Alexander Nunez discovered his love for performing at the young age of 10, and that love developed into a full-fledged acting and writing career. He currently stars as Sammy in CBC’s Moonshine, which tells the story of the Finley-Cullen siblings battling for control of The Moonshine, a dilapidated summer resort.
Additionally, Alexander reprises his role of Jordan in Season Two of Avocado Toast the series and returns to the dramedy as a writer.
Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Alexander about his role on Moonshine, the ins and outs of creating projects from scratch, career advice and more.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Alexander Nunez’s origin story?
Alexander Nunez: I was born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario. I never intended to become an actor. When I got discovered, I was getting ready for university, and I planned to go to the University of Toronto for psychology. I did psychology and criminology for five years and never earned a degree because acting got so busy.
My first project was a Disney pilot. It was called Try It, and I landed it when I was still in high school. It was something I was scouted for, and I didn’t have a resume or representation. And I think I beat out 400 kids for that.
The pilot didn’t go anywhere, and everybody was set on it becoming a series. The showrunner told me not to go to university, although I didn’t listen, thankfully. Out of that, I got my first agent — my first and only agent.
When that didn’t work out, I started auditioning for scripted content and realized I couldn’t act at all. I auditioned for a year, and it took a year for a casting director to tell my agent, “He needs acting classes.” That was the beginning. I’ve been auditioning for eight years. I got onto a project here and there, but Moonshine is my first starring role in a TV series.
MM: Let’s talk about Moonshine, where you play the youngest sibling of the Finley-Cullen bunch, Sammy. How did you get involved with the project?
AN: Thankfully, they asked me to audition. It was the height of the pandemic; I had auditioned around mid-May. I was working at home part-time as a copywriter, and I was frustrated. I saw the pandemic as a universal sign that acting wasn’t meant to be.
MM: I’m glad you stuck with it!
AN: I’m glad I did too. I was in the mindset of, “Maybe this isn’t meant to be, and maybe I’ll try my hand at writing content.” I’m working on some writing projects.
But I got that audition from my agent. I did my first take and sent it, and I think I had to do one or two more rounds. On my third round, I got to see Sheri [Elwood]. I did a Zoom audition for Sheri, our showrunner, and Scott Smith, a director, and an executive producer. I did my audition for them in my living room. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. My dog wouldn’t stop barking to go out.
MM: Oh no! I’ve been there.
AN: It was the growing pains of COVID, I guess. I don’t think they could hear me very well at first; they had to stop me halfway through.
MM: What’s Sammy’s role in the overall narrative?
AN: Sammy’s the fifth and the youngest Finley-Cullen. He’s adopted by mysterious means — he was left on the front porch of the Moonshine when he was a baby. Sammy’s the emotional rock of the family; he has the coolest head. He’s constantly managing not just his siblings’ emotions but those of his parents. Sammy is the family confidant. He keeps a lot of secrets, and I think, sometimes, to his dismay.
He’s keeping a massive secret about The Moonshine as a business for his mother. It does stand the chance of risking his relationship with his older sister, Lidia.
MM: If you could describe Moonshine in three words, what would they be?
AN: Vibrant, hilarious and relatable.
MM: What do you hope audiences glean from the show?
AN: First and foremost, I hope they have a good time. We’re a self-proclaimed “dramedy,” and because there are so many characters, we fall on a spectrum between drama and comedy. And I thought I was in Drama Land. The dialogue in my auditions was all serious; I had no jokes. Then, I got on set, and the rest of the cast, my brothers and sisters, were crazy and kooky. That was so jarring to me in our first few episodes of shooting.
The takeaway at the end of the season was that we couldn’t take anything seriously. I think that’s the key — the show is lighthearted, and it’s supposed to showcase family and dysfunction.
We showcase all these different subtypes of family dysfunction to which anyone can relate. I hope they’re entertained. It’s a great ride.
MM: What can we expect for the rest of the season?
AN: We can expect things to get darker. Some family secrets from Bea and Ken’s past pop back up to haunt us. You can anticipate possible gang activity. You might expect an exciting musical ending.
MM: You’re returning to Avocado Toast the series for Season Two as a writer and a series regular. What’s it like being involved in a show from multiple angles as a writer and actor?
I showed them my short film because I thought it was similar to their humor. I didn’t know what to expect when I got onto the writing team for Season Two.
But Avocado Toast quickly became my adopted baby. The three of us have been co-parenting the show, and they’ve been gracious enough to allow my character to become the third lead. It’s been great to have this character who’s already familiar to you but have him fleshed out and become a multifaceted person.
It’s emotional in a lot of ways. I love doing Moonshine — Sammy is also like my baby, and I care about him and what our writers put him through. But the stakes are higher when it’s your brainchild, and you get to sit in on the meetings where the big decisions happen.
