Rodrigo Santoro on His Comedic Turn in 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'

Rodrigo Santoro Headshot 2011
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

The Brazilian actor tells THR about Latin chemistry with Jennifer Lopez and what he learned about improv from Chris Rock.

Rodrigo Santoro, one of the most famous actors in his native Brazil, has been building a name for himself internationally for the better part of the last decade, taking on high profile gigs in 300, Lost and Steven Soderbergh's Che.

On May 18, he'll be seen opposite Jennifer Lopez in the romantic comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting. In the movie by British director Kirk Jones, Santoro plays Lopez’s husband Alex -- a dad-to-be who isn’t quite ready for parenthood.

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As for his character, Santoro claims that Alex isn’t just a stereotype. “I liked the whole idea of Alex representing all the men, all over the world, that aren't ready and scared to make a commitment to something that is definitely a life-changing experience," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I liked that the character had a journey."

Santoro, who is more familiar with dramatic films than comedies, couldn’t have been happier about his role in the movie. “It was refreshing," he says. "I’m not gonna lie to you, it was very pleasant, very light. I remember driving to work every day and not being worried at all."

The actor praises his on-screen wife, saying of Lopez: "She is incredibly talented and has a natural talent for comedy. She is funny and she made me feel comfortable right away.” As for their chemistry, he cites their Latino blood: “Somehow we had a connection on the Latin level. We are pretty similar in many ways... the way we are, we touch, we hug. We are very warm in that way."

In the movie, the American Idol judge plays a freelance photographer who can’t have kids on her own, so she decides to adopt one. She sends Alex to a group of men where he can get better antiquated with the challenges of fatherhood.

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Speaking of co-star Chris Rock, Santoro says he's learned a lot from the comedian -- especially in terms of improv. “I did not expect to have to improvise so much,” says Santoro. "For me, it was tricky because they are hysterical, and I couldn’t laugh because I am supposed to be really freaking out with the whole situation."

The actor is on a roll, lately. And his international films are all coming out at the same time as a slew of Brazilian projects. “I really like the fact that I have this opportunity to work with all these very talented people and I get inspired by it,” he says.

Recently, the took on Brazilian soccer player Heleno de Freitas in the biopic Heleno. It had its world premiere at the Toronto international film festival last year and was promptly sold to Screen Media for U.S. distribution in September.

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Santoro can also be seen on HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn, which he plays opposite Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen. The TV movie will have its premiere at the Cannes film festival in the out-of-competition category.

Next up: Santoro will reprise his role of Xerxes in the sequel to the action movie 300, which starts shooting this summer.