A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Faustino Di Bauda, who is best known to genre fans for his duel role of Walter and Sleepy in ‘Once Upon A Time.’
During our chat the actor proved to be a marvellous storyteller and talked with us about his journey into acting as well as sharing some fun stories about his time thus far on the hit ABC show.
SFP: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into acting?
Faustino Di Bauda: It’s funny. I always say that I got into acting by accident, but it really wasn’t because I don’t believe in accidents. I think its more about directions that we are pointed towards.
I’m going to go back to probably 2001 when I got into a automobile accident on a Saturday afternoon, which wasn’t so good because I felt a little beat up, but next day not wanting to feel gun shy I went out and drove again and got into another accident about 26 hours later.
After that I had to go through a lot of physiotherapy and massage therapy and a therapist suggested I become a bit more pro-active in my recovery and said I should take up yoga.
I’m from a wrestling and boxing background. So I was a little skeptical about the benefits of Yoga and I guess the way in which society views it as well was a bit of an obstacle for me. Nevertheless I said, ‘Ok lets try it out.’
So I did and I loved it. I started practicing and went pretty much religiously once a week.
Eventually I got to a point where I was practicing a little bit more than once a week and at the studio where I do my Yoga. They had this workshop. A traveling swami had come into town and offered a chakra clearing session, which is basically a relaxation technique.
I got to know him. He’d basically been stuck in Vancouver for about a week because it was just after 9/11. And back then security was so high that if there was one letter out on your passport and your ticket. They’d not let you fly.
So he got stranded in Vancouver. I befriended him and started hanging out and he suggested that I get into a vegetarian diet. He showed me how to cook it. I learned it and still cook to this day.
And at the end of this he told me that he was putting a retreat on in India and he wanted me to go. So I said, ‘Sure ok. Lets do that.’ That was during the summer and through that whole process I wasn’t earning. I wasn’t getting paid for my job and I pretty much had to re-invent myself as far as being a stone mason is concerned.
When I joined the retreat. I got to joking around with the swami’s and and one of the swami’s asked if I was an actor. I guess I must of had him laughing a bit and was trying to figure out why he was laughing so much, I usually am quite funny. I don’t know. So I said, ‘No am not an actor.’ and he said, ‘You should become an actor.’
So I meditated on that thought for awhile and when I returned home I decided that I wasn’t going to push it, but will just see what the universe is going to offer and if it happens naturally. I will take it.
So it started coming naturally when I got back. I met this girl who was an actress. She told me about a school for acting. I applied there and they had me read a piece that i’d prepared and after that they took me in and I started taking the beginners classes. So that was that and that is probably going back I think about 11 years ago.
SFP: What would you say has been your career high point thus far?
Faustino Di Bauda: You never forget the first job that you get in acting. I started out by doing some student films in order to get some experience and I did a few commercials, but I wasn’t really getting anything insofar as getting auditions for TV and Film.
At the time I’d got myself an agent… This is going back about six years ago. So had got myself an agent and I went through about two years of doing commercial auditions. And I tell you Ian, I didn’t book anything. I got called back a few times, but I just didn’t have the look and image that they seemed to be looking for.
It got to a point where I went to my agent and asked him to book me a few television and film auditions. At the time he was looking at the possibility of cutting me loose, but I insisted that he book me some television and film auditions. A month went by and the first one to come along was for ‘Once Upon A Time.’
That has got to be probably the highlight for me. The whole process of auditioning and getting onto a network series as a regular cast member.
SFP: For those that have not seen ‘Once Upon A Time’ or are coming to the show late. How would you say your portrayal of Sleepy differs from the character that most people will be familiar with from the classic disney interpretation?
Faustino Di Bauda: Its funny you should ask that. I remember when I went for the audition. I said I see its Sleepy. He’s one of the seven Dwarfs and he sleeps all the time. So you’re thinking its disney and its comical. So I prepared my audition. It was one line. It wasn’t much. It was a scene between me and Grumpy and in the scene Grumpy turns to me and says, ‘Sleepy wake up.’ It’s not much. Its three words, but how do I play it? So I’m thinking, ‘Ok its a little on the comedy side in that its bigger than life and my mind was thinking its disney.
When I get to the audition after having prepared how I was going to play the scene the casting director pulls me aside and says, “Listen. Everyone’s been coming in and trying to play this thing Disney.” And I go, “Oh!” And she goes, “It’s not like that.”
She says “These guys are the writers and producers of ‘Lost’ do you remember that?” So I reply,” Yes ‘Lost’ was one of my favourite shows.” She adds, ‘It’s something in that world. Do you need a second to prepare?” and I say, “yes is that ok” and I take a little time to prepare then come back and play it like a very normal guy with not very big reaction. So I did it. They liked it and I did it again, but a little bit different by changing the direction that I pointed my gaze.
Eventually I was sent away from the hall, but was called back and after 20 minutes or so I got the chance to work the scene with the producer and director of that particular pilot and got the part.
So it was different. It was different in the sense that its not like the cartoon character and is played more naturally.
SFP: One of the things that must be an added challenge on ‘Once Upon A Time’ is the fact that you essentially play two separate characters. Walter, who is the real world version of Sleepy and of course the iconic Dwarf from Snow White. How much of a challenge has it been to do both these characters on the show?
