Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Award Winning Actor Raul Aranas Talks THE BLACKLIST, NAAP’S OLIVER!, Songwriting and the Zen of Cycling

Raul Aranas recently guest starred on NBC’s “The Blacklist” The Major (No. 75), opposite series star James Spader and Lance Henriksen, where he portrayed Deputy Minister Mahmoud, the Malaysian deputy minister to the U.N. Click here to view the full episode on Hulu.com.

Raul Aranas and James Spader in The Blacklist

Raul Aranas and James Spader in The Blacklist

Working on “The Blacklist” was a favorite project,” said Aranas. “I never realized how minimal/internal acting can be on TV.  James was great to watch.  He was very quiet and concentrated. But finally meeting Lance Henriksen made my day on the set.  I have been a fan of his for a long time.  And he was a gentleman and great to talk to.”

James Spader, Lance Henriksen and Raul Aranas in The Blacklist.

James Spader, Lance Henriksen and Raul Aranas in The Blacklist.

Last spring, Aranas’ portrayal of Fagan, the kindhearted yet miserly leader of the orphan pickpockets, was equal measures sinister and sympathetic, in the National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) All-Asian production of OLIVER! at The Pershing Square Signature Center in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre. I had not seen him in ages onstage or off, so we had a meal between shows to catch up on life, taking a walk down memory lane and talking about what he’s been up to lately.

National Asian Artists Project To Present All-Asian Production of OLIVER! Featuring Raul Aranas, Anthea Neri, Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Cindy Cheung, Scott Watanabe, Virginia Wing, David Shih and More

Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Raul Aranas, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Scott Watanabe, Cindy Cheung, Virginia Wing and John Haggerty at the curtain call of NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Raul Aranas, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Scott Watanabe, Cindy Cheung, Virginia Wing and John Haggerty at the curtain call of NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

“Playing Fagin in NAAP’s OLIVER! was extremely exhilarating,” said Aranas.  “I really loved working with Steven, Baayork, Zoe. What a great cast!

Back row-Nina Zoie Lam, Scott Watanabe, Raul Aranas, Thom Sesma, Dave Shih, Fay Ann Lee, Eric Bondoc, Anthea Neri; Front row - Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Cindy Cheung, Loresa Lancetta, Mel Maghuyop after a performance NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Back row-Nina Zoie Lam, Scott Watanabe, Raul Aranas, Thom Sesma, Dave Shih, Fay Ann Lee, Eric Bondoc, Anthea Neri; Front row – Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Cindy Cheung, Loresa Lancetta, Mel Maghuyop after a performance NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Raul Aranas. Photo by Lia Chang

Raul Aranas. Photo by Lia Chang

The National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) mission is to showcase the work of Asian-American theatre artists through performance, outreach and educational programming. NAAP has produced over the past four years OklahomaCarousel, and Hello Dolly! as part of their Re-Discover Series using all Asian casts.

The setting for last year’s production moved across the pond to Charles Dickens’ London with the production of the classic award-winning musical, OLIVER!. With book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, OLIVER! has become one of the most popular and best-loved musicals in the world. The production was helmed by Steven Eng, with choreography by Broadway legend Baayork Lee, the original ‘Connie Wong’ in the original cast of A Chorus Line, two of the three founders of National Asian Artists Project (NAAP).

Karl Josef Co, Jaygee Macapugay, Raul Aranas, Christine Toy Johnson and the company of NAAP's Hello Dolly! at The Pershing Square Signature Center on April 30, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Karl Josef Co, Jaygee Macapugay, Raul Aranas, Christine Toy Johnson and the company of NAAP’s Hello Dolly! at The Pershing Square Signature Center on April 30, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Baayork Lee and Raul Aranas. Photo by Lia Chang

Baayork Lee and Raul Aranas. Photo by Lia Chang

In 2013, Aranas co-starred as Horace Vandergelder opposite Christine Toy Johnson as Dolly Levi, at The Pershing Square Signature Center in the National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) All-Asian production of Hello Dolly, directed by Lee Roy Reams, director of Carol Channing’s last Broadway revival in 1995, when it was last seen in New York.

