For most of us, Froy Gutierrez is probably best known for his role as Nolan on MTV’s Teen Wolf or as Josh Flores on One Day at a Time. But the 20-year-old actor, who started his acting career in his native Dallas, is also a musician who recently released his first single, “Fix Me.” Froy (which is short for Froylan) recently spoke with BuzzFeed about everything from splitting his early childhood between Texas and Mexico to his favorite Teen Wolf fan theory, and from what it was like working with the legendary Rita Moreno to what led him to pursue music.
So, you had an interesting childhood — you’re of Mexican descent on your father’s side and spent a lot of your early childhood between Texas and Mexico. What was that like? Did you enjoy living your life between two cultures?
Froy Gutierrez: Yeah, it was definitely, like, a very interesting dynamic. I don’t know if you have heard about code-switching? I am going to try to explain this as best as I can, but basically it’s a change in the tone of your voice — so, it’s not necessarily that you’re changing your language, but the way that you speak. There’s a theory out there that was kind of presented in my favorite film, Arrival, where the language you speak actually shapes the way that you think. Growing up bilingual, I learned Spanish and English at the exact same time, so I remember switching between the two and having a very distinctive tone-switch (or code-switch) going on, which always really fascinated me. I’d go to Mexico and have a very “American” accent when I spoke Spanish, then I’d come back to the States and I’d speak English with a Mexican accent. So, it was really funny to be both but neither one at the same time.
Honestly, growing up between both countries felt more of a privilege than anything else. Especially because it opened my eyes to more than one area of the world at such a young age.
Do you have a favorite cuss word in Spanish?
FG: Cabrón! I love that one!
At what age did you get the acting bug? And what made you want to get into acting?
FG: It’s really weird for me, because I don’t have this really cool origin story when it comes to acting. It was just something that happened. But I guess I was always curious about acting when in more academic environments. Whenever I had to do a presentation I always wanted to present it by acting dialogue between two different characters, so I’d go up and play two different characters. I always wanted to make it more of spectacle than just going up and reading an essay.
Eventually, I joined the Dallas Children’s Theater, which is how I was discovered, and was in a musical, Teen Brain, that was self-produced and created by teens in the theater group. It dealt with really intense topics like peer pressure, alcoholism, drugs, and sex — all the things you’re sorta first introduced to when you’re going through that period of your life. For me, again, being in it was a mix of educational and acting.
What was it like being on Teen Wolf? That was a really big show!
FG: The craziest thing about that whole thing was that it was a show I grew up with, although I didn’t really watch it, so I wasn’t a die-hard fan. But my friends were, and I remember they would have discussions about it every week whenever the new episode would come out. Then, funny, I ended up joining the show at the very tail end of it.
One thing is that any time you book a “guest star” role, you’re very much like a guest; like, you’re coming into somebody else’s home, so you don’t know what to expect. You usually end up keeping to yourself, you hope that they’ll accept you, and if they don’t, then it’s do your best work and see how it goes. Teen Wolf was like an exaggerated version of that because these actors were people who I’d seen on Tumblr and in the media for a very long period of time. So in my first couple of episodes I just kept thinking, I am going to keep to myself and do my best work. And if they talk to me they talk to me, and if they don’t they don’t. I definitely felt like the new kid [laughs]!
Were you at all prepared for the Teen Wolf fandom?
FG: Oh my gosh, I don’t think anything can prepare you for that fandom. It’s a very good thing though, the most devoted fans. I was an internet kid growing up, I spent all my time on either World of Warcraft or Tumblr or BuzzFeed [laughs], so it was cool seeing the fandom from both an insider and outsider perspective, especially since my friends were in the fandom. On top of that, you couldn’t go on Tumblr, at the time, and escape the Teen Wolf hashtag, or GIFs of the actors or people debating the storyline.
I actually have a question about that: Did you ever google any fan theories or fanfiction about the show or your character?
FG: I actually try not to...for my own mental health. I have googled myself on occasion and the things that come up can be very flattering, and you’re like, “That’s really sweet.” But then there is, like, negative ones, and not just negative ones, but, like, seeing your face photoshopped onto things like different porn scenarios — not to get too explicit or anything. It’s funny just what pops up.
I would say the only fan theories about my character, Nolan, that I paid attention to I found on Twitter, and there was one theory that I read that I thought was interesting. Gideon Emery, who played Deucalion on the show, looks very much like an older version of me, so I think a lot of the fans were under the assumption that he was my dad and that at some point there would be a plotline where we would discover that I was his son. Never came to fruition, but I like that theory.
Did you take anything from the Teen Wolf set?!
FG: I did take some of the wardrobe! But, of course, I checked with the wardrobe people first. Because the show was ending and they were auctioning off everything anyways, they let us pick out things to keep. I kept Nolan’s shoes and the hoodie with his number on the back.
So, sadly, One Day at a Time was recently canceled by Netflix. You were on the first season. What was it like working on the show?
