This is your breakout role on TV. What are you feeling in the lead-up to the premiere?
It weirdly feels like this far-away thing. Onstage, there’s this weird feeling you get right before audiences are coming, which is sort of terrifying and exhilarating. But you know so well what the thing is before they come, because you’ve been working on it every day for the last six weeks or whatever.
How would you describe Teddy?
He’s a CIA officer who has a mysterious mental breakdown before the series starts. He’s been relegated to a desk job in California and tasked with tracking Iranian immigrants to Los Angeles. This opportunity falls into his lap in a weird way, to go undercover as a drug dealer. He gets himself way over his head dealing with some pretty scary individuals. The fun thing about him is to watch him paddle as fast as he can to keep his head above water.
On top of that, Teddy speaks fluent Spanish. But you do not. What was that learning curve like?
I hadn’t been warned about any of that. The script arrived for Episode 4, and it was an early draft so it was in English, but saying my lines would be translated into perfect Spanish at some point. I panicked. I was calling friends in Los Angeles, and I was like, “Can you help me? I have to start now because I’ll never get it if I don’t.” All my friends are like, “I speak Spain Spanish or Mexican Spanish. I don’t know what kind of Spanish your character is speaking.” So, finally, I went to [creator] John [Singleton] and I was like, “I’m freaking out.” He got this guy named Aaron who does linguistics at UCLA and speaks like 19 languages. I started having these sessions with Aaron, just drilling it and drilling it.
I didn’t even know some of the places cocaine could be administered —
Right? My mom is very excited about the show and said she was thinking abut throwing a party. My parents live in Texas. She wants to have some friends over. I hung up and was like, “Wait a minute. I should definitely warn her that there are some things that her friends in Dallas might find questionable.”