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Rethinking the future of storytelling with Manny Jacinto

‘Sharing stories by more diverse voices pushes storytelling forward; it elevates the medium’: the actor talks film, fashion and a diverse future.

‘People all around the world are getting to tell stories, now, it's not just for the privileged.’

‘Storytelling has always been a big part of my life,’ says Manny Jacinto (he/him), ‘in whatever form of expression it presented itself. Whether that be through dance, because I started out as a dancer, or through acting, or just through listening to my grandparents' and my parents' stories. It's really defined who I am.’

And it continues to, with each new hotly anticipated release. Since the Canadian actor appeared – to great acclaim – as Jason Mendoza in comedy series The Good Place, he has lined up a host of similarly charismatic roles: in mini-series Nine Perfect Strangers, horror-thriller series Brand New Cherry Flavor, romantic comedy I Want You Back and alongside Tom Cruise in the soon-to-be-released Top Gun: Maverick. The spread demonstrates a versatility that seems to suit his character: equal parts charm, humility and thoughtfulness.

We caught up with Jacinto during a break to his hometown of Vancouver Canada, to talk about the future of storytelling, the film camera he likes to keep close at hand while he’s on-set, and the exciting new developments that are yet to come for the industry, as it champions more and more diverse stories.

‘When I was younger, I went to a French immersion school, and we had this thing called Art Oratoire, or "spoken arts". I was in seventh grade, and I came up with this whole story to say in front of the class. I remember how hard I worked trying to memorise it, trying to get it down. I didn't have anything else with me – just me, my voice and my story. It was very vulnerable, at the time. That was the first time I really thought I had a bit of a knack for storytelling.’

‘I don't think the butterflies have ever gone away. But the way I frame it in my head is, that if I'm not feeling that adrenaline, it's not important to me, I'm not passionate about it. So the butterflies are a good thing – they remind me that this needs proper care.’

‘I spent a lot of time alone as a kid, so the most important medium for me was the TV. It was the one thing that gave me companionship. From Saturday morning cartoons to watching sports with my dad, the television gave me a particular sort of comfort.’

‘With technology nowadays, the computer is our TV. There are algorithms and things behind the scenes that influence what people get to see, whether that be on YouTube or on social media. But it was a total playground, when I was younger – I didn't have to worry about anybody playing the master puppeteer behind the scenes.’


Manny Jacinto wears sweater by COS. (Image: Jack Davison).


Manny Jacinto wears sweater, coat and trousers by COS. (Image: Jack Davison).

‘Sharing stories by more diverse voices pushes storytelling forward; it elevates the medium.’

‘When I first started out, getting the proper equipment to make a movie or a show was pretty difficult, and it required a hefty wallet. But nowadays, you can come up with an idea, shoot it with your friends on your iPhone, you can rent or borrow the equipment. If you're passionate about an idea and you want to put it on screen, you almost have no excuse. It's great! People all around the world are getting to tell stories, now, it's not just for the privileged.’

‘That opens a doorway to so many more different stories, whether they be from different cultural backgrounds, or socio-economic backgrounds, or from just different points of view. Now, fortunately, more diverse voices are starting to be heard, which is fantastic. It's an incredible moment in time to be a part of. I have so much hope and excitement for what's to come. Sharing stories by more diverse voices pushes storytelling forward; it elevates the medium.’

‘Things are so accessible, now – we can make things on our phones, catch things on our phones. There's just so much out there; people are fighting for people's attention. I think because of that the stories that people tell have to be, they have to be well crafted, to keep people's attention. Time is such a highly sought-after commodity.’

‘My style varies depending on the situation, and I think that comes from being an actor. To be very specific: I always love a good turtleneck, and a long trench coat. I'm trying to think about it without over-analysing it, but perhaps it's because they cover a lot of my body and act almost like a shield. I'm not the biggest extrovert. I like to be a fly on the wall, and observe others. Those pieces of clothing allow me to feel like I'm hiding. I’ve learned to pick quality over quantity; the items I choose are things that I can wear for a long time. A timeless sweater, a timeless jacket.'

‘Music is one of the few things that can really change my mood, from melancholic to joyful. I used to carry around my old iPod from ten or 15 years ago, and that had all the music that I grew up with on it. It gave me a sense of nostalgia and comfort wherever I was in the world. It kept me grounded, in a sense. I've lost it now, unfortunately. So if anybody has found a fourth or fifth generation iPod, let me know!’

‘I’m in it right now, actually, in Vancouver. I'm based in LA, but Vancouver is where I grew up, and so many of my important life events have happened here, all the friends that I grew up with are here, and my parents, my family are here. Vancouver is a place where I can escape, find comfort, breathe. And I mean that both literally and metaphorically, because the air in Vancouver is so good, because of how nature is tied into the city.’

‘A few blocks down from my home, there's a gravel path that runs right beside the water. There's like a little deck that you can walk out towards and be surrounded by the water. The sunset is beautiful there. It's a little secret place.’


Which actor would play you in the movie of your life?
‘Maybe a younger Tony Leung – he’s amazing.’

What do you collect?
‘I collect film cameras. I like to take photos on set, whenever I'm working. It calms me down to do something other than worry about the scene or the character. On-set I often use a Widelux. I got this from Jeff Bridges, when I worked with him very briefly. It's a panoramic film camera, a quirky camera, and an old one – I think it was built in the 70s. The pictures that it creates have so much character, especially in black and white.’

What was your first album purchase?
‘I believe it was an album called Another Level by Blackstreet. Featuring that classic single, No Diggity.

Words by Maisie Skidmore
Photography by Jack Davison
Styling by Clare Richardson

Manny Jacinto (@mannyjacinto) wears the Autumn Winter 21 collection for COS. Photography by Jack Davison.

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