Christine Toy Johnson and Raul Aranas Lead the Cast of the National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) Benefit Presentation of Hello Dolly!, at The Pershing Square Signature Center

“I feel NAAP has a great artistic sensibility that I find lacking in other theatrical companies,” said Aranas. “I met Baayork many years ago when she first directed a production of The King and I. I really liked her energy and the fact that she is a great supporter of kids in the Chinese/Asian community by giving them a place to artistically express themselves (choir. etc.).”

Larry Lee, Baayork Lee, Tommy Tune and Raul Aranas after a performance of NAAP's Hello Dolly! at The Pershing Square Signature Center on April 30, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Larry Lee, Baayork Lee, Tommy Tune and Raul Aranas after a performance of NAAP’s Hello Dolly! at The Pershing Square Signature Center on April 30, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Raul Aranas is an award winning actor, director, singer, musician and an avid cyclist. He described his first professional gig, El Grande de Coca Cola in Philadelphia many moons ago, as “a hoot.” The Broadway vet has appeared on the Great White Way in Miss Saigon, The King and I, Loose Ends and Flower Drum Song. His Off-Broadway credits include Polo in the Michael Greif helmed Giant at The Public; Beast (NYTW); Mother Courage (Delacorte/Public Theatre); Dogeaters (Public Theater), Jungle of Cities (Public Theater); The Tooth Of Crime (La Mama Etc.); Shogun Macbeth (Pan Asian Rep).

Mel Maghuyop, Raul Aranas and Thom Sesma, have all portrayed The King in The King and I and The Engineer in Miss Saigon -after a performance NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Mel Maghuyop, Raul Aranas and Thom Sesma, have all portrayed The King in The King and I and The Engineer in Miss Saigon -after a performance NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

During his stint as The Engineer in the 1st National Company of Miss Saigon, he received a Helen Hayes Award, the Carbonell Award and a Jefferson Award Nomination, and appeared in the international production at the Theatre Royale, London.

Raul Aranas as The Engineer and the cast of Ogunquit Playhouse's production of MISS SAIGON.

Raul Aranas as The Engineer and the cast of Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of MISS SAIGON.

Raul Aranas as The Kralahome and Raphael Aranas as Prince Chulalongkorn. (Photo courtesy of Raul Aranas)

Raul Aranas as The Kralahome and Raphael Aranas as Prince Chulalongkorn. (Photo courtesy of Raul Aranas)

“Of course, Miss Saigon was a milestone in my career…not just because of the financial rewards, but the challenge of performing such a demanding role approximately 2000 times!”

“Performance-wise, the star of the show, by a hair, is Aranas’ Engineer who is wonderfully crass and slimy.”
whatsonstage.com: Miss Saigon
broadwayworld.com: Ogunquit’s ‘Miss Saigon’ Pulses with Urgency of Life and Death

In 2012, Aranas was cast in the Theater of the Stars production of The King and I as The Krahlahome, while his son, Raphael, played Prince Chulalongkorn, in a production helmed by Baayork Lee.

“Being able to tour The King and I with my son Raphael…we bonded not only as father and son, but as friends,” shared Aranas.

Theater of the Stars Presents The King and I Starring Ronobir Lahiri, Victoria Mallory, Raul Aranas, Ali Ewoldt, Josh Dela Cruz, Jee Hyun Lim and Raphael Aranas, Helmed by Baayork Lee on Tour through September 11, 2012

Raul Aranas as The Reciter in North Shore Theatre's production of Pacific Overtures in 2003. Photo courtesy of Raul Aranas/Facebook

Raul Aranas as The Reciter in North Shore Theatre’s production of Pacific Overtures in 2003. Photo courtesy of Raul Aranas/Facebook

Aranas’ favorite theatrical experience is his portrayal of The Reciter in the North Shore Theatre production of Pacific Overtures in 2003, for which he garnered an Irne Award.  

