We were already in with Benjamin Levy Aguilar’s Dante Torres from his one appearance in Season 9 of Chicago P.D., but the fourth episode of Season 10, titled “Donde Vives,” goes deep into who the character is as it establishes some of the dynamics the show will be relying on going forward. Fangirlish had a chance to talk to Benjamin about the episode, representation – including that amazing Spanish-speaking scene – and how Dante Torres will honor Jay Halstead.
First things first, if we didn’t love Dante Torres before (we did), this interview with Levy Aguilar – which started in Spanish and ended in Spanish too – would have been enough to convince us. Representation is such a tricky thing to get right, and Levy Aguilar, who is from Guatemala, speaks to a very specific kind of representation that isn’t what we are used to seeing on TV. That’s why the conversation had to start in Spanish, and it was just as comfortable as the Spanish we get to hear in the episode.
Levy Aguilar was very pleased we noticed (for anyone who speaks Spanish, it was obvious) because he shared that it truly blew his mind “to be able to do a full, fluent Spanish scene on NBC,” something he was very quick to praise “NBC, the writers in Chicago P.D. and Gwen Sigan” for. There are no real words to explain what being fully represented is, and from the lingo to the intonation, that scene worked in so many different ways, it’s hard to conceptualize it, other than, perhaps, the way Levy Aguilar does. “I just feel so fulfilled.”
In that respect, he also added that “the writers did a beautiful job, but they also allowed me to be creative with some things,” something he really appreciated, because it felt like the team behind Chicago P.D. trusted “my story and who I am authentically,” adding that there were conversations with the director, for example, about how to make the Spanish scene feel more realistic.
This is especially important when we consider that Torres is a Latino, and he’s there to tell a specific story, but his character still needs to be a well-rounded character. Benjamin Levy Aguilar can’t – shouldn’t – be carrying the burden of all Latine representation, and his story needs to be about more than just checking a box. And for the actor, that is the best part of what the show is building right now, that he isn’t.
“Sometimes [representation] does seem like checking a box and that’s literally the opposite of what [Chicago P.D.] is doing. And it’s made me respect the showrunner, the writers, the producers, and the people involved in this,” that it wasn’t just about checking a box. Instead “they’re putting my story out there,” and it feels “so beautiful to have that outlet and that voice and that trust from the people on the show.”
The different kinds of representation are also shown through Torres being allowed things like religious symbols, which we see in this episode. “It’s going to be something, maybe hopefully, that we can keep as a ritual because that is something that he does. He kisses it and he protects himself and trusts that there’s something high above that could maybe save him or protect him,” while he tries to protect others. We also see him doing the sign of the cross before eating, another very common thing for a lot of Catholic latines.
Getting to delve so deep into the character of Dante Torres in a character-specific episode was very exciting for Levy Aguilar, and it was also a chance for him – and the character he plays – to honor Jesse Lee Soffer, who just left the show, and the character he played, Jay Halstead, who brought Torres into Intelligence in the first place. “They’re just so different, Halstead and Torres, and that’s exactly why they got along so well. There was this thing that they had to go through together and they actually developed a real partnership,” as a result. Now Jay’s gone and what can Torres do? “He can never replace Jay, all he can do is honor him in his own way and be authentic to himself and what he believes in, because he’s there for a reason, right?”
Jay Halstead sure thought so.
“Donde Vives” allows another character to step up as a mentor or partner of sorts for Torres, Kevin Atwater. “It was definitely a perfect matchup for this story because he [Torres] at first didn’t trust [Atwater] and eventually he finds out that Atwater is real, and he’s there for him. He won’t leave.”
“That created a beautiful relationship, on-and-off-screen with Dante and Kevin, or me and LaRoyce,” and it gave Torres something he hasn’t had before – a partner, someone who is willing to protect him, who has always been the protector. For Levy Aguilar, his character goes through a journey in this episode where has to start accepting that there are now people looking out for him when it’s always been the other way around. And it helps that he and Hawkins, who plays Kevin Atwater, get along so well.
“I loved working with LaRoyce. We’ve had so much fun. We share beautiful moments off-screen. That translates.” And though this episode focuses more on that relationship than any other, Levy Aguilar did share this was true of everyone in the cast, telling us that this is “the best cast and crew I’ve ever worked with, hands down. It’s been all-around beautiful. Beautiful support and beautiful friendships.”
Hopefully, the show can continue to build on that, and hey, maybe bring back the man who brought Benjamin Levy Aguilar’s Dante Torres to Intelligence for some closure? We wouldn’t say no to that.