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9-1-1: Lone Star's Rafael Silva on the 'Unpredictable' Carlos-T.K. Wedding and Stealing Pudding

Expect the unexpected when Tarlos ties the knot

Max Gao
Rafael L. Silva, 9-1-1: Lone Star

Rafael L. Silva, 9-1-1: Lone Star

Kevin Estrada/Fox

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 4 Episode 15, "Donors." Read at your own risk!]

Rafael L. Silva has relished the opportunity to dive deeper into the personal and family life of Carlos Reyes in the fourth season of 9-1-1: Lone Star. In this season alone, Carlos has revealed that he was legally married to another woman — his former best friend, Iris Blake (Lyndsy Fonseca) — when he was planning to wed T.K. Strand (Ronen Rubinstein); was kidnapped and held hostage by a serial killer and his overly protective mother; doesn't want (or isn't ready?) to have children; and improved his relationships with his parents, Andrea (Roxana Brusso) and Gabriel (Benito Martinez).

And in Tuesday's episode of the Fox procedural drama, Carlos joined forces with 9-1-1 operator Grace Ryder (Sierra McClain) and Detective Sarina Washington (Tamala Renee Jones) to crack down on a black market organ trafficking ring that claimed the life of a young Black woman named Lexi (Mychala Lee), who did not consent to the operation. While the original detective on the case (Adam Baldwin) believed that Lexi knowingly sold her kidney through illegal channels, Grace takes matters into her own hands, catfishing the suspect (Freddie L. Fleming) using a dating app and then skillfully switching a spiked drink when he wasn't looking.

On a recent video call, Silva sat down to discuss Carlos' personal and professional lives (which the actor insists are inextricably linked), his character's developing friendship with Grace, and the "unexpected" complications that will make viewers "earn" Carlos and T.K.'s long-awaited wedding.

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Detective Washington raises the question about Carlos' future as a police officer and when he might be ready to make the transition to becoming a detective. How would you personally feel about Carlos taking that next step, and do you think he has more room to grow professionally before he takes that step? 

Rafael L. Silva: I think he has more to grow up personally, quite honestly. The professional and personal lives are not separate from each other [for him]. He would not be giving up the field work, but he would just not necessarily be in the action as often as he is as a police officer. So what does that mean for Carlos? Why is he a police officer in the first place? Why is he in the place where he's at? So for us to push Carlos into this realm of detective work, something is gonna have to happen [first]. We have to push him into that before he's "ready," but who knows what'll happen? [Laughs.]

This episode gave you an opportunity to work with Sierra McClain in more one-on-one scenes, much like you did in the mini-crossover with the original 9-1-1 last season. What do you enjoy most about bringing parts of your real-life friendship with Sierra to your characters?

Silva: Well, I think the chemistry is immediately there. However, Carlos and Grace are not necessarily as close. So how do we genuinely play that connection of not being the closest? And yet Rafael and Sierra coming together and doing a scene together, we just shoot the s---, and it's a lot of fun. [Laughs.] I make fun of her a lot and she makes fun of me a lot, so I think the chemistry is already down, but I think what saves this relationship in a rather genuine way, where the closeness of Rafael and Sierra don't get in the way of the relationship between Grace and Carlos, is their professionalism. They both have this sense of intuition that is unshakable and undeniable. And I think when those two lock in, in terms of their professionalism, their job, their calling, I think we honestly see a sort of magic happen [on screen].

Having explored Carlos' relationships with his parents in the last few seasons, how would you say your understanding of the way they parented him influenced the way he is now?

Silva: Getting to work with Roxy and Benito more often, and then getting to know them [personally], assisted in creating this firmer bond that Carlos has with Gabriel and Andrea. In last week's episode, Gabriel was way more involved in the case than Carlos was, and I think we can deduce a sense of self from Carlos just by watching Gabriel and how he works and who he is. There was a specific scene at the end of the episode where Gabriel kind of shoved Owen off, like, "Do not come in my way. If we're gonna be family, this is how it's gonna be done." And I think you can kind of derive how that household was for Carlos, especially when it comes to their job. We can kind of play off of each other, like Andrea having that kind of Godfather moment sitting at the table with both Carlos and T.K.

