June 25, 2013 10:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Emmys: 'Scandal's' Guillermo Diaz on Playing a Tortured Character (Video)
In two seasons of ABC's breakout hit Scandal, Guillermo Diaz has mastered the art of torturing his character's victims -- only there's a catch. Playing the tormented soul that is Huck, Olivia Pope's willing-to-do-anything Gladiator, his past as a black-ops hitman, has led to a present that is riddled with heartache as he brings a sorrow to the often brutal demands of his new position.
The role reminds Diaz, a veteran actor whose credits include Mercy, Chappelle's Show and Half Baked, of the drug-dealing thug (also named Guillermo) he played on Showtime's Weeds, whom he admits really took pleasure in bringing the pain.
"They're both bad-asses," Diaz told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent visit to the Cover Lounge. "Guillermo had this cocky side to him and had a bit of a grin from inside that would show … and Huck would do the same. But it's almost like it's hurting him more than the person he's telling. There's no pleasure in it at all. Guillermo is, 'Bring it on, this is what I want to do!' "
The crushing performance as the tech whiz with a dark past and a painful addiction to killing has thrust Diaz into the Emmy conversation.
"I've been playing Huck for two seasons now and not once have I had to be, 'I have to feel really happy for this next episode coming up. It's all sunshine and roses,' " Diaz says. "Usually it's shooting me walking into a house where my family is all murdered, including the dog. A lot of the preparation comes from past work -- and I've been working for a long time. It gets a little bit easier to find those moments and places in myself to bring out when I need it."
This season, Diaz's Huck was water-boarded after being named the prime suspect in the attempted assassination of President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn). Then, in the "Seven Fifty-Two" episode, he was left for dead inside a crate in a storage unit. After being freed by his new killer-in-waiting, Quinn (Katie Lowes), he had to contend with an epic case of PTSD, during which time he remembered he had a wife and son -- a life that B613 took from him.
"I got the script the day before and the next day I was in the corner chanting, 'Seven Fifty-Two,' " he says of the time that represents when he last saw his wife, Kim, and child. "We were all so scared and really excited about that episode. It was the most emotional episode we've shot so far. I remember constantly crying during that episode, and our director would sit there with me holding my hand and sometimes we'd cry together. It was a special and very unique experience."
During production -- where everyone on the OPA side of the series had a multiple-page monologue where they tried to snap Huck from his state of shock -- Diaz says he sat in a corner muttering the time for three days.
"I was very anxious and sad that whole time," he says of the shoot. "I was an emotional mess that whole week. I was putting myself in Huck's shoes and feeling what he's feeling. I remember we were shooting the scene where I'm torturing the guy with a blowtorch, and then I get a phone call from Kim telling me she's going into labor. I kill him, go back and wrap him in plastic -- then Huck is sobbing. After we finished that scene, they brought out a cake and sang happy birthday to me. I was so out of it!"
"That whole sequence was difficult to shoot because Huck had to be the most happy he's possibly been," Diaz says. "It was difficult to make the transition from sad, dark Huck to his son being born, kissing Kim and crying. The first time I had to torture Charlie [during season one] was the first time I had to go to that dark place and prepare a drill to start torturing a friend who taught Huck everything he knows. Now I'm used to it!"
Check out THR's video interview with Diaz above. Scandal returns for its third season in the fall on ABC.