“The role of the Reciter — the evening’s sardonic narrator — has so much of the King of Siam built in that it pays to cast a “King” actor to portray him and Raul Aranas, who has both a “King” and an “Engineer” under his belt, makes a handsome, commanding figure carved from fire and ivory.”
theatermirror.com:”PACIFIC OVERTURES”

“The complex retelling of this pivotal event in world history and its consequences is overseen throughout, as in “Into the Woods”, by a Reciter Raul Aranas, who also becomes the Shogun and the 14th Emperor. Aranas’ dynamic presence holds the show together.”
aislesay.com Pacific Overtures

“Raul Aranas, the Reciter/Shogun/Narrator, are new. Aranas exhibits dignity, force, skill with accents, and a strong baritone.”
boston.com: Topical ‘Pacific Overtures’ Dazzles

Bobby Steggert, Natalie Cortez and Raul Aranas in Giant. Photo by Joan Marcus

Bobby Steggert, Natalie Cortez and Raul Aranas in Giant. Photo by Joan Marcus

His other regional credits include Giant (Signature Theatre, Virginia), OLIVER! (Gateway Playhouse, Bellport), Miss Saigon (5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle; Ogunquit Playhouse, Maine), Exit the King (Cleveland Playhouse), Treasure Island (Cincinnati Playhouse).

Aranas’ latest film project is a neo-noir indie crime thriller, Manhattan Nocturne, starring Adrian Brody and Jennifer Beals, and directed by Brian DeCubellis.

“I play Luis, a super that shows Adrian a mysterious building,” said Aranas.  “That was a lot of fun.  I love noir as a genre in film.” Aranas has also appeared on television on “Law And Order,” “Gideon Oliver,” “One Life To Live,” and “Blue Bloods;” other film credits include Burn After Reading, Buzzkill, Company Man, Afterwards and JFK.

 Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Raul Aranas, Richard Jenkins in Burn After Reading. Copyright: © 2008 Universal Studios


Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Raul Aranas, Richard Jenkins in Burn After Reading. Copyright: © 2008 Universal Studios

“My most interesting film project was JFK,” said Aranas. “Getting to work with Oliver Stone, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, and Joey Pesci…and the whole conspiracy theory about the assassination is always fascinating.”

Raul Aranas

Raul Aranas

Aranas is an accomplished musician, who has played the guitar since he was 11.

“My father bought me a guitar from Woolworth so I wouldn’t be bored traveling around with my parents,” shared Aranas. “I love jazz and country/folk music, but I listen to all kinds of music from classical to blue grass.  Louis Armstrong said, ‘there are only 2 kinds of music…good and bad.’  But my songs are ballads because they tell stories both personal and cultural.”

Lia: What is the back story of A Chinaman’s Chance?
Raul: Well, simply put, A CHINAMAN’S CHANCE was inspired by the fact that the Chinese railway workers were dissed in spite of the fact that they were mostly responsible for the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad.

Click here to listen to more of Aranas’ original compositions on his youtube channel.

Raul and Mary Aranas came out to support Karen Tsen Lee in her debut as Maria and the fearless Jojo Gonzalez as Feste the Clown. Photo by Lia Chang

Raul and Mary Aranas came out to support Karen Tsen Lee in her debut as Maria and the fearless Jojo Gonzalez as Feste the Clown. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What are your favorite films?
Raul: My favorite films are The Godfather 1 and 2, On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, Gladiator, Blade Runner, One Eyes Jacks, Out of the Past and West Side Story. Great acting and directing…beyond reproach.

Lia: Any directors or playwrights that you would like to work with?
Raul: I would have loved to work with Elia Kazan.

Lia: Do you have any dream roles?
Raul: I would like to play Joe Keller in All My Sons, and perhaps Sweeney Todd.


“But right now, “I’m a retired investor living on a pension,” said Aranas. “My cycling is my Zen…my savior from the din of the city or just life in general.”

Raul Aranas

Raul Aranas

Other Articles by Lia Chang
Ghostlight Records Releases ‘Giant’ Original Cast Album Featuring Kate Baldwin, Brian d’Arcy James, P.J. Griffith, Raul Aranas, Katie Thompson and more
Raul Aranas, Kate Baldwin, Brian d’Arcy James, P.J. Griffith, Bobby Steggert and Michele Pawk Set for New York Premiere of GIANT at The Public Theater, October 26-December 2, 2012

Playwright and co-director Rick Shiomi, Cindy Cheung, Susan Dalton Quinn, Amanda Galang, Ako, Katie Lee Hill, Lia Chang, Gyu Jin Lim and co-director Raul Aranas.