You have really strong characters in Carlos' life, and I think personally, a selfish little obsession that Carlos might have is, "I need to honor the people that raised me. I need to honor my culture. I need to honor who I am and what I represent. I also need to come in with presence." Because if you watch Gabriel and Andrea, or Roxy and Benito, they definitely have a presence. So at the end of the day, Carlos is just trying to do his best by the people who raised him and also trying to listen to his heart and how that also comes into effect with the world that he was raised in, the world that he's in right now, and the world that he wants to see for himself.

A few episodes ago, we learned that Carlos has sisters whom we have yet to meet, and his sisters also have children, so Carlos has some nieces or nephews running around somewhere. Do you know if Carlos is the eldest, middle, or youngest child? And will we see them before the end of the season?

Silva: We're definitely gonna see them, [but] it is not gonna be in the way that you expect. And Carlos is the baby! He's the baby boy of the family. [Laughs.]

That seems accurate for Carlos.

Silva: Right? Everyone says that! I don't know why.

Throughout the season, Carlos and T.K. have been forced to have many adult conversations. It's one thing to date someone, but it's another thing to take that next step with somebody—to build a life together, to share your secrets, to discuss potentially having children. What have you enjoyed most about playing out some of the more difficult conversations that fans have also been having?

Silva: That's a great question. When you're introducing these characters in Season 1, people don't know them, so it's like, "Why should I, as an audience member, give a s--- about them?" I think what captivates people's hearts immediately is the fact that 1) they're gay and 2) they're extremely attracted to each other. We have these two beautiful characters coming together, so right off the bat, we want to cheer for them, we want to find out what happens. Why is this not working out? Why does one want this more than the other? How do we come together, but also, how do we come apart? It's almost like we're earning this relationship.

They've had difficult conversations, like Carlos not understanding why T.K. needs a sponsor and also T.K. understanding commitment and what that means, like, "Why does this man want me so badly? Do I deserve this?" And then going back to [having] children, Carlos is like [puts hands up in self-defense], "No, thank you." And that takes everyone a little bit by surprise, because if you think about commitment and someone who had difficulty with it, it was T.K.

So no matter where we go, I think we need to allow these characters to grow up a little bit, which requires them to make mistakes, to do some things that are, to the audience, unexpected. And for me, that's the most fun. Just like in theater, you can't allow the audience to be ahead of the play, and this is the same thing. … [The writers] are constantly throwing us off, throwing you off as an audience member, and I think that's where we get to learn about these characters. That's where we learn about their relationships. And honestly, that's how you create good television to last four seasons in an era where things are getting shut down after one or two seasons. You gotta get creative.

How does Carlos's relationship with Gabriel inform what he thinks he would be like as a father?

Silva: Through no fault of his own, Carlos is just deducing his own experience with his father and trying to mirror that on to possibly a future child. And in Carlos' defense, he doesn't want to be inept as a parent. He wants to give his all, and he wants to feel confident about it, but I think there have been words and situations that have gone unsaid and undone in Carlos' life with his father that don't yet allow Carlos to feel confident [when he thinks] of children.

So the way that I digest that is, like, "Listen, Carlos is still a kid." Carlos feels a little bit claustrophobic. It's like, "No, no, no. I have so much growing to do. What do you mean kids?! I feel like I have a kid at home right now, with T.K.! So it's kind of unfair for you to ask me to outgrow the moment that I'm in right now." It also comes from a sense of insecurity because Carlos looks at T.K. and his relationship with Owen, and it's all dandy and beautiful, and I feel like Carlos has this yearning to have that sort of relationship, but he knows it will never be that sort of relationship. 

But I think Carlos also might have an image of Gabriel that might not necessarily be fully true. … I think there was some time [when] Gabriel wasn't necessarily present. Any kid who had an absent parent for an amount of time can possibly attest to this — because I did — you have to create images and the sense of self for that person, who is no longer there, within yourself. So how do you almost parent yourself? In episode 4, Gabriel said, "My son is extremely resourceful. He's independent." How does one become extremely resourceful? How does someone become independent? Perhaps because there was a lack of guidance or a lack of a presence of another person. So I think that's the way that Carlos coped with a lack of presence from Gabriel. I think that also assists in Carlos feeling inadequate right now to have that conversation about having a child.

