Before Tommy’s season finale, Vladimir Caamaño tells Precinct TV about playing Abner Diaz and the lighter side you don’t see on the CBS drama.
Vladimir Caamaño is making a splash on CBS‘s freshman TV crime drama Tommy. As Abner Diaz, the driver and bodyguard of Abigail “Tommy” Thomas (Edie Falco), he’s noticeable every time he’s in a scene. But there’s a lot about him that the series doesn’t have the chance to show.
With the season finale just around the corner, Precinct TV spoke with Vladimir to talk about his experiences during the first season of Tommy, what he brought to the role of Abner, and of course, working with the legendary Edie Falco.
Plus, we dig into the other side of Vladimir Caamaño that viewers don’t know as well—his stand-up comedy career. Get to know him better in our interview before you tune into the Tommy finale tomorrow on CBS at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Precinct TV: What originally interested you about Tommy and the character of Abner Diaz?
Vladimir Caamaño: Number one, it was that Edie Falco was playing Abigail Thomas. That immediately makes you take an interest in the writing, because if Edie decides to do it, then [you] kind of go huh, well, this has to be something unique and something different. So that was the first piece.
The second piece was the character wears expensive suits. I like the idea of playing a character, because in real life I wear like khakis, and fleeces, and hiking shoes, and Jordans. And this guy wears pinky rings, Dapper Dan suits, cuff links, expensive shoes. One of the reasons I wear khakis and fleeces is because of the minimal upkeep. With a suit, you’ve got to get it ironed, you got to take it to the tailor, you have to take it to the cleaners. And that kind of puts me at a distance from that type of personality. So to be able to play that, it’s a joy.
Thirdly, I’m a fan of the creator, Paul Attanasio; I dig his work.
PTV: You mentioned Edie Falco; the character of Abner needs to have chemistry and trust with Tommy to work. So how did you and Edie build that rapport, and how has she influenced you?
VC: Kudos have to go to Edie, because she’s willing to play. She’s been where we’ve all been. Edie was a struggling actress for many, many years. She has kept track of that narrative throughout her life. If you ever hear Edie talk, there is an emphasis on gratitude. So she’s very welcoming to other actors and other artists, because she understands luck plays a part in success. It’s a cycle.
And she knows that we’re all in each other’s orbit and that we’re all trying to make this solar system together. So I’m in her orbit, [co-star] Russell Jones is in her orbit, the other actors. And although Edie is the sun of the show, I watch her keeping track of the solar system. Edie knows that it takes the Earth and Mars and Jupiter to make the system work. But like the sun, we leverage her energy, her experience, her confidence, and just her grace.
Edie is a graceful leader with a fantastic sense of humor. So by her doing that, everyone feels up to the challenge. Everyone’s like well, if Edie’s telling me that I can do this, let me step up. In so many words, that’s the effect she has on the cast, [and] also the crew.
PTV: What were the conversations you had on developing Abner Diaz as a character? He could have easily been a stereotypical assistant who just drives Tommy around, but the show hasn’t fallen into that.
VC: The reality of the character is that at the start of the show Abner is, at his heart, an idealist. But I think certain experiences change him. When he meets Tommy, his faith in law enforcement gets renewed, and she restores his confidence in his abilities. And whereas he starts off kind of contracted via [her] and his work, throughout the season he’s expanding. He’s taking on more detective cases. He’s bonding with his coworkers a little more.
And because Tommy develops more confidence in him, I suspect that he’s going to grow into bigger cases, and bigger responsibilities. That’s just my assumption. But in what I’ve seen from the writing and the episodes we did, I suspect that that’s kind of his arc; he’s going to have more and more responsibilities that tie into what Tommy’s doing.
What also lends itself to that is the specificity of the character. The fact that Abner wears specific suits, specific pinky rings. Any time that you enhance specificity, you dodge tropes and stereotypes. The writers have done a fantastic job with making him very specific. He makes particular choices, and he has a definite sense of humor. He has unique things that get him angry. A lazy writer would’ve chosen kind of easy choices, but Diaz is so specific.
PTV: Do you have a favorite Abner Diaz highlight so far? Or something coming up that Tommy fans should be looking forward to with your character specifically?
VC: Episode 6 is called “The Ninth Girl.” In that episode, we get to know Diaz a little better. I have a moment with Edie, where I reveal some of my history with law enforcement to her. And on the day of the shoot, I was so nervous because I had to act next to Edie Falco. So that, to me, was a big moment.
[There’s] the first episode where I first meet Edie. The first day, the first shot I did with Edie was in the car. We had to drive together. I had butterflies, and a lot of it was, can I hold my own around her? Because if the show does whatever it ultimately does, a lot of the feedback is going to go towards her. So it was this sense of like, can I give her an assist?
And in episodes 11 and 12, we all have to rally around Edie. I think fans will dig how Diaz kind of steps up to the plate.
PTV: You’re a man of multiple talents, so let’s talk about the other things Vladimir Caamaño can do. Do you have future stand-up dates planned? Or where can we see more of you?
VC: I was booked solid from like March through June [with stand-up dates] and everything got postponed. I’ve been on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I’ve been on Superstore, Marvel’s Runaways, I’ve done a few things. I’m also a writer [and] I do some voice-over stuff as well. There’s a stand-up clip that I’m quite fond of, of me in Montreal [ed: see below].
The Tommy season finale airs Thursday at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. You can follow Vladimir Caamaño through his website for additional information and future tour dates.