Snowfall Exclusive Interview: Filipe Valle Costa, Snowfall’s Pedro


Now midway through the second season, Snowfall has captured audiences and become a trendy pick for several awards later in the year.

Filipe Valle Costa has stolen scenes throughout the series and had a moment to spare with Show Snob to talk about his experiences coming to America and how his differing roles have helped inform his worldview.

Having come to America on a tennis scholarship, Costa had early dreams of acting. However, playing college tennis in Iowa is far from the bright lights of Hollywood or the glamour stages of Broadway.

Through perseverance, Costa has now found himself on one of the biggest and most acclaimed shows on television. As Pedro Nova in Snowfall, Costa’s character battles addiction and suffers from a perceived lack of attention from his cartel kingpin father.

I had a chance to catch up with Filipe Valle Costa recently to talk about Snowfall and the road to his acting career.

Mr. Costa, thanks for speaking with me today. Big fan of the show and your work. Before jumping into the questions about work, how was your summer? Lots of World Cup games? Still riding high on the Euro 2016 win? 

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Yes, I got to watch Portugal play Uraguay while visiting home, of course, they ended up losing but it was still fun to be at home. Of course, the World Cup atmosphere is fun to be around and even especially here in America, being able to feel the different levels of comraderie.

Watching games with people from all over the world…I’ve made friends now from watching Mexico games, same with my Spanish and Italian friends.

Q: The game is growing, and helping to bring different cultures together. As Snowfall depicts, drugs and immigrants cross the borders as well. The LA of today has scars from the LA depicted in Snowfall.

As an immigrant to this country, what’re your views on the hypersensitivity to immigration and drug policy today? How does it differ from your experience coming over at 17 on a tennis scholarship? How much has changed through the years since moving to America?

It’s quite overwhelming, growing up in Portugal, and watching specifically John’s work, especially now living and being in it. Now living here, experiencing and understanding more of the social environment in which this work was about.

Through Pedro, from where I was to now, I have a completely different perspective after seeing the work John has done. Then there are those on the show that tells the story about how the government was involved once again in some demise of the black community and even the Latino community.

I think it’s the dynamic story, It’s the personal angle in the showing in how drugs affect people, how this tears at families in unique ways. It’s a story that needs to be told. It’s a story I wanted to be a part of and I’m proud to be a part of.

Q: Portugal decriminalized drugs, but deals with negative effects of use while also navigating difficult immigration issues and tension. Are there things you wished Portugal and the US would learn from each countries experiences? 

One of the best things about Portugal’s policies is they’ve decided to not demonize certain people. It helps the process of helping them.

Instead of degrading, we’ve decided to focus on helping to reintegrate and understand this is a problem that goes beyond borders. It’s more than one’s sense of morals, of right and wrong.

Drugs can affect and change lives in a very negative way. Pushing them to the side does more harm. I’m really proud to be from Portugal at this moment in time because — whether it drugs or being our ability to welcome in refugees — we’ve had some obstacles but, as a country, have had our arms open for some time to help.

In these times, it shows, there is a feeling, that at least…at least we are trying you know? I think there’s hope in that. There is more hope in that type of bond than a lot of what we’re seeing in America. I think we can all learn from those two separate approaches.

Q: You’ve played a cop in Blue Bloods and Gotham, and now in Snowfall find yourself in another Hamlet situation as the son of a drug kingpin. Has playing the opposite roles helped with new perspectives? Did playing Claudio help inform this role as Pedro?

Well..yes, absolutely. I haven’t quite thought about it like that myself. There’s a point there. I’m more aware now that…it highlights that no matter what side of the law you are on, there is a human being there.

There is a valuable perspective there. There is a perspective that is worth exploring. From the moment I was to play Pedro — when you read the description of the character, you know, it says Mexican, son of a kingpin, living in LA. You get that voice in your ear, “God I hope, I hope my work, I hope I don’t have to really read about it.”

But then, the research comes in — the responsibility to do the research justice comes in, and I was so happy the show took the direction it did, I was fully on board with.

