Ottawa's Xavier Sotelo going where no Latino actor has gone before

Xavier Sotelo sat down with CBC Radio's In Town and Out this weekend about his upcoming role in Star Trek: Discovery, and what it's like to be the franchise's first Latino captain.

Sotelo plays Capt. Diego Vela in Star Trek: Discovery

For Ottawa actor Xavier Sotelo, getting the role of Captain Diego Vela was 'one of the most surreal experiences' of his life. (Twitter)

In the long history of the Star Trek franchise, no Latino man has sat in the captain's chair — until now.

Xavier Sotelo is taking on the role of Capt. Diego Vela in season two of the CBS series Star Trek: Discovery.

The Ottawa actor joined Teri Loretto on CBC Radio's In Town and Out Saturday to talk about his upcoming work, as well about what it's like to break that barrier.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: To find out that you were the first Latino captain on Star Trek — what was that like?

It's been around for so long, and I've got to tell you, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. We've all watched it since we were kids [so] when I got cast, it was a big surprise. 

Someone had told me in Toronto, when I was leaving the set at Pinewood Studios, that I would have the distinct privilege of being the first male Latino captain in the Star Trek franchise. There was a previous Latino captain, but she was a Latina and she was in the Enterprise series.

Q. Star Trek has been known from the very beginning for its diverse cast, often going against the societal norms of the time. Why has it taken so to see an Hispanic male captain on the franchise?

A: That's a really good question, and I don't really have a good answer. [But] because it is such a diverse cast, there's such a plethora of talent out there.

Q: You seem to be taking a slow but steady rise toward success. What's been your greatest challenge so far in the industry?

A: It's always been the the audition process, because it is a unique process in itself. [There are all] these skills and techniques that you have to learn, and there's actually a way to actually master that process.

I made a decision, a long time, ago that I wouldn't rush myself. [Still] you never master it. You never really feel like you have 100 per cent control over it. No role is the same, and you're always competing against yourself and trying to hit personal goals.

Q: So what's next for your career?

A: I have a lot of projects that I'm looking forward to that are coming out, like the upcoming X-Men sequel Dark Phoenix. It's coming out in June, and I have a principal role in that. And I'm actually really excited for Street Legal because I had the opportunity to go in studio do some voiceover and ADR work for the reboot coming up on March 4.

Q: What effect do you think your role as Captain Diego Vela has on young Hispanics who watch you?

A: I really hope it's going to have a really positive impact because I know it's had a positive impact for me when I've seen fellow Central American actors like Oscar Isaac. When I saw him in the Ridley Scott's Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, I was just astonished at the magnitude of his talent. I just followed his career since day one. I had an affinity, a certain attachment to his persona and his success in the industry. He had a really positive impact on me to keep going.

We have a tremendous amount of passion as a Latin culture, and that passion fuels our creativity. In this business, passion is what counts in the acting industry. [I would tell] fellow Latinos to realize the longing [and] stick with it.

We have so much richness in our culture that can only benefit … our creativity and our expression in the acting industry.