In Netflix’s brand new movie, Operation Christmas Drop, Xavi De Guzman brilliantly portrays the role of John Michael, a local on the island of Guam.
Much to our surprise, however, Xavi was not always an actor. In fact, he began his career with professional Thai boxing and managed to not only earn but defend the 2008 Lightweight Championship in Canada.
This incredible achievement leads to Xavi’s first-ever on-camera role as a boxer on “Rookie Blue” where he found his passion for acting and made the decision to completely change his career path, taking acting classes and eventually adding several more roles to his list, and can be seen in the most recent season of “The 100” and “Take Two”.
However, acting isn’t Xavi’s only passion, he is also an advocate for mental health and has spoken on this extremely significant matter at Canfitpro and various other events. In an attempt to make even more of an impact, Xavi founded The Play On Foundation in 2013 (http://www.letsplayon.org/) spreading awareness about the field of brain aneurysms.
What would you say is the message behind Operation Christmas Drop? And how might it encourage its viewers?
The message of Operation Christmas Drop is about giving. Being generous not just over the holidays, but especially over the holidays. I think the fact that it’s based on a real humanitarian effort, that’s been happening since the 1950s, sets our movie apart from other Christmas movies.
Could you give us any information about your upcoming Netflix project and what it entails?
At the moment, I cannot. But stay tuned.
You have a refreshing perspective about the Behind The Scenes crew, stunt crew and the several other various teams involved in the production of a movie considering you’ve taken part in both acting and stunt work, could you elaborate on that?
Well, stunts play a crucial role in any action sequence, it adds an important level of dynamics. I could use common examples that stand out like Tom Cruise or Buster Keaton, but keeping in the spirit of the holidays, I’ll speak about movies everyone loves but they don’t really consider the stunts behind them – the Home Alone franchise, especially the first two. People don’t love that movie because it’s about reuniting Kevin with his family, it’s how badly the antagonists get hurt. But if we’re talking about the BTS and the different teams, they’re all essential. From lights to grips to the camera to crafty to everything in between. It’d be a pretty dull industry without what goes on off-camera.
Did you have a good support system during your transition from fighting to acting?
A good support system is the only way anyone can make it in this industry, let alone make it as far I’ve gotten in my years.
Could you share some of your personal opinions and experiences in terms of being a person of colour in this particular industry?
I’ve gone through the wringer, from putting on accents to being asked to fit stereotypical moulds. But I’m happy to say I started in this industry when I did because I’ve been able to put in my dues to be able to reap the benefits of current Hollywood accepting more people of colour in larger roles.
What was it that made you fall in love with the film industry, acting in particular as opposed to boxing? And do you prefer action roles to that of any other genres?
In comparison to boxing? The fact that I don’t have to actually get hit to do my job is a big win. Boxing, like acting, is an art in its highest forms. They’re both passion-driven. But at least I don’t have to hurt anyone when I act. I can’t say I prefer action roles. But I do love a good fight sequence as much as a good emotional bonding scene.
Do you have a favourite previous project or anyone that you particularly enjoyed working with? We hear you worked with the stunt coordinator from Game of Thrones.
I personally didn’t get to work with that coordinator. I wasn’t involved in the fight on that day but I was able to see it all done first hand, which was great considering there was a little homage to Arya Stark vs the Night King. But Rainbow Connections will be a favourite project of mine. As for individual people, the list is endless. If I had to narrow it down to one, I’ll say Jordan Johnson Hinds, we haven’t worked on a union project together, but we’ve done some work in the past that’s definitely helped me grow as an actor.
Can you tell us a bit about your own charity foundation, how it started and where next you can be found speaking about it?
Like how Emilia Clarke started SameYou for brain aneurysm rehabilitation, The Play On Foundation is a charity that revolves around raising funds to go towards neurological research, but in the field of brain aneurysm prevention. It was founded back in 2018 after the passing of a close friend, Nathan Noel, in 2013. You can catch me speaking on it anywhere and everywhere that will let me. I along with the Play On team hope to bring much-needed developments in this field. Follow @playon2013 and check out www.letsplayon.org for more information.