Roberto Manrique is not only an internationalized Ecuadorian artist; He is THE internationalized Ecuadorian artist.
Born in Ecuador in 1979, Manrique is currently the standard for an acting career in Ecuador. Like an icebreaker ship making its way through frozen waters, Manrique has also charted a path not only towards professional excellence, but also towards personal refinement. But the road, as expected, was hard.
“Acting never crossed my mind,” he begins. Manrique comes from a traditional Ecuadorian family: a cardiologist father, and a school teacher mother. He studied advertising, and after graduating with honours, he started his own advertising company, which in less than a year was well positioned in the market.
“But suddenly, I realized that I was not happy; I was not pursuing what I wanted”. Manrique then happened to attend a short acting course, where he discovered the feeling of communicating using his body, instead of being inside a box —his office— clicking a mouse from 9 to 5. “At first I was nervous on stage, but that sense of expansion when performing definitely called me”, he adds.
Manrique is a man of many interests, and “that is something good and bad at the same time,” he acknowledges. “I have questioned if there are other things that I could dedicate myself to, but I could never consider my past decisions as mistakes”. Manrique mentions that regrets only take place when someone has been hurt, but that denying the steps taken would be the equivalent of denying who you are today.
When Manrique decided to follow the acting path, he took risks. He left the safety of the local place known to him, and ventured to move to Colombia in search of emerging as an international actor. “It was hard”, begins his account. “There were days when I woke up with a few coins in my pocket, and nothing to eat.” From those circumstances, Manrique confesses that what he learned the most is to stay focused. He continues: “I remember one of those days when I woke up without being able to eat. While I was sitting on the edge of my bed thinking about what to do, my roommate called me to say that he would be away for a week, but that the night before he had been working until late with friends in our place, and that they had a lot of food leftovers, and asked me to eat it all before it spoils”. Manrique smiles and comments: “When I opened the refrigerator, I found two pots full of chaulafán. And guess what? I LOVE Chinese food” —chaulafán is a Chinese dish of fried rice, adapted to the local cuisine, and very popular in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru—.
It was starting from scratch. After working for a time as an event model and receiving many refusals in castings, Manrique assures that he began to see his circumstances as a process. “Was I scared? Of course I was scared. But I understood that it was for my good. Behind those emotions, I tried to focus on what I could learn. It was a complex time, full of many experiences. I even miss them at times, due to how much I learned and how much it shaped me”. Manrique exemplifies: “In Guayaquil I had no real risk of suffering from hunger, but living alone I even came to appreciate plastic bags: I could not tear them or just throw them away, because they could serve me later to save and protect scripts for castings.”
Manrique assures that ego is a tool. “I announced everywhere that I was leaving Ecuador, and I had an audience that knew it. Returning defeated to Ecuador was not an option,” and he adds: “sometimes ego can dominate us; but at other times it can guide us. What you need to correctly use ego is being aware, and being honest with yourself. It is not about pretending to be something that you are not, but about projecting and offering others the best of yourself”, he affirms.
“I have a very good anecdote: one day I had a casting for a television commercial, which was something really good for me, because it would allow me to live for three months. However, that same morning, my manager called me to tell me that he also got a casting for a telenovela role on an international network. It was huge! But there was a problem: the casting for the telenovela was at 11AM, and the casting for the ad was at 9. I thought about focusing on the ad, because it was almost sure money to live for about ten weeks; but I also thought about why I chose to go to Colombia, and what I REALLY wanted to do. Then I decided to cancel the casting for the commercial, and focus on the telenovela without hurrying. And it was a wise decision, because that’s how I got to play Sebastián in the soap opera Victoria. My first international role”.
With a successful and ascending career in television, Manrique took an even bigger step: “Living in Miami, doing telenovelas non-stop, with job and financial security, would have perhaps been a peak dreamed of by me at the beginning of my career. However, after abandoning those roles and spending a season without any certainty —but a very beautiful one because of what I found about myself— the great opportunity to work on a series for Netflix appeared to me; it was the most watched production of the platform at that time” he confesses, and continues: “besides, we reached the second season of the series. That meant that that was, clearly, the biggest international role I could play until then”.
Currently, Roberto Manrique is in a very important project to him: “In 2019 I decided to feel that I was giving my 100% for the planet. I put everything on hold, and since then I have dedicated myself entirely to the project ‘Together for the planet'”. For the project, Manrique traveled almost 7,000 kilometers from Ecuador to Chile, alone, without money, with the promise of exchanging the vow of planting trees with people who could give him shelter and food during his journey. “It was a very nice media project. I left from Quito, from my mother’s house, and with a shamanic ritual I began a journey of knowledge and reflection for the benefit of nature” He adds with emotion: “I am currently in debt, since with the pandemic and the restriction measures I have a lot of interest to pay, and I am currently obliged to pay around 50,000 trees”.
“If you ask me what I would recommend to the Roberto from the past, I would immediately tell him not to worry, because he is enough”. Manrique recalls an extremely important moment in his life, with his father, the famous Doctor Manrique, a famous media character in Ecuador. “When I closed my design agency, it wasn’t long before I decided to pursue a career in acting. But the first thing I had to do was tell my father:
—Dad, I’ve decided to go outside, to pursue a new career —I told him. He looked at me worried, waiting for me to continue, and so I did:— In acting —I told my father, unsure of what he would answer. But he was always someone who could offer the right words at the right time, to the right person.
—Well son, that’s fine, —he said with his calm countenance, and sentenced:— “I support you in whatever you want, as long as you search for excellence in whatever you do”.
Manrique ends up revealing that he always turns to his father when it comes to finding the best words. “Sometimes he speaks for me”.