Guillermo Zapata is a man of many parts
—a distinguished restauranteur, a model, and an accomplished actor/producer. He has proven himself to succeed across several industries with lots of hard work and determination. When he’s not being mistaken for George Clooney
, many recognize Guillermo from the hit Bravo show “Vanderpump Rules
,” where he, along with his wife Nathalie Pouille-Zapata, runs the world-famous SUR Restaurant
& Lounge in West Hollywood. However, Guillermo’s TV and film credits go well beyond that. His latest feature film, The Shadow of the Cat, which he produced and starred in with Trejo, was a labor of love that was more than five years in the making.
Filmed in his homeland of Argentina, the fantasy-horror flick tells a nightmarish story about family, love, the occult, and the inherent human emotional need to be a part of something, to belong. Fans of Jeunet & Caro or Guillermo del Toro will love Shadow of the Cat. It deftly combines elements from fantasy, horror, and the occult into an amalgamated work of art from director José María Cicala. We highly recommend you see it!
Can you tell us about yourself and how you got started?
My name is Guillermo Zapata and I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I came to the United States on a vacation trip in 1992, when I was 22 years old. I was working as an actor in Argentina and started getting some roles at that age after studying at the National Conservatory of Drama and Art. And I have always wanted to come to Los Angeles, the city of my dreams.
So, I took a break, bought a ticket, and went to the United States to see Hollywood and the city that I wanted to see, Los Angeles. After ten days of vacation, I practically fell in love with the city. It was beyond what I had suspected. My desire was so big that I decided to try to find an opportunity to stay. But, it was not easy in my situation; I didn’t speak English, had no money, and had no friends.
The day before I was scheduled to go back to Argentina, I applied for a job in a restaurant. The position was for a dishwasher, and I took it. From there, I started a new life. So that was my start in America in 1992; I was a dishwasher, but with a lot of will to keep growing and learning and moving forward in life.
It wasn’t an easy journey; while working, I studied English and did the best I could. At work, I was moving up from one position to another one. Then, finally, in 1998, I had the opportunity to open my own place; that place was closer; it was located in West Hollywood. So, I opened that place with just ten tables and a lot of desire and determination to be successful. And today, after over 20 years, it is one of the most successful restaurants in Los Angeles. So, there is a long journey about that, but all are motivated by love, energy, and desire. And that’s it; that’s pretty much how I started.
What would you like to share about your journey in life?
What I would like to say about my life is just probably to motivate people that need a little bit of support. They need to know that the American dream exists and if you dream about something in life and want to make a change, you want to do good in life, and you want to work hard and try to achieve your goal, it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. And I like to use myself as an example of that.
By working hard, making the right movie, and being disciplined, you can achieve whatever you want in life, so there is no limit as long as you want it. You know that you are going to do your best, be patient, and put in everything in order to do it. Knowing that it won’t happen overnight, but every single day prepares you; every single day fight for what you dream. And that is what I would like to say loudly for people to hear, that whoever is out there following your dreams, I am telling you, I went through so many things, but I never gave up.
Tell us about your movie The Shadow of the Cat
Going back to what I was just saying, I have been acting since I was young in Argentina, and one of the reasons that I came to America probably was to see Hollywood, the city that I always dreamed about and perhaps learn from here. But I always knew I would stay here, especially if I wanted to act. However, life sometimes takes you in another direction, so I put acting on hold, and I started a new life, and that life was in the restaurant business.
I was able to become a SAG member in 1995, and I started doing a lot of commercials on TV, doing little parts here and there. But I always knew that I had to; if I wanted to be a leader or do something, I needed to have a plan. Like with everything in life, you need to know what you want. And so, five years ago, I had a dream about a film, and I put that to work; I created a synopsis, and I started producing it. I hired a writer to write the script together with me, and I started from there. It took me five years of hustling and convincing people that this was the film that I wanted to do.
Three years ago, I was able to get in touch with José María Cicala, a director from Argentina, and he loved the idea, he liked the script and redid the script, and he decided to be my partner in this. So, together, we are a force and started doing it, growing a little more. We were able to contact Danny Trejo because we knew that Trejo would be the actor that we would both want for the role of “The Shadow.” And like I said, day by day, I always compare this kind of trip to what it is like if you are driving to another destination.
When you are driving, you are going to be excited, happy, and frustrated. You are going to turn left; you are going to turn right; it’s going to be raining. It’s going to be good times; it’s going to be bad times; but in the end, you finally are going to go up and you are going to go down; at the end, you are going to be able to get to your destination. And this is what I went through; beautiful driving, and I was able to achieve this film, The Shadow of the Cat.
Right now, the film is on Apple TV and Amazon Prime, and it’s a fantastic adventure. Its action, there is a little drama, there is a message, so there is a combination of everything that I wanted to put into the film. It’s a great film, and we have a lot of wonderful reviews. So, I invite everyone to watch it and see what the film is all about and prove once more that when you want to do something, there’s no variable, you can achieve what you want, and I always like to keep going with that message.
To what did you attribute your success?
My success I attribute to myself because I am very motivated in life. I am grateful; I am motivated, I go all the way. I am a happy person; I try to leave my personal problems on the side and that’s it. I think I am very passionate about what I do, and that is the key. If you don’t have a passion to do stuff, just wake up and be grateful for anything; for the air that you breathe, for the sun that you have, for the bed that you have. I mean, being grateful is the key to good karma, and good things will come to you, and you have to mean it. And I do mean it. I am grateful to my friends and grateful to my family, and that’s it.
What keeps me motivated to start new things? Like I said, it is all about passion, and I think I want to achieve so many things in life, and I don’t think this life will be enough for me. I will probably need to live in another dimension (laughs) to continue. But I am grateful. I go step-by-step. I don’t like to have too many things in one basket. So, I will finish one, then I will start with another one, but whatever I start, I finish it.
And I will not add anything else before I jump into that. For instance, I have been in the restaurant business and I never wanted to open another restaurant; just one, but put everything in there. And after 20 years in the business, I believe I had the confidence and time to begin a new project, which was the film. So that is what I said. I like to finish one and then another one, and my list is pretty big. So, I will slowly try to achieve as much as I can.
What is the biggest lesson that I have learned in life?
The lesson is, I mean, I keep learning. I mean, there is no one thing. Life will put you up or put you down, and I have fallen many times, but it doesn’t put me down. I will take that as an experience of what I did wrong, not to do that again, learn from there and keep going. So, life is like that; if you don’t fall, you never grow. So just take everything as an experience and keep going.