That’s not by mistake.
There’s a mystery and complexity to the devilishly alluring hitman Botto brings to the screen. As the audience — along with con-artist parolee Letty Raines (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery) — tries to discern his intentions, we can’t help but fall in love. And just like Letty, we’re not entirely sure if we should.
Botto chatted with us about his complex role, his “wonderful” costar Dockery, and the how the Argentinean-Spanish actor relates to the American TV biz.
L.A. Ross for Rotten Tomatoes: We spend a lot of the first episode of Good Behavior meeting Letty. She’s a con artist, but she has this moment of moral clarity. Then Javier comes in from left field, and he seems to be pretty irredeemably bad. Is Javier the villain that everybody loves to hate, or do we start rooting for him?
Juan Diego Botto: Well, he is and he’s not. You see what he does — he’s a hitman. He kills people for money. There’s no moral justification in the world for that, but other than that, he’s a nice guy. And that was a challenge.
These are two very complicated, complex characters. She’s good — you can tell that she’s a good person, though she has drug issues and she steals and she’s a con artist. So you have these two characters that are very, very morally shady. You’re going to travel with them, you’re going to [take] a journey with these two. They’re good and bad.
RT: What about this character attracted you to the role of Javier?
Botto: First of all, this story, it’s basically a very twisted love story. These two characters are going to like each other, dislike each other, hate each other, want to be together, don’t want to be together, and that kind of thing.
But somehow I think it’s a story of second chances. These are two outcasts who are trying to find a way to fit in. And they finally meet someone that gets them, and through [their relationship], they may find redemption. That’s what’s fascinating to me about the story
And of course, that’s deep inside. It’s a love story, it’s a thriller, it’s a drama, it’s a comedy. And I think it’s a lot of fun.
For my character, the challenge was to make the hitman attractive, how to combine the fact that he kills people for money with the fact that he is adorable in other aspects of his life. He is caring; he cares for Letty, and he’s going to fall for her. And how to combine those two things and create a real human being — that was a challenge, and that was fascinating for me.
RT: What do you think makes people want to watch characters like that? Why is this story right now?
Botto: Well I’m not a sociologist (laughs), but I think when you see fiction, you take things to the extreme, and it’s a metaphor for simplistic things.
We all need some kind of redemption, we all need a second chance, we all screwed up somehow, and we all want to be better, or we’re all trying to be better, and that is something that I think everyone can relate to.
Of course when you see it in an extreme — like Javier who kills people, that’s very bad, but maybe you can relate to that. Maybe what you’ve done is not that bad, definitely not as bad! But you can relate to that. Sometimes when you take things to the extreme, you see the metaphor clearly. And that’s, I think, the game of the show. Maybe you don’t know why you want this bad guy to succeed, but it’s do to with that part of you that wants to be forgiven.
Who doesn’t want a second chance?
RT: You’ve been acting your whole life, and you’ve spent most of your career acting in Argentinian and Spanish films and television. What’s different about shooting a drama for American television?
Botto: I haven’t done much TV. You know, I’ve done a lot of films and theater, but not much TV. So first, what’s different is every nine days, you get 60 new pages to learn and a whole new story. Every nine days. Which is very challenging, especially when you’re not working in your first language.
But also, I think it’s very rare — and of course you’re going to think I’m saying this because I’m promoting the show, but I’m being honest — it’s very rare to read something new every nine days and like it, and to be in a project that you really, really like, and you think that you’re doing something good. And that is great. It’s not usual to do it every nine days and think, “Wow, this is good. I want to do this, I want to tell this story.” And that was very, very cool about this job.
But the basic difference — from action to cut, there’s no difference whatsoever, whether you’re working in Spain, Argentina, Italy, Germany, or wherever, from action to cut. But the rest of it, the main difference that I found [working in the U.S.] is just money. The production has more trucks, you have more technicians, more crew, more time for the writers to write, more time for directors to prepare, for the actors to rehearse.
You guys here have a really, really good industry. And you do things very, very well, and that’s the truth (laughs). You invest what needs to be invested.
RT: There are a lot of people in the industry who are going to be excited to hear that!
Botto: (Laughs) Well, I’m talking from experience. There’s something cool — the director of the pilot was from Denmark. I live in Madrid, Spain. Michelle’s from London. And we’re all here. There’s something about bringing the talent on from wherever the talent is that, well, it’s something that you do very well.
And the money — it’s to do with time. And not to rush things. In theater, too, when you have that extra week, that extra 10 days, you have to be able to make mistakes, you need the time to make mistakes.
RT: Speaking of bringing in talent from around the world, your costar, Michelle Dockery, like you mentioned is British. But she’s in a very different role here than what most American audiences are used to seeing her play (as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey). What has it been like working with Michelle?
Botto: She’s a wonderful actress, and she’s a wonderful actress to work with. She likes to rehearse, she loves her job. She’s always having new ideas and new approaches to a scene, and that is wonderful.
I think we both understand our job in the same way, and we both enjoy to try to bring new things to the table every time. And I’m having a great time working with her. And also she’s a wonderful person! She’s a lot of fun.
Seriously, if I could choose one kind of actor to work with for the rest of my life, it would be the kind of actor that she is.
RT: I know we’re looking forward to seeing what you both bring to the screen. What do you hope people take away from Good Behavior?
Botto: I think it’s a very interesting show. It’s thrilling, but it’s a drama, it’s a comedy. And I think Michelle, Lusia Strus, Terry Kinney, and all the other actors deliver wonderful performances. So I think the audience is going to have fun watching this.
Good Behavior premieres Tuesday, November 15 at 9 p.m. on TNT
Watch the series premiere — available online for a limited time: