Rodrigo Santoro on Paramount+'s Wolf Pack: ‘This is the very first time I’ve done a supernatural show’

Rodrigo Santoro discusses starring in the new Paramount+ supernatural drama Wolf Pack, working with Sarah Michelle Gellar, his acting process, and more.

Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs in Wolf Pack, his face surrounded by flames (Credit: Paramount+)Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs in Wolf Pack, his face surrounded by flames (Credit: Paramount+)
Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs in Wolf Pack, his face surrounded by flames (Credit: Paramount+)

Wolf Pack is a new supernatural drama from the creator of Teen Wolf, arriving on Paramount+ this January. After an arson attack stirs a terrifying beast, two teenagers have their lives changed forever – and, as the full moon rises, they have to come together to unravel the secret that now unites them.

Rodrigo Santoro plays Garrett Briggs, a park ranger drawn into a deeper mystery when it becomes clear his adopted children have might have a supernatural side of their own. Santoro recently sat down with Alex Moreland to tell NationalWorld about what drew him to Wolf Pack, why he was excited to work with Sarah Michelle Gellar, and what he learned from his younger co-stars.

Santoro also discussed a little about his acting process and creative influences, shared what television he’s been watching and enjoying recently, and revealed who he’s hoping will win what at the 2023 Academy Awards.

So, just to set the scene a bit – how did you first get involved with Wolf Pack? What was the beginning of all this for you?

The script was sent to me, and – you know, this is the very first time I’ve done this supernatural kind of show? At first I was very much like ‘I don’t know if this is something that I’m going to really identify with’ – but then I read the script, and I was immediately into it. Literally, the writing did it all in one episode. And then they sent me the second one! But the first episode, I just got involved immediately with the character, with the story: it was a page turner, it was a really well written first piece, you could understand everything about it and how it set up the relationships.

Then I had a really good meeting with Jeff – Jeff Davis, the showrunner – which was, you know, what I needed to feel confident that I could be a part of this. He was very open, and he wanted to collaborate, and he wanted to hear you and create this character together. That was the very first approach – and then I heard Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is pretty much an icon in this world, was going to be in the show. I thought, well, that’s going to be great, because I’m gonna have next to me somebody that has a lot of experience in this world.

As an actor, how much of your performance comes down to choices you’re making in the moment? On set, in the lead up to filming, where are you creating the character?

Well, I’ve been changing throughout my journey. I used to be the guy who prepare, and prepare, and prepare, and prepare, and prepare, and prepare, and prepare – and then get there, and do it the way I prepared. But I learned that you can’t control anything, and it’s much more interesting when you really take in the environment and the other actors, whatever is happening, and use it all. At the beginning of my career, I was just trying to be safe, somehow. But then, soon enough, I learned that safe doesn’t really fly in acting, and I started to – well, to still prepare. I think preparation is very, very important – at least to me, it’s very important – but preparation in terms of just nurturing yourself, you know, with all the information of the world.

When you get on set, you just leave all that behind and just be in the moment. I don’t truly believe in one formula, because every time is different, but when I’m on set, anything that is not the scene and the character? It’s just not there for me. It’s just complete focus on what I have to do in that particular scene? What is the character going through? That’s the only thing that is in my system, the rest is just out for that moment. And then I’ll just play with things as much as I can – you might arrive to do a scene and you prepared it in one way, because the scene was written to be in the kitchen, and then you get there and it’s ‘oh, no, we’re actually going to do this walking with steadicam’? The whole thing changes, the whole rhythm changes. So, I like to be open.

Tyler Gray as Harlan Briggs and Chloe Robertson as Luna Briggs in Wolf Pack (Credit: Steve Dietl/Paramount+)Tyler Gray as Harlan Briggs and Chloe Robertson as Luna Briggs in Wolf Pack (Credit: Steve Dietl/Paramount+)
Tyler Gray as Harlan Briggs and Chloe Robertson as Luna Briggs in Wolf Pack (Credit: Steve Dietl/Paramount+)

Just building on that a little then: you share a lot of scenes with Chloe Rose Robertson and Tyler Lawrence Grey – what was your working relationship like? How did you develop your characters together?

It was great, man. Because they’re great kids! I remember meeting them for the first time, and they were so warm – it’s hard, you know, you meet somebody, and then you got to play family the next day. So, we had lots of conversations. It’s funny, because a lot of people asked me, ‘how was it working with younger actors? And what advice were you able to give them?’ You know, I found myself learning from them a lot. I’ve been doing this for quite a while – and you just asked about preparation, and how sometimes preparation can bring this, rigid aspect to your craft – and working with young actors like them, it was invigorating for me.

