen. I attended the NYFA summer program in LA.

I majored in Theatre in college and attended the BADA Midsummer in Oxford program in Oxford, England. Learning about the different schools of acting was limited in Costa Rica. Suddenly, I was learning to experience and differentiate between them, and choosing which ones were more suited to me as an individual. It was fascinating.

MM: What was your first acting role and what do you recall most about your character and the experience?

GE: I suppose the first acting role that felt "real" to me and made an impact, was Yelena in "Uncle Vanya." It was a major college production, one that I auditioned for on a whim early on. It was my first solid experience with an Anton Chekhov play, and it marked me.

Up until that point, I was still under the impression that there was one "right" way to play a character. But with Chekhov, there were so many questions left unanswered, so many spaces between the words that are left to the actor to fill, so many directions to take that completely change the meaning of a scene. That was when it finally hit me how much responsibility an actor has, and how important the collaboration within the theater group is. I was overwhelmed. I wish I could go back and do it all over again.

Roles, stage, and screen

MM: How did you start getting steady acting gigs and what roles have been the most enjoyable and the most challenging?

GE: My training has played such a crucial role in any success I've had.

The most enjoyable ones for me have been the comedy roles, Abigail in "Fast Girls" and Elsa Von Grossenkneuten in "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940". The quick transitions that you have to hit while doing comedy are an exhilarating challenge for me. As for the most challenging but ultimately rewarding role, it will always be Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire." Fully and completely. I could work on her character for a lifetime. There's a reason she's the ultimate role for actors. Stitching together all of her traits and history has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. I still haven't quite found her. The "unlikeable" characters are always my favorite. Discovering the why's behind actions that are considered "bad" in our society, and conveying those reasons to an audience, is one of the reasons I most love acting.

To find the humanity in each and every character, whether they be villains or heroes. I don't usually get to play these parts, but they are what I aspire to, characters like Electra or Medea.

MM: You appear on both stage and screen so which do you enjoy most and how different—and similar— are they?

GE: The major difference between acting for film and acting for theater comes from the audience's perspective. On screen, the audience has an intimate proximity to the characters' faces and eyes, while in theatre, the full sweep of the stage and the characters' bodies comes into play. As an actor, you have to be attuned and flexible to those differences. There is a stillness that you need to find on the screen that doesn't always work for the theater.

Your eyes need to tell the story more than your body. Having come from a purely theater background, it took me some time to learn this. Technical considerations also come into play more in the film than in the theatre. Learning to hit a specific mark at a specific speed, to find an eyeliner for your gaze that makes sense in the context of the scene, to work with equipment taking up your personal space. However, acting for film or for theater are similar in one crucial way: you have to build your circumstances fully and vividly, whether you're on stage or on screen. That's where your homework as an actor comes into play.

MM: You have landed roles in some pretty big TV shows recently, how did you do this, and what is next?

GE: Hard work, discipline, and consistency. I constantly audition, always looking for my next opportunity, and try not to be discouraged by rejection. There is a misconception that acting isn't hard work. That could not be further from the truth. If I'm not auditioning, I'm learning lines; I'm researching characters' backgrounds, I'm building their stories, I'm writing, I'm taking acting classes; there is always more you can do. I have several short films in postproduction that will be submitted to film festivals, and will appear as the Black Dahlia on the new series, "Mysteries of the Unexplained.” I'm also currently working on a pilot, so stay tuned!