“Desperate Housewives” alum Ricardo Chavira has returned to ABC with a recurring role on “Scandal,” and his storyline ramps up in this Thursday’s episode. Chavira plays Mexican-American Governor Francisco Vargas in Shonda Rhimes’ hit series, which is no stranger to making political statements — especially during the 2016 presidential campaign season.
“I don’t think anything that ‘Scandal’ could do could mirror what’s going on in the real world right now. I think what Shonda would come up with and what this show is revealing is far more presidential than anything we are being offered in reality,” Chavira tells Variety, speaking on the U.S. primaries and the colorful showcase of presidential hopefuls, including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
“This guy, when we meet him in the first episode at the town hall meeting, he’s talking about wanting to establish free education in the state that he’s governor of — those are big goals. When I was reading it, I was like, sh-t! I’d vote for this guy!” He adds, “If you look at what’s going on currently in our politics in 2016, that’s the Bernie Sanders agenda, so you’ve now put the agenda of a 74-year-old Jewish man in the characterization of a 40-year-old Latino American.”
Following the episode in which Chavira’s character gave the speech about free education, his second appearance featured his character involved in a shooting at the Capitol. When asked about his reaction to seeing the scene in his script, the actor, who played Eva Longoria’s husband on “Housewives,” admitted he’s “a little desensitized” to hearing about shootings.
“Growing up in Texas, I’ve been around guns my whole life,” he says. “It’s a sad state of affairs in our country that we have shootings daily. The thing is, we’ve had shootings daily for a long time. The problem is that they’ve always centered within certain socioeconomic communities so we don’t pay attention to them, but now that they’re extending beyond those communities and getting into non-ethno-specific communities, oh my god, we have to pay attention. Compton has been dealing with shootings for a long time. The South Side and the West Side of San Antonio have been dealing with shootings for a long time.”
While gun control is a major point of discussion this election cycle, perhaps the most controversial topic has been Trump’s comments on Mexican immigrants. Chavira, a second-generation American, says his “Scandal” character reflects the upside of the heated debate.
“We’re seeing this story of this second-generation immigrant coming into his own as a politician. That is an aspect of that American dream,” he says. “Let’s look at the landscape of what’s going on politically right now — there are so many people jumping on this Donald Trump bandwagon that I think have literally forgotten that your roots in this country are immigrant roots. Let’s be very clear about this, people: This country is built on nothing but f—ing immigrants. Let’s not forget that. For me, it’s very easy to step into this role because I commend this character for having the voice that he has. I feel honored to be able to play a character that has this kind of conviction.”
Chavira’s role is another example of Rhimes’ inclusion of diverse types of roles for diverse actors in her shows, exemplified by Kerry Washington, “How to Get Away With Murder’s” Viola Davis and “Grey’s Anatomy” alum Sandra Oh, to name just a few.
“For me, as a Latino Mexican-American actor in this country, the way the demographic of actors is playing out these days in Hollywood, it’s very refreshing that there’s a role for a second-generation actor to be playing close to himself on television,” Chavira says.
“I’m not having to play a gang-banger, I’m not having to play a janitor, I’m not having to play a drug cartel guy — I’m playing someone that had I not chosen to be an actor, this might be my actual storyline for my life,” Chavira explains. “I applaud Shonda for offering that accessibility. If you look at this character, he is the Castro brothers from San Antonio. When I read this, I envisioned this in my head so I’m very proud to be able to step in and play a character like this and that it could slightly compare to those two men. I’m very proud of them and all of their accomplishments.”
Chavira’s next episode of “Scandal” airs Thursday night at 9 p.m.