‘Promised Land’s Tonatiuh Hints At Antonio’s Backstory Reveal: Joe ‘Knows What He Did’

Antonio Sandoval has tricks up his sleeve when it comes to his father. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Tonatiuh about Antonio's return, the 'psychology' behind Antonio's motives, and more.

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The hunger for power runs in the Sandoval family. Antonio Sandoval made his return in the Promised Land series premiere, and he’s secretly plotting a company takeover with his mother, Margaret. There are reasons why Antonio is going against his father, Joe, and Antonio’s complexities will be explored as the season continues.

HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Tonatiuh about Antonio’s motives and his ultimate goal. It’s not just about the family business. “I personally think there’s a certain psychology behind it. When you’re betrayed by your family, it’s almost like I want you to feel what I felt,” the actor explained. “There’s also the male arrogance, or maybe I’ll call it the machismo — I’m entitled to this company or this tribe or to the head of the family, so I’m coming back to take my rightful place.”

Tonatiuh with co-star Bellamy Young. (ABC)

While talking with Antonio, Margaret says the family “will regret the day they turned their backs” on him. “I think that the writing is so well that I don’t think any word is used loosely,” Tonatiuh teased about what Margaret means by this. He also stressed that we will find out about Antonio’s complicated history with his family. “Look, Joe did what he did, and he knows what he did,” he said. “You’re going to find out soon enough. We’re going to see what happens. Let’s see what Joe did, and then maybe you guys will switch allegiances.”

From the start, Tonatiuh was drawn to Promised Land’s “immigrant storyline,” which is a key component of the show’s flashback storyline. The show’s creator, Matt Lopez, called Tonatiuh about the role of Antonio, and that’s when Tonatiuh got the chance to reveal his hopes for this character.

“My pitch to him was if we’re going to explore a villain — because he’s not a hero — but if we’re going to explore what a queer villain looks like, it would be a disservice to not also explore the psychology behind what motivated those choices,” Tonatiuh told HollywoodLife. “The difference between shame and guilt, according to Dr. Brené Brown, is guilt is I did something wrong and shame is I am wrong. When a person gets kicked out of the family for the way that they identify, whether it’s queer, non-binary, LGBT, etc., they sometimes internalize the narrative that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. So they have to be perfect in order to compensate for that. So when people look at Antonio, I ask people to start considering what got him to be the way that he is and look at what happens to a person when their family betrays them, and thus they become the betrayer.”

The thing about Antonio, compared to the other Sandoval kids, is that you truly have no idea what he’s going to do next. He takes after both his father and his mother, so no one should underestimate him. That unpredictability is among the many things Tonatiuh enjoys about Antonio. “I think the fun part about playing someone like Antonio is that he’s kind of 10 different people. He’s a different person with every person,” he said.

Tonatiuh with co-star John Ortiz. (ABC)

As for whether or not romance is on the horizon for Antonio, Tonatiuh teased, “I think that anything is possible. We have 7 or 8 episodes left, so there’s a lot for us to explore. I will say this Monday night — episode 3 — Joe hires a new general manager.” Promised Land airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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