Faustino Di Bauda: You know. There’s not that much difference between the two really. I look at Sleepy as being in a good place. He’s enjoying the enchanted forest and he just sleeps a lot.
He’s been given this Axe, which says his name’s Sleepy so that’s what he does. He sleeps.
On the other side in Storybrooke. That’s cursed. So then you start to explore who sleepy is in sort of a cursed format. So when it comes to Walter I think he has Narcolepsy or some sort of sleeping sickness. So I play Walter more in a clinical sense than I would when playing sleepy. At least that’s how have perceived the difference between the two.
SFP: Once Upon A Time is in its fourth season now. In all that time on the show what would you say have been your favourite story lines when it comes to Sleepy?
Faustino Di Bauda: I think the most fun one that we have had opportunity to work on is season four. This last season, which we just finished shooting. The first episode of it pretty much took off from the end of season three when we were having a party at the dinar and Sleepy and Grumpy or Walter and Leroy are trying to get home.
Leroy is not doing so great because he’s had a few drinks. So at this point Walter takes the car keys and becomes the designated driver and we get into the van and Walter starts to drive, but Leroy doesn’t like how he’s driving the van and of course Walter falls a sleep at the wheel and crashes the van.
As far as myself was concerned. That gave me a lot to work with.
I’d also say that the pilot was great to work on because I sensed we had a great group of people.
SFP: In the fourth season, which you have just finished filming. They have found the writer that wrote the book, which has formed much the basis for the characters in the series. If you in your role of sleepy has chance to be able to write your own storyline within that. What do you think it would be?
Faustino Di Bauda: To tell you the truth. I leave that sort of thing to the writers because I trust that they know what is best for the characters and the story of the show. I wouldn’t really want to inter fear with their process when it comes to these characters.
SFP: Do you have any fun stories you could share from your time on the show?
Faustino Di Bauda: Yes of course. Its been amazing.
The last episode that I worked on was great fun. But there was an instance where they were changing the cameras to film a different angle for a scene and Lee Arenberg has this thing where he pretends he’s some sort of Russian acting teacher and he did this crazy dance routine and we pretty much all joined in by cheering him on. He had us all in stitches just doing his crazy stuff.
There was that. And some simple magical things that happen. I remember when we shot the wedding scene, which was all done with green screen in the studio and a couple of birds got trapped on that day. Never ever, ever have I seen birds in the studio, but they came in too see Snow White get married.
Then when we shot our final scene, which was the casket scene where Snow White dies and Prince Charming comes to her rescue by kissing her and bringing her back to life with a true love kiss. The day that we shot that, which was four years back it was April 7th. It was Spring time, but it was snowing that day. A month before that it was great weather. In fact we’d all just been talking about having such a mild winter because it had been so nice. There wasn’t much rain not much snow. It was a really mild winter.
It was so brilliant just watching this thing come together and when everything was right. There was just enough snow on the ground. It wasn’t perfect, but it was kind of working its way in between the trees and stuff. So you’d get patches of it here and there. It was the natural and real stuff. It wasn’t the synthetic stuff that would normally be used. It was everything. It was just natural snow and nature saying, “Hey. we’re here for you!”
So there was that, but I remember doing a scene during season three when we were all up on the river near the north shore and I spot a deer out the corner of my eye walking in towards the scene. So we continue with the scene and the Deer continues to head toward us, but by this point Ginnifer Goodwin, who has her back to the Deer. She continues with the scene doing her dialogue and the Deer walks behind her and its less than a metre away.
I’m just sitting there continuing with the scene and this Deer didn’t get startled once and there was a whole bunch of people there with cameras and lighting and all that and the Deer didn’t seem at all phased by it. I think we got a little of it in the final cut of that episode. It was so magical.
SFP: What would be your dream role to play in either television or film?
Faustino Di Bauda: Oh Wow! You know I’ve always loved Columbo. You know that Peter Falk who played Columbo was born on September the 16th and I was born on September the 16th. I’ve long loved his work on Columbo. And though people used to call me Columbo as a kid. I never knew that Peter Falk and I shared the same birthday.
But I’ve always liked the idea of playing that kind of a character. I guess that would be my dream kind of role. Something similar to Columbo for sure.
SFP: And finally if you could meet anyone living or dead. Who would it be and what sort of discussion would you enjoy having with them?
Faustino Di Bauda: I’m going to say Gandi to kind of get into his mind and learn how he was able to take care of business with a none violent approach. And be successful at it because looking at the world today. It’s not there you know. I’m not seeing it anymore. Maybe its fear or perhaps people in general have lost the ability to rise above things, but am not really seeing the sort of energy in general that Gandi inspired in people.
I’d ask him a series of questions about what I need to do in my daily practice in order to walk into certain situations and resolve them peacefully and without fear. I mean we have a lot of things that we want to stand up for. It’s not that the world is a bad place, it’s just that a lot of things seem to be manipulated and its not fun.
You will be able to hear a full version of this interview in a few weeks time on the SFP-NOW Podcast on SciFiPulseRadio so please stay tuned.