By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
When Saúl Lisazo was lining up a corner kick for Brazil’s Juventus soccer team, he never dreamed that someday he’d be receiving a special Emmy en Español from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. On Oct. 19, Mr. Lisazo will be one of six Spanish-language TV stars recognized for their contributions to the medium.
“To be in this business and be recognized by your peers is an honor. The highest award bestowed upon a television actor is an Emmy, so of course, I am grateful and honored,” Mr. Lisazo said.
As a young man in Argentina, Mr. Lisazo was more interested in soccer than an acting career. He played for a number of teams and was a popular sports star. “Since I can remember, soccer was always my passion. To play professionally was a dream come true,” Mr. Lisazo said. When he was cut by the team, though, the good-looking young man decided to try his hand as a model and actor.
In Madrid, he studied acting with Cristina Rotta, mother of Juan Diego Botto, an acclaimed young Argentine-Spanish actor. Then, through a casting call, he landed a lucrative deal with Bacardi for a series of TV commercials. In 1989, he was cast in his first telenovela, a Mexican production called “Amor de nadie.”
“Acting came along by mere accident. I enjoy both fully-I still get to play soccer and I am passionate about my acting. I’ve learned to respect and value my profession dearly,” said Mr. Lisazo.
Ironically, the path to Mr. Lisazo’s success is not unlike that of the man he names as his inspiration, Sean Connery. Before becoming world renowned as James Bond, Mr. Connery was a bodybuilder who competed in the Mr. Universe contest. That led to model work and, eventually, acting. “Sean Connery has been someone that I’ve always admired. His career has been inspiring,” Mr. Lisazo said.
Within the world of telenovelas, the Spanish-language equivalent of American soap operas but with even more drama, Mr. Lisazo is a top leading man. He’s a TV sex symbol, going from novelas to film and back to novelas. Fortunately for the actor, he doesn’t mind being a soap star, and he appreciates the loyal fans. “I’ve come to realize that fans of telenovelas make us part of their lives. We’re in their homes five days a week. That’s a great thing,” he said.
After 13 years with Televisa in Mexico, Mr. Lisazo made a splashy switch to Telemundo in 2004. “I was very pleased with the way [the telenovela] ‘Gitanas’ turned out, because my role of Father Juan Dom%ED;nguez was very different from everything else I had done so far,” Mr. Lisazo told Key Biscayne magazine in its October issue. “I worked with some spectacular people, moviemaking people who were somewhat prejudiced against soap opera actors, but after a year of working together, I think we were able to change this attitude.”
Following “Gitanas,” Telemundo cast Mr. Lisazo in “Tierra de Pasiones,” a “Falcon Crest”-like novela set in Miami. Miami is also where Mr. Lisazo lives with his wife, Monica, and children Martin and Paula. “I will probably stay here for another year or two and, after that, I would like to go back to Argentina,” he told Key Biscayne. “I have a great need to be back there. I find myself at a stage in life where the most important thing for me are my children, and I want to give them a place where they can grow differently, surrounded by family, by values that I am not sure Miami can offer me. And if not Buenos Aires, then Madrid.”