Photographs by Casper Kofi
Fashion by Jérôme André
He conceals neither his sailor tattoos nor his pirate rings. If we offered him the role of Jack Sparrow's son, this fan of Johnny Depp would sign on immediately. For the moment, Rob Raco, whose family comes from Rome and Calabria, makes his friends laugh with his imitations of John Travolta and does not hide his admiration for the Italo-Americans Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese.
With his sculpted face and piercing blue eyes, the 29-year-old Raco melted hearts by playing Joaquin DeSantos, a member of a fierce gang in a homosexual relationship in the hugely popular CW series Riverdale. At the crossroads of small-screen classics like Twin Peaks, Gossip Girl, Dawson's Creek, and Beverly Hills 90210, Riverdale has conquered millennials.
This series depicts a small American city in a way that is both bubble-gum pop and surreal. It's all there: attractive young people discussing pop culture in the corridors of their high school, careless parents, a love triangle with the blonde next door and the stylish brunette, time travel and, of course, a mysterious murder about which everyone knows more than they say.
You started playing drums. Did your sense of cadence help you as an actor?
Rob Raco: It became an asset: it gave me the inner rhythm of my characters, their metronome. What is the difference between the life of a musician on the roads of Canada, and the life of an actor in Los Angeles? On tour, you only have your songs to hang out with. You do not have time to know the cities you are crossing, nor your audience. In Los Angeles, you know where you are and what not to get hooked to: the mirage of glory.
What is the difference between the life of a musician on the road in Canada and the life of an actor in Los Angeles?
RR: On tour, you only have your songs to hang out with. You do not have time to get to know any of the cities you pass through, nor your audience.
Is being born in Ontario, Canada an asset?
RR: Yes, I come from the city of Windsor, not far from the US border and Detroit. Opposite is Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. Windsor is a working-class city, not a haven for artists, so if you want to become one and get out of here, you really have to work. In Los Angeles, there are so many people with huge dreams waiting for a miracle.
Is it because of your youth in Windsor that you are fascinated by the outsiders of American cinema?
RR: Johnny Depp and Vincent Gallo are my role models. They subverted the notion of the idol with their strangeness. They encourage me to be less smooth.
What has success brought your way?
RR: It has changed my life - especially since, initially, there was no excessive expectation for this show. Then, the public arrived en masse, and it has grown exponentially. We can, therefore, afford to be bold with the show.
Especially as regards the love life of your character, Joaquin.
RR: He is a marginal character, just the way I like them - but even in the harsh, criminal environment in which he lives, he still expresses his love for Kevin. It's proof that love can exist in spite of everything. And even though a TV series is not going to triumph over intolerance, it's invaluable to have been able to show that: confidence in a character's LGBTQ+ sexuality and having confidence in my own sexuality surely helped me to play it that way. That said, I am still surprised by the reactions, which have been mostly positive.
Was working with Fendi also a surprise?
RR: This is definitely a chance to collaborate with a great brand that gives you the feeling of being a part of a family, that you are invited to Christmas dinner. It's still very intimidating, especially since, where I come from, just buying the most casual jacket is enough to feel cool.
You are also the face of Fendi eyewear.
RR: These are almost like Keanu Reeves's sunglasses in The Matrix, which are atypical in the world of eyewear. For Fendi eyewear, it's my eyes that do all the work to convey emotions - it's much harder than acting. Luckily, I can at least hide behind these glasses!
Grooming: Massimo Serini with Nars Products
Set Design: Martina Sanzarello
Stylist Assistant: Yuan Qian