The breakout star of “School Spirits” talks to us about preparing for a role, giving back to his community, and his hope for the industry’s future.

Photography by Kevin Scanlon

Photography by Kevin Scanlon

​​Filipino actor and breakout star of the Paramount+ series “School Spirits”, Kristian Flores is one to watch. Born in Northern California’s Bay Area, Flores moved frequently during his upbringing, redefining himself with every new school. After years of acting out in class, he found a love for the stage and an outlet for the dramatics that used to get him into trouble. His potential was quickly noticed by his teachers and he earned a spot to study at USC’s School of Dramatic Arts. The rigorous program trained Flores in every aspect of acting, from dialects to text analysis, and upon graduating, he had gotten the attention of the biggest agencies in Hollywood. Following roles in project such as “Reboot” and “Grimcutty”, he landed his breakout role as Simon Elroy in the supernatural limited series “School Spirits”.

When speaking about Flores, film director Oran Zegman says: “Kristian is such a deep, intelligent actor. Kristian always surprises you with his choices. From the quirkiest gestures to the most iconic ideas — you can never get a similar take from Kristian. He’s constantly seeking to find more truth in his performance and the physicality of his character. I loved working with him. His passion, enthusiasm, and love for his craft is a dream for any director”.

When he isn’t acting, Kristian writes, experiments with fashion (exclusively wearing black and purple), and dedicates most of his time to non-profit organisations, helping homeless shelters, food banks, orphanages, schools, and hospitals. His work has been awarded by humanitarian organisations and political leaders, including former United States President Barack Obama.

We speak to Kristian Flores about his breakout leading role in “School Spirits”, giving back to his community, and his hope for the future of the industry.

Read the interview…

Hi Kristian, how are you?
Hello. I’m okay. I’m always in the moment. Right now, I’m typing to you on my computer and figuring out how to keep this interview as real as I can. I’m in a hotel room. I like hotel rooms. Because when you don’t have the mental support of being in your bedroom, it means you’re out in the world as yourself. The longer away, the better. It feels like level one. No familiarity. You get to use all the wisdom learned from people, books, and movies. To then come back. You get me?

We are so excited to discuss your role in “School Spirits”. If you had to describe your character Simon Elroy in three sentences, how would you describe him?
A sweet boy lost his soulmate. One day, he gets her back. But he doesn’t know how much time he has, so he’s caught in this painful in-between of joy and grief.

How did you get involved in the entertainment industry? Was there a particular moment for you when you realized that you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
I’m convinced there are some areas in life people are just drawn to. Sometimes, it’s people, or places. Sometimes it’s work. Acting happens to be here and without reason, I’ve always felt it was the only thing that makes me comfortable to be alive.

Can you speak on your experience working with the directors, writers, and producers of the show?
A little bit of a hazy fantasy. When I look back on it, there weren’t really days in the week. There was just the mission: let’s make this show. It’s not every project that you wake up at 8 a.m. to refill your water bottle in the hotel gym and see your executive producer in pajamas. The collaboration was like family—and the off-set conversations I had regarding my character Simon ranged from an elevator ride at 7 a.m. to midnight texts. Some people need that work-life boundary, but sometimes, certain jobs, especially difficult ones, risk failing without that extra attention. And we were all ready to give it.

What was the audition process like?
They thought it was strange. But it’s really how I work and the way I think after drama school. I flew to New York for our chemistry read and brought my suitcase to the audition. They seemed confused since I definitely had time to settle in and leave my luggage behind. Except it wasn’t luggage. Inside was a set of costumes for each scene, as well as the props throughout the show like headphones, utensils, broken phones, batteries, juice boxes, etc. Objects are important. You have to give them life. You need to be familiar with them. Then after every scene, I’d excuse myself to the corner of the room and put on a different outfit to help present the stages of time and inform the location. Peyton was just watching, but that was my training and what I needed to do to perform my best at the audition.

What was the dynamic like working with a young and extremely talented cast, including yourself?
It worked out well. I’d say, in general, I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to a high school series. I’m not so drawn to locker scenes or talking about prom. How far can a scene go with a backpack strapped to your shoulders? But the Trinrud’s script has such a strong point of view, and these enormous themes that I burned to tackle. Much of Simon’s scenes are with adults (teachers, parents, the police) and so I always felt stimulated sparring with these mature actors and seeing what they come up with and how they respond to my ideas.

Your schedule seems incredibly busy. What has life been like since the show was released?
Reading scripts. Long walks. Tea. As the show makes its way through the world, I’ve been doing press. I respect what promotion does to our work, but on a personal level, these terrify me. I’m wary of interviews. I don’t believe words. You can’t. Look at its history—propaganda, deception, etc. And in the industry, everyone consumes interviews. People grew incredibly skilled at talking about their jobs that you can’t distinguish between the articulate versus the doers. I only trust soul and it’s usually through extensive labor that the soul comes out. I’m rather protective about articulating what I truly love because people steal that, intentionally or not. I love film too much that it’s head down for me until they call ‘action.’