Yes, there are stories, big stories, usually with violence. News of cartel violence, black on black violence. I think in our story, in John’s story, you understand where that comes from. It comes from our need to protect ourselves. It’s our need and sense of survival and at certain times — when put in certain situations socially or perhaps we are born into it — it’s about survival. It’s about moving forward in your own world, with the situations the world has presented you with.

There’s something in that character’s humanity, in bringing that perspective to light, understand that there really is a design to these sides of people. It’s important that we tell these stories in a way that every human being can understand the situations, see the possibilities and hopefully a way out.

Q: What was the role, or films, that inspired your dreams of becoming an actor? And particular motivations?

I grew watching a movie a day. My friends were always saying “Oh Filipe, he is watching another movie.” That was always a part of my life.

Of course, even as a kid, Speilberg movies were something special, especially coming from a place like mine in Portugal. You think of Jurrasic Park or even some earlier works. Schindler’s List…The worlds he was able to create, they were worlds for me that I, well they seemed like such dreams or nightmares.

I followed those, those were my inspirations. To be able to watch worlds and want to be a part of worlds that I couldn’t quite make sense of in my heart in my mind. But in my gut, I knew that was something fantastical and beautiful about them (the movies) and that those stories were affecting people in the many ways that they were.

Of course later when I watched the greats, The Godfather and Marlon Brando, Pacino — of course all of them were taking acting to the next level — and I then understood it was a craft. There was an ability to transcend that really, you know, I have a hard time describing what I’m chasing, but it is definitely much more of a feeling that a concrete thing.

When you see those people doing what they were doing, at the top of their game, it’s the sort of energy that I knew I wanted to gravitate towards. I’m following that energy, I’m following that feeling you get from being a part of these stories and understand other people’s perspectives and other people’s stories.

I have the responsibility to embody that character. It is what inspires me and helps to give a voice to others in ways that they haven’t been given before.

Q: In Snowfall’s first season, Pedro feels slighted by some family decisions. He is also shown battling his coke habit which has become a problem. Despite the tensions on both sides, self-inflicted and otherwise, Pedro is still in the mix. Where do you see this as this character’s best survival skills?

I think at first when you meet Pedro, you meet him at a time when he finally wants to make a name for himself. He has lived under his father’s shadow for so long, he is now wanting to show “Hey look I can do something dad.”

Pedro feels he can help raise the family to a level that we haven’t gotten to in the past. I think that is something all young people can relate to. Of course, that is that is the reality that he knows, and that’s the avenue that he takes.

But I think that is a very human thing we witness Then the story and his life kind of gets ahead of himself and after that, it’s us seeing Pedro conscientiously trying to get back into control of his own journey. And that’s a really complex journey to go on specifically because it’s a journey that happens mostly within the family.

And that’s what so exciting about it. So far in season 2, we are now seeing a man grieving his mother’s death. We are seeing a new man and I am really excited to see what’s coming in the next few episodes because you see more of that and how Pedro is able to survive the constant stresses, pressures and danger.

You can feel it throughout the show, and I could feel it as an actor. Every script you got, you felt the danger. Every heightened situation you felt the stakes of life and death being presented to you.

That’s the best place to be at as an actor. It’s in the life or death place because then every choice is grounded on whether or not I’ll be able to survive today.

Q: Can Pedro really survive dating a DEA agent? Is he taking out some revenge, or is he even aware she is a federal agent?

I cannot speak to that, as you know. That is a question that is in my brain and heart as I go through the story as well. So now this adds an extra layer of skills needed to stay in he game.

So we will get to see what ends up happening. If I were to answer that question I would be answering the question to his whole journey. I think that is what is interesting with what the writers came up with this season.

I think that it’s such an interesting way to tell the story. I think it comes to the question of how much of this new man we are witnessing is the old man and how much of this decision was grounded in him being a new man filled with hope and filled with love or him still being the old Pedro that we’ve known.

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There is a loaded situation. And it’s so exciting to play it and the truth is between one and the other. I think he is in that place. As far as the relationship in his life goes, I think you’ll get to see hat it’s a bit more complex than just one or the other. It’s definitely an exciting thing to look forward to.

Snowfall airs on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST on FX.