Adam O'Byrne and Rafael Silva, 9-1-1: Lone Star

Adam O'Byrne and Rafael Silva, 9-1-1: Lone Star

Kevin Estrada/Fox

Since we didn't get a chance to chat about episode 4, in which Carlos was held hostage, I'd love to hear more about the experience of shooting that one. What was it like for you to shoot the fight sequence between Carlos and Darryl (Adam O'Byrne) that quickly transitions into T.K. having to save Carlos' life?

Silva: I do jiu-jitsu, I'm a black belt in taekwondo, I grew up as an athlete, so physicality for me is not alien. Our Emmy-nominated stunt coordinator for Lone Star, Buddy, and I worked together to create something realistic. I didn't know what the set was gonna look like, but I knew I wanted to do something that was gonna look good, [but also] honor Carlos' mental, emotional, and physical [state]. He had been sitting down and tied up, he had a head injury, he hadn't eaten — maybe a little nibble of a cookie — and hadn't drunk water at all.

I think Carlos is all adrenaline [in life-or-death situations]. He's not gonna f---ing stop. "It's either you or me, and guess what? I choose me." So what happens with adrenaline, especially in fights, is that you tense up, and everything is really fast. So when we were creating the fight, it was like, "I need to hit him somewhere, and then I need to 'sweep' him — which is a move in jiu-jitsu where you gain control of the situation — to take him down." We also don't have a history of Carlos being a professional fighter, so we needed to make Carlos a little bit amateurish.

So what happens is that Darryl punches me on the trachea, and I come in and sweep him. There is some friction back and forth, but Carlos comes in and finishes him off with [not only] a punch, but also an elbow. It was a lot of fun. It had to be detailed. We had to rehearse several times, but essentially what it came down to is it doesn't matter how hard Carlos tries to win, he was never gonna win, [because Darryl's mom] Trudy [played by Bonita Friedericy] was there with the morphine [to knock him out].

Because Carlos didn't win, we needed T.K. to come in and revive him. Ronen did a great job of exerting that energy of, "Holy s---, my fiancé, my future husband, is gonna die right in front of me. I cannot let this happen." I think one of the shots was my father was holding my neck, and I was just exhausted, and I was like, "Oh, this is my safe space with my fiancé, but also with my father. I'm safe now, and I can stop fighting."

A lot of fans also enjoyed the scene in which Paul (Brian Michael Smith) interrogates Carlos and members of the 126 about who ate his pudding in the last episode. (Spoiler alert: Carlos was the culprit!) How many takes did you have to do to get through that scene?

Silva: [Director and producer] Keith Tripler has worked on Lone Star since the beginning, so he knows how the show works and knew what he wanted. So that in itself was fast. But it's always a joy to be able to work with my castmates, [because] as a police officer, I don't get to have so much fun and play. They're already used to each other's humor, and I'm not. So whenever I come in and I'm getting to work with them, and it's a funny scene like that, I end up laughing my ass off every single take, and I end up breaking because I'm not used to it. [Laughs.] They're all stoic and serious, and I'm like, "How the fuck do you guys not find this funny?" But they do; they're just used to each other. We have some really comedic actors — Julian [Works], Brian, Briana [Baker], and when you put Natacha [Karam] in, it just kills it.

Looking ahead, the long-awaited Tarlos wedding will take place in the two-hour season finale.

Silva: [Showrunners] Tim [Minear] and Rashad [Raisani] really created a form of, "How do we make the predictable or the expected become unexpected and unpredictable?" Something is gonna happen where it's gonna absolutely throw everyone off. And it's gonna make everybody, especially the audience and Carlos, earn this wedding and the happiness and the joy this wedding can bring. It was a lot of fun to shoot the finale, but it was hard at times as well. So, anyway, tune in! [Laughs.]

9-1-1: Lone Star airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Fox. Episodes are available to stream the next day on Fox Now or Hulu.