Walk us through the process of preparing for a role. Especially for your role as Simon in “School Spirits” considering your on-screen dynamic with Peyton List.
I read the script over and over again until my eyes can’t stay open. I don’t know why I do this. Either it’s because I’m a slow reader and before I know it, it’s dark. Or it’s because I had this brilliant teacher who called her technique, “Read the f*ing play.” Nothing large unlocks in my mind in the first few rounds of reading a script. My preparation is a lot of repetition. You have to reach for the writer’s mind—their ideas are above the actor’s monotony. Then I start to think about how the writing functions universally, who I am, dissecting a scene, and discovering what qualities I can adopt to my character’s physicality and voice. It’s all a mess—neurons firing spontaneously—moving my body—breathing—thinking—it just goes.

We’ve heard that when you aren’t filming, you only wear black and purple. Why do you choose to wear those colors?
When an actor studies theatre, it’s only black. You train in black, perform Chekhov in black. There’s no fashion—there’s a black canvas that allows others to more clearly see you. I guess you can say it became my life costume in college. Purple is personal. Every time I look at the color, I don’t understand it. I can listen to red’s passion, and nearly every color makes sense in their own way. But when I attempt to look inside purple, it says nothing back. I can’t crack it. And so it became the actor’s color to me—something elusive, unattainable. There’s something puzzling about the identity of certain things, like the moon. Adhering to those colors is my own sort of creed. It’s also a discipline that contributes to the characters I play. The second I put on a new color, green or blue, my body reacts. I get startled. You can further appreciate a costume when all year round you haven’t worn much else—suddenly, shirts, hats, even socks mean something to you. If acting is my love, it’s the least I can do.

Can you speak more about your role in giving back to the community? We noticed that you have an impressive background in community service.
They say you can’t hold the world in your head. That there is too much suffering, from so many people, that remembering it all will eventually wear you down. But to that I say: And? So what? Really, I refuse the alternative, I detest the blind eye. Life is severe. It gets bad—and not the entertaining bad—but the dirty, nasty, uncomfortable bad that horrifies. If humanity weighs so much, then our reaction must be strength, not abandonment. The only moral option is to have the character to listen—to the world’s cries, to its sirens. I also just feel connected to service. The living conditions I grew up in were difficult. I saw my mother endure so much. I was a kid, so it was normal. But as I got older and began meeting the homeless in shelters and hospitals, your heart breaks. There are a lot of people who are forgotten. And it’s challenging to remember them. But I also believe that’s what we’re built for.

As a young actor, what is your best advice to those who are looking to get into the entertainment space?
Talking about something and doing it fight for the same resource. I’d advise others to not worry about advice. It must truly not be their concern. There’s too much of it. And tomorrow will never match today. So just improve your skill. Dodge the gurus. I’ve met some artists who are trapped in this eternal cycle of advice and worry. It doesn’t go anywhere. It’s okay to leave it immediately. Retire your neediness. Just do things anyway. Work on the monologue. And then work on it again tomorrow.

What do you want your next role to be?
Give me romance or give me death.

What do you hope the next 10 years hold for you?
This might take ten years, it might take twenty. But I’m fixed on changing the way cinema is treated. People say, “This isn’t like the movies.” We’ve heard this before. “But life isn’t Hollywood.” To me, I see an opportunity to fix that. The impulse and inability to compare reality to filmmaking is a testament to how we’re doing. Why is the image of Hollywood solely a blockbuster hit and not an engine for art? The world is a scary place. There is evil. The basis of artists is that we are granted the guardianship of truth. It’s our ancient function. If people can’t look to artists for soul in a wicked world, we’ve forsaken our role. Let’s regain the trust. Let’s rebuild the standard. One delivery, one role, one story at a time. When I’m hired to perform in a movie, I want to work to make it real— as dirty and complicated as real can get.

Are there any new projects coming up that you can tease to our readers?
Sure. Thank you. Very soon, I’ll be sharing a novel called A Happy Ghost. I finished writing the story in the winter and it’s about adulthood. It focuses on a hotel receptionist who struggles to find satisfaction in reality after years of being exposed to the dark lives of the wealthy. As for film, I’ve been meeting with some wonderful minds, writers, and directors. All sorts of things are in development, but no official announcement. Although… by the end of spring, I will be finished with my screenplay (draft called “Pico”) set in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, my favorite era. I’d be looking forward to seeing who it attracts and if we can achieve some of the cinematographic goals with it.

Photography by Stephen Reyes

Photography by Stephen Reyes

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