Cristo Fernandez shares journey to becoming Dani Rojas on ‘Ted Lasso’
Futbol was life. As corny as it sounds, considering Dani Rojas’ signature line, futbol was life for Cristo Fernandez growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Fernandez’s character declares often that “Futbol is life” on the Jason Sudeikis’ hit series “Ted Lasso.” He excelled at soccer enough to earn a professional contract with the University of Guadalajara Tecos at 15. At that point he admittedly didn’t care much about school while he focused on soccer.
Fortunately, he was wise enough to listen to his parents. Fernandez attended high school at night after practicing twice a day with Tecos. He began taking film classes after knee injuries cut his soccer journey short of Liga MX, the top level of Mexican soccer.
“That was the first time in my life I allowed myself to learn something new,” Fernandez said. “And that was the first time in my life that I learned something that actually I liked.
Cristo Fernandez changed paths
“Before that even my mother and my grandma were always like, ‘Cristo breathes, eats, plays, everything is futbol. Everything, talks about futbol, everything. That was the first time I tried something new.”
Fernandez, who speaks English, Spanish, German, French and Italian, poured the passion he had for soccer into acting and film studies after he quit soccer.
He graduated from the University of Guadalajara in communications and then worked for three years to save money to move to the United Kingdom.
He studied at the Guildford School of Acting at the University of Surrey. After finishing his master’s in acting, Fernandez moved to London to work on several projects, mainly short independent films. He made ends meet by working at a Mexican pub.
“That’s why I always say that no matter what you want to try and do you really have to go for it and you really have to have patience and discipline,” he said. “I had opportunities when I was playing futbol that I didn’t take because I was just comfortable back home.
“But then later on all those decisions paid off. That’s why when I realized I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a filmmaker. … I just went for it completely, 100 percent, no maybe or try or not try, really go for it.”
Fernandez made his debut on “Ted Lasso” in the sixth episode of the first season last year. Dani Rojas is a cheerful and charismatic personality, almost naively cheerful. The series’ second season on Apple TV+ starts on July 23.
Fernandez’s past soccer skills are evident when he has the ball at his feet. As he notes, he had been preparing for this role before he even knew he wanted to focus on acting and filmmaking.
Fernandez is the first Latino to have a recurring role on Ted Lasso. He considers it a great responsibility to represent his country and Latin America.
Fernandez views the Dani Rojas character as representative of Mexico’s positive vibes.
Showing making vibes
He’s grateful to show Mexican and Latino culture on such a big platform. Moreover, he appreciates the opportunity to represent his people and his culture as someone who is happy and full of good vibes.
“Every time we are here in Mexico, at least for me, what I see with my friends and my culture is that as soon as someone gets home we make that person feel a part of the family,” he says. “I think that’s what we all do as Mexicans and as Latinos, so that makes it all the more special.
“I’m just grateful they’re letting me give to the character a lot of who I am. As a Tapatio, as someone from Guadalajara and someone from Mexico, the fact that it’s sports and art to me it’s more special. All the things I love in life I’m able to play. And doing them in one job is more special as well.”
Fernandez’s life hasn’t changed much, he says, since he played Dani Rojas on the first season of Ted Lasso. Sure, there was the one time one person randomly began screaming, “Futbol is life” at him in public.
The show’s fans have approached him a handful of times in public to express their passion for the show.
“I’m very happy and grateful that people respond to our show,” he says. “It’s not just that they like it, but they are thankful for it. That makes it more special. It makes us realize that what we’re doing is something really special.”
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