MM: You’re also developing two original concept series: Authentication (AMI) and Well Versed. What’s the inspiration behind these projects, and what’s it like to create them from scratch?
AN: It’s tough! Authentication is a workplace comedy surrounding the tech industry. It’s inspired by a few work events that happened to my mom. She’s a Black woman living in Canada; she’s a hard worker. My mom went through a lot regarding microaggressions in the office and mistreatment compared to her white counterparts. Watching her go through that stuff growing up has molded the way I create content and reflect on race issues in Canada.
I had made a short called Diversity Hire, a piece on the absurdity of tokenization in the workplace. In that film, two minorities are fighting to be the new diversity hire at this place. It was nuts to make.
Authentication is a spin-off on that. We have a team of app developers hired as diversity hires, and they work in an office of predominantly white people, the case today in tech in the US and Canada. The show plays on the dynamics of that. Thankfully, AMI has been gracious enough to offer us development funding that’s still ongoing.
My other show, Well Versed, is an LGBTQIA+ series about a matchmaker specializing in queer clients and relationships, and I’d call it a dry comedy.
It’s easy writing the stuff yourself in the first draft, and I had written Well Versed in a month. The hard part is getting feedback from many different people during the development process. That can be hard because sometimes there can be a disconnect between you and your producer, your writing partners, or the network on what the show is at its core or what key themes the show should display.
How funny should it be? What kind of comedy? Many people are wearing different hats trying to collaborate on this one thing.
The hardest part is you don’t fully know what you’re making in the development process. It isn’t easy to get everybody to agree on choices. I’m thankful enough that those projects are ongoing. We’re hoping to get more development funding in the next year or so for both of them. It’s been great.
Sheri Elwood has been a great mentor to me, and she’s given me advice while I’ve been with her on Moonshine, and it’s been helpful.
MM: What advice would you give to aspiring creatives looking to get their foot in the door of the industry?
AN: My first word of advice is if you can think of anything else you’d rather be doing, do that. Keep this a hobby because it’s a romantic career to have, but it’s tough to get started. It took me nearly a decade to be doing what I’m doing full time. You need a lot of tenacity; you need a lot of mental fortitude. You need to understand that many decisions aren’t based on your talent or your skillset at all.
If there’s anything else you’d rather be doing, don’t act. But if you feel this is your passion and you have nothing else, you have to have a lot of patience. Hard work is one thing, but, as a creative, this is a huge waiting game. It’s a marathon. I think the most successful people are patient enough to work at a steady pace until they get their lucky opportunity.
Don’t wait for things to happen. It’s crucial to create content in whatever capacity that is. You don’t necessarily have to go into screenwriting. I’m not a huge TikToker, but I know that’s happening.
I have friends who have creative outlets on YouTube or Instagram. There are many opportunities to enter monologue competitions or find funding to make your shorts, especially in Canada. There are many opportunities here, and I think people forget that sometimes.
We get stuck in this mindset of, “Well, there’s nothing here. You got to get stateside; that’s where all the opportunity is.” There is so much opportunity here, but you won’t receive 90 percent of it by waiting near your phone, hoping your agent will call.
MM: Do you have a dream role?
AN: Sammy was a dream role for me. He has this massive arc about learning where he comes from and finding his birth parents. Emotionally, I’ve gotten to do so much with this character.
It’s been a great learning process, and I feel like I’ve had a lot of growth on this show. Maybe it’s because I have a few co-stars on my show that want to do the same, but I would love to do something that requires fight choreography; I think it’d be so cool. Someone let me be in an action movie!
People always ask me if I have a black belt, but I do. I have a black belt in karate, and I want to use it.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting during the pandemic?
AN: TV is a hobby worsened by the pandemic for me. Recently, I finished two shows. The White Lotus — I’ve heard many mixed reviews about it because this show showcases these well-off rich people oblivious to what they have—showcasing their first-world problems at this hotel resort. But that’s why it’s so awesome to me. Everybody plays their characters so well, and you love and hate everyone at the same time. The comedy of it was unique.
MM: Name your top five favorite films.
AN: Kill Bill, the first “I feel grown-up” movie I watched as a kid. My parents had no idea how violent it was going to be when we rented it from Blockbuster. Uma Thurman is such a force, and I feel like she should be hired way more often for things. She’s so amazing. August: Osage County; it was a play first, and it’s my favorite Meryl Streep performance.
Moonlight is a great one that I re-watched. It’s hard for me to watch movies about Black suffering, but that one also showcases growth. He sort of gets a happy ending.
I’ll give you an action movie; The Dark Knight. I watched that one three times in the theaters, and I was pretty in love with that movie.
MM: Alexander, thank you so much for chatting with me! Congratulations on everything!
AN: Thank you so much for having me!
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