FG: It really was just amazing. As someone who looks the way I do, it’s very rare that I get to play a character that isn’t white. So on that show in particular, because all the writers and the showrunner, Gloria Calderón Kellett, are all Latinx, it was important for them that the character of Josh Flores be played by a Latinx actor. I remember when I was going in for it that was explicitly made clear to me, and that’s usually not a great sign for me, because they’ll invite me in to read, but then want someone who looks more of a certain way. Still, I went in anyways, and when I got the call that I landed the role I was genuinely shocked.
One of the best things about that set was that it was a show held together by women of color: the showrunner, Gloria, and the leads of the show, Rita Moreno, Justina Machado, and Isabella Gomez. The atmosphere on that set was so much more loving, efficient, and constructive than any other show I had been on prior. It was just great for me to see that — here is diversity in action! Just a great experience.
How do you feel about participating in a show that not only gave so much representation to the Latinx community, but also one that tackled serious issues? Topics like post-traumatic stress disorder, LGBT issues, racism, addiction?
FG: It’s important more than anything. I loved the way that they intertwined tackling really heavy topics and lighthearted, wholesome comedy in the same breath of 30 minutes. Not that it’s the first of its kind, but it was a show that experimented with a different kind of structure, especially for a family-friendly sitcom. A lot of times family-friendly sitcoms avoid certain topics, to keep it “family-friendly.” I’ve spoken with so many people that are parents to kids that are like 5 or 6, and they’ve told me they watch the show together with their kids. I think that is so great — not only are these kids being entertained, but they’re also seeing themselves being represented and with important topics being told.
What was like working with the iconic Rita Moreno?
FG: Oh my gosh. I felt bad ’cause I hadn’t really seen any of her films beforehand. But when I told my dad he got totally excited and was like, “Rita Moreno! ¡No manches, güey!” Honestly, she has just done so much for the Latinx community. I remember after the first season wrapped she invited all the young Latinx people on the show to her apartment, she showed us her Oscar and her Grammy, which we got to hold! She was walking us through how the industry works and told us how she dealt with X, Y, and Z situations. She just has a very elegant nature and vibe to her! She wasn’t just sensitive and aware of the people around her, she was actively involved and invested in the people around her, which I thought was just really cool and inspirational.
And you got to work with another legend, the great Norman Lear. What was that like?
FG: Oh wow, he has just done so much over his career! He is someone who has used his privilege to lend a platform to tell the stories of people of color, and I think that’s just amazing. I maybe had one conversation with him while I was filming, and it was very much one of those, “Hey, how are you?” But, every time he came on set I would watch and observe him…and one thing I noticed was that, not that he was quiet, but that he was actively listening the whole time to everyone else. He very rarely inserted himself, and I found that to be pretty educational. There was just a lot to learn from that set.
Now let’s talk about music. Did you always want to be a singer growing up?
FG: Not necessarily, no. Growing up I loved listening to music and I found it very fascinating. But it wasn’t until I got a little older that I kind of leaned on it for a while. Like in middle school I had a lot feelings of estrangement and loneliness that were very new to me and I very much leaned on some of my favorite bands at the time, like Linkin Park, Green Day, and Blink-182, and drew a lot of emotional courage from them.
Then I remember in high school when Pure Heroine by Lorde came out, and that showed me a whole new method that you could use music for — it felt like she was speaking for a side of my generation that wasn’t necessarily being represented in media. It was really cool to hear an authentic take on what it was like to be a teenager growing up, and that’s very much what inspired me to start writing. Music for me comes from a more experimental place more than anything. I find all art forms very compelling, but acting and music for me are the things that I am compelled to the most.
Where you at all scared to go into music?
FG: Yes and no. It has definitely been something that I have been very critical of myself with. I’ve been working on it for the past five years, so, for a very long time. I have all these songs that I am just sitting on and that I don’t want the world to listen to and that will never come out [laughs]! Because I’ve had to take my time with it and learn what works for me sonically, aesthetically, lyrically, and what sounds authentic and not forced.
What do you like about making music that you can’t get from acting?
FG: I would say, a lot of what I can’t get from acting would be creative decision-making. I can make choices as an actor, but at the end of the day, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the script — which isn’t a bad thing, just part of the process. Also, with music I get to experiment with a different type of creativity.
What’s the perfect balance between acting and music? Do you think it’s 50/50?
FG: You know for me, I think I can’t really separate them. When I think of music, I think of music videos — I think of music as a very visual medium, especially pop music. I think eventually I’d like to come to a place in my career where I can make a movie or TV show and create a song or soundtrack for it.
How does it feel to finally be releasing your first single, “Fix Me”?
FG: Kind of terrifying. I’ve made music before in the past and I was not happy with how it came out, everything from the way it sounded to the way it was released. This feels very much like reapproaching it and doing a sort of take two, I suppose. I certainly feel less pressure now, which is nice, because I feel like I am in a place that I have so many different ideas for music, so if the first single or second single doesn’t, like, do well, it’s not really at the forefront of my mind. I just want to create music; that’s what is important to me.
OK, last question. Because you’re from Texas, we’ve got to know: What is your favorite Selena song?
FG: “Como La Flor”! I just remember my cousin would play it all time.