|Nico Santos as Mateo on NBC's Superstore|
By Darlene Donloe
Nico Santos plays the hilarious Mateo on the NBC workplace comedy Superstore, which airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m.
The show, which originally aired November 30, 2015, is about a motley crew of employees at a supersized megastore.
The show stars America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nichole Bloom, Kaliko Kauahi and Santos.
Santos is in a good mood. He’s anxious to talk about the role he has inhabited for the last four years. Immediately likable with a tattooed smile on his face, the first time you meet Santos, it’s like meeting a new friend. He draws you in with warmth, charm and pleasant personality.
I recently caught up with Santos at an NBC/Universal event to talk about his role on Superstore.
DD: Tell me how you first got the role.
NS: The role of Mateo was a straight Latino guy. He was a family man and intimidating. He’s a tough guy at work. When I first came on board, none of the characters on the show had specific ethnicities except Mateo. When I looked at the sides at the audition I said to myself ‘this is someone I know.’
DD: Since you felt you knew who Mateo was from the beginning, did you work closely with the writers to develop him and give him a voice? Are you able to improvise or adlib?
NS: We are allowed to improvise. When we film we do a fun run and we can do whatever we want. When scripts come in, if there is something there that we don't think the character would do, we’re able to say so. Sometimes there are jokes that need fine-tuning. We tweak stuff then. It’s an open process. It’s not like that on most sites. Five seasons in and we know the character inside and out.
DD: What is the best part of playing Mateo?
NS: That he is extremely honest.
DD: What is the worst part?
NS: That he’s extremely honest.
DD: When the show first started, did you think you would get to season five?
NS: I did not think we would get to five seasons. I honestly had no clue. Before Superstore, I had only booked a few other restaurants. Yes, restaurants. I was a host at Terrine, and at LACMA restaurants making $10 an hour. I had a lot to learn about the business. Booking the pilot was interesting. After the series got a back nine – then we got to season two, it was incredible. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m so fortunate to have a steady job, but the feeling can go away.
DD: When you first realized you were on a hit show, what was your first indulgence?
NS: I bought a Cartier watch. I worked at Neiman Marcus about 15 years ago. I had seen the watch. I thought to myself, ‘I am never in a million years going to make enough money to buy that watch.’ It felt amazing. I was hemming and hawing about that being a lot of money for a singular thing. Wearing it reminds me of the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get here.