Chicago breeds actors who selflessly create and collaborate. Take Desmin Borges, for example. He came up in the Windy City and has held onto its artistic sensibilities throughout his career. He supports his ensemble members, breathes life into writers’ words, and develops fully formed characters with compassion. These traits are particularly evident in Borges’ portrayal of Edgar Quintero on You’re the Worst, whose season four finale airs tonight. In this interview, read about how Borges defines success, exercises resilience, and approaches his work with vibrant passion.
When did you catch the acting bug?
Sometime between winning a lip-sync contest (lip-syncing “La Bamba”) at the age of 5 and playing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer during an elementary school Christmas pageant.
Did anyone or anything inspire you to pursue a career as an actor?
Geez where do I start? Lou Diamond Phillips in La Bamba, Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, Prince in Purple Rain, Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Pacino, DeNiro, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sally Field, Robin Wright Gary Sinise, Jeffrey Wright, and John Turturro in EVERYTHING THEY’VE EVER DONE. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Boogie Nights and most importantly John Leguizamo in his one man show Freak.
You studied Theater at DePaul University. How did that training help set you up for success?
Immensely. The Theatre School took [away] whatever preconceived notions I had about “how to act”, put me in a super supportive environment, broke me down to a blank canvas…and taught me how to build characters physically, mentally, and emotionally in every medium.
Chicago has a dynamic theater and comedy scene. What were some benefits of being immersed in such a creative city?
Ultimately, Chicago’s theater/comedy scene is an ensemble led environment. We write for each other, develop with each other in mind, and share the same goal of telling a writer’s story to the best of our ability. It also helped that I was constantly surrounded by immensely talented, underrated, and selfless artists who are good, solid, down-to-earth people. Ego was non-existent.
How do you personally define success?
Such a good question and yet, nearly impossible to answer succinctly. My apologies to our readers in advance. I think “success” modifies as life evolves. I’ve been lucky enough to be successful my entire life because I don’t measure my career or life’s path against anyone else’s. Each journey is personal and particular. There is always room to grow, learn, and appreciate what’s in front of you. As the years go by, I try to be thankful that I am physically healthy, my mind is full [of] strength, and my passion is still vibrant. I’m putting a roof over my family’s heads and food on our table while getting paid to play pretend.
Was there ever a difficult moment in your career where you showed resilience?
Sure. Every audition that didn’t go my way—which is more frequent than some might imagine. I’m fortunate enough to be auditioning regularly for a variety of projects. [As an actor], along the way you have to come to terms with knowing that you aren’t going to get the majority of them. Mathematically it’s impossible for you to be available for every project, and honestly, I’m not always the best fit. But as long as I do my thing in that audition room, those producers/casting directors/writers will remember me for another project in the future.
While playing Edgar on You’re the Worst, you’ve had the opportunity to explore the impact of serving in the military. What do you hope viewers take away from watching your storyline on the show?
That people aren’t solely defined by the boxes society wants so desperately to fit us in. That our Vets require more personal assistance when transitioning back into the civilian lifestyle. It’s our duty to make sure that we aide in that process. These brave young men and women deserve better than to be treated as afterthoughts. That ultimately all people are human. All of us are broken to a degree, but regardless of our “flaws”, we all deserve to be listened to, treated with respect, and given the opportunity to love and be loved in return.
What’s your advice for aspiring actors?
This industry is less about competition with others, and more about competition with yourself. Most people don’t have the time or capacity to see how brilliant and multi-talented you really are. So it’s your job to hone, prepare, and be ready to continue to knock down doors so you can fully thrive. Remember to always find the love in every character you create. And don’t be afraid to say, “No.” If anything ever makes you physically or emotionally uncomfortable, there’s always an alternative. ♦