One day on my way home from work, I saw Koke Santa Ana jogging down a street in Lastarria...wearing jeans, a tee-shirt, and a goofy, slightly worried smile. I don't know exactly what he was running to or from, but I recognized him immediately. I stood for a while, waiting for the camera crew to follow – this had to be the start of a scene, it was exactly what I would expect to see him doing, it was too perfect. But, they never came, and he continued on into the streets of Santiago.
For those of you who are familiar with Koke’s characters, you might have expected the same. But for those of you who don't live on the Internet, I'd be glad to introduce you to this very charming, talented man.
Photo by Jessica Carden
Koke Santa Ana got his start on Woki Toki's YouTube channel in 2008. The production company became well known in 2012 when they premiered the "42 Nuevas Preguntas Para El Censo 2012," a video aimed at mocking the problematic data collection from the census that year. The video spread virally and caught the attention of writer and director Cristóbal Ross. Shortly after, Koke was asked to star in Gringolandia, a hilarious bi-lingual web series about an optimistic and lovable Chilean named Peter who moves to New York City to "make it" with his bubbly gringa girlfriend.
If Gringolandia doesn't already have a large Chile-based expat following, it really should. While the locations are reversed, it's so easy to relate to this lost character who tries to keep his head above the water in a foreign land. Although it doesn't necessarily dive incredibly deep regarding the problems someone may face abroad, it does a nice job of skimming the surface in a smart and laughable way.
Watch the first episode of season one below and see how many Chilean idiosyncrasies you can spot!
Does Koke feel anything similar to his character's daily strife while shooting abroad (e.g. people who think Chile is a third world country; rude and slightly insane Brooklyn hipsters who thinks Peter came over in a raft)? He said the only palpable struggle was the English. "I think the language is the only limit. People in the USA, at least in New York because that's the only place I’ve been, are very open to cultures from the outside." He describes being in NYC like being in "a dream" and "a zoo" all at once.
It was interesting to hear a Chileans perspective on this and I was curious to know what he imagined being the biggest problem for foreigners here in Chile. "I think gringos in Chile have a very difficult time when it comes to people fooling them or trying to take advantage of their lack of knowledge about Chilean prices for cabs, rent, and other things." But," he continues, "the people here are very warm, and you miss it when you go away."
While Gringolandia has received a lot of praise, it seems what the audience is really drawn to is Koke's character, Peter. Koke won the award for "Best Actor in a Web Series" at the Austin (2014), NYC (2014), and Buenos Aires (2015) WebFests. He points to these victories as examples of the US’s hospitality. He notes, "I think it proves that they can laugh at foreigners just as much as they can laugh at themselves."
Even so, he remains modest about his recent success. "When people call me an actor," he says, "it's the biggest compliment for me." The fact that people believe him as a character is still so good to hear, he reveals with a smile. He goes on to say, "Everyone should be an actor, it's so... 'catarsis.'"
In January, he landed his first big picture role in the Chilean comedy "Heroes." While it didn't exactly flourish in the box offices, he says he was glad for the experience and exposure.
However, Koke asserts, "I'm not a comedian." He says he simply loves acting, and the reason he enjoyed Gringolandia so much was because while it definitely has its humorous moments, it also had heart, drama, and intelligent writing. He would like to continue in this direction and hopes to start working on more realistic and dramatic projects.
As a matter of fact, Koke's already dedicated himself completely to another project – his grunge-glam band Rio Pacheco. "I always wanted to be a musician, music really fills me up, but acting came first," he says. He leads the band as the singer and lyricist, accompanied by members and friends Danilo Estrella (drums), Victor Acevedo (bass), and Christian Lazo (guitar).
I tried (and failed) to guess at a number of different translations regarding the band name, but he says the simplest explanation he could offer is that it honors the band's favorite character from the 80's kids show Jem & The Holograms.
You can check out their latest music video below and catch them at Club Chocolate in Bellavista on March 28th:
+ Rio Pacheco at Club Chocolate
+ March 28, 21:30
+ Presale: $3.000, Door: $5.000
+ Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 192 (Metro Baquedano)
+ http://clubchocolate.cl/portal/ (Warning! Obnoxiously loud background noise!)