I was there with them between takes between scenes, and we were just like hanging out and having conversations: we could be joking, we could be talking about the scene, we could be talking about their experience growing up. That that also was part of the job – it was sort of like a recycling experience for me. So, I did enjoy very much working with them. They’re lovely, both of them. And they were very open to whatever I had to say, they asked me a lot of questions – and sometimes, you know, I didn’t have answers, and I asked other questions. It was an exchange.

I suppose they must be roughly around the same age you were when you first started screen acting – did that prompt you to reflect on your own career particularly, or think about how things have changed since then?

Yeah, yeah, it does. When you get in touch with – you know, in this case, they’re not teenagers, they’re 21 you’re playing teenagers – but it definitely brought me back to that time in my life. Not in a nostalgic way, but much more in that… ‘oh my god, it’s been a while, I remember when I was like Tyler’. I could see myself starting out, really – because Tyler is very hungry to learn, and he’s very focused, and I was just like that.

So I really saw myself, and it was beautiful – it was a nice way to reconnect to that energy. I think that’s what I was trying to explain about hanging out with them, you know? He reconnected me with that energy that we all have. It’s the whole thing about, you know, being a child, the child is free playing in the moment, and as we grow and as we mature into life and all the things that we have to embrace and understand socially to become an adult, you kind of lose touch with that. The idea is not to lost it – it’s there, but maybe it’s not very accessible and you’re just not making that connection. So, this, for me, was an opportunity to connect.

Obviously Wolf Pack is a big flagship show for Paramount+, and you’ve done quite a few different streaming series now. I was wondering, in terms of your experience of the industry and your experience as an actor, how you’ve found the rise of streaming services to have an impact?

Yeah, yeah, man. Huge. ‘The rise of the streaming services’. That’s a movie title! It’s true, it’s a revolution.

I experienced the before and after: I remember signing up for Netflix, and it was an envelope with a couple of DVDs, and you could choose ten DVDs a month. That was right in the beginning, back in the day, and then it changed everything. It’s still changing! We’re still reinventing, still adapting to this new era – in a way, it’s very democratic, it gives access to so many people that would never watch these shows or films, they would never get access to this. But also, there are challenges. I think now we are facing the big question of ‘what are we going to watch in a big movie theatre, what are we not?’ I’m curious to see [what happens] – I think it’s too early to define the future of theatres, and the experience in the theatre, and all that.

But you know, the way we make films, it’s the same. The experience on set, it’s the same. We’re still telling stories and making films and developing characters. That hasn’t changed at all; it’s more about the distribution and the access to those films and shows.

Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs and  Lanny Joon as Officer Jason Jang in Wolf Pack (Credit: Curtis Bonds Baker/Paramount+)Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs and  Lanny Joon as Officer Jason Jang in Wolf Pack (Credit: Curtis Bonds Baker/Paramount+)
Rodrigo Santoro as Garrett Briggs and Lanny Joon as Officer Jason Jang in Wolf Pack (Credit: Curtis Bonds Baker/Paramount+)

Is there anything you’ve been watching and enjoying recently? Any recommendations you’d care to share with us?

I would say Yellowstone. I was kind of orphaned from Succession, which is one of my favourite shows, and Yellowstone did it for me. [Then] The Offer – I’m a big fan of The Godfather, and it was so great to watch that show.

I recently watched a lot of films, because I am a member of the Academy for voting [on the Oscars], and we get access to all the films. I recently watched all the independent films, like After Sun, Joyland, The Quiet Girl.

Any particular favourites? Do you know who you’re voting for yet?

I loved it – and it’s kind of obvious, because everybody’s talking about it – but Brendan Fraser in The Whale. It’s beautiful to see – just really, really impressive – when an actor encounters [a part like this], it’s something really beautiful. One thing is great acting and great movies, but sometimes the actor encounters a part and the project just goes beyond, and that’s what happened here.

Finally, then, just to wrap everything up – is there anything in particular you hope people take from Wolf Pack, in terms of their experience watching it?

What’s very important about Wolf Pack is that idea to take the genre – the creatures – as a metaphor. Wolf Pack, I think, can really play a major role in changing the trajectory of youth in terms of anxiety; we discuss mental health a lot, we have one character who suffers clearly from panic attacks and anxiety, but that subject is discussed throughout the whole show. It’s important to normalize those conversations, especially for this demographic – for the teenagers and the youth, it’s very important to normalize conversations about anxiety, depression, isolation, especially after pandemic – and I think Wolf Pack goes straight to the point with that. Hopefully, I think that you will have a great ride, you will enjoy chills and it’s going to be very entertaining, but at the same time, I think that we’re touching on very important subjects: anxiety, depression, isolation, parental alienation, emotional disconnection.

Wolf Pack begins on Paramount+ in the UK on Friday 27 January, with new episodes available weekly thereafter.