Playwright and co-director Rick Shiomi, Cindy Cheung, Susan Dalton Quinn, Amanda Galang, Ako, Katie Lee Hill, Lia Chang, Gyu Jin Lim and co-director Raul Aranas.

cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-carlos-flores-3.jpgLia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
“Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong,” – Retrospective of Disney Legend at MOCA, March 26 – September 13
Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion Exhibition on view at New-York Historical Society through April 19; Photos of An Evening with Amy Tan
George Takei & Broadway Bound ALLEGIANCE Create Indiegogo Campaign as Endowment for the Japanese American National Museum
Vanity Fair: Ken Watanabe, Kelli O’Hara, Jon Viktor Corpuz and More of Lincoln Center’s Revival of The King and I
Photos: David Byrne, Alex Timbers, Jaygee Macapugay, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Adam Guettel, Sarah Saltzberg and More Celebrate Jose Llana’s Lincoln Center American Songbook Debut
Signature Theatre Company’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton To Step Down After 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season
Photos: Hudson Yang, Randall Park, Eddie Huang, Richard Lui, Lori Tan Chinn and More at #FreshOffTheBoat Viewing Party at The Circle NYC
Photos: “Swimming Awkward Moment,” the newest works by painter Arlan Huang at Trestle Gallery through March 27
Photo: Stan Egi, Ellen Crawford, Paige Lindsey White, Bruce Turk, Greg Watanabe and More in Jessica Kubzansky helmed PYGMALION at The Pasadena Playhouse through April 12; PYGMALION Themed Activities
The Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Inc.: 2015 Collaboration Award recognizing Women Working with Women Open Call
LA Times Critic’s Choice FIGARO at A Noise Within; April 4, 5, 9, 10, 19, 30, May 1 and 10
Apr. 8: Big Trouble in Little Tokyo Screens John Carpenter’s BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA at the Japanese American National Museum
Jon Tenney, Tessa Auberjonois, John de Lancie, Emily Ruth James and Kwana Martinez Set for World Premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s MR. WOLF at South Coast Repertory, April 12-May 3
Apr. 13:THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE Original Cast Album Release Party at Joe’s Pub will feature André De Shields, Adam Chanler-Berat, Kevin Mambo, Kyle Beltran, Ken Barnett, Britton Smith, Akron Watson and Juson Williams
Rebecca Naomi Jones kicks off run as Yitzhak in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH on April 14
East West Players’ Honors Paula Madison of Madison Media Management LLC and “Fresh Off The Boat” Executive Producers Nahnatchka Khan and Melvin Mar on April 20
Tony Award® Nominees Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed to star in Rajiv Joseph’s GUARDS AT THE TAJ, helmed by Amy Morton, at Atlantic Theater Company, May 20-June 28
World Premiere Musical HAMILTON Transfers to Broadway; Previews begin July 13
Photos: National Black Theatre Festival 2013; NBTF runs August 3-8, 2015 and will include Act III – A Celebration of Life Reception saluting the late theatre icon Garland Lee Thompson, Sr.
Photos: John W. Kuo, Jessica Hagedorn, and Neal Katyal Receive AALDEF 2015 Justice in Action Awards
Suzan-Lori Parks’ FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS, PARTS 1, 2 & 3 is the 2015 Winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History 
THE GET DOWN, Baz Luhrmann’s New Drama Series Set in 1970s NYC That Gave Birth to Hip-Hop, Punk and Disco, to Premiere on Netflix in 2016
The American Playwriting Foundation Creates The Relentless Award to Honor the late Philip Seymour Hoffman
Variety.com: Ken Jeong to Star in ABC Medical Comedy Pilot ‘Dr. Ken’
Photos: Tony Award Winning Playwright David Henry Hwang, NEFA, Graham Sheffield CBE and Susan Stockton Receive 2015 ISPA Awards
Photos: Late Night at HERE LIES LOVE with Jaygee Macapugay, David Byrne, Jose Llana, Conrad Ricamora, Melody Butiu and More
THE WIZ Turns 40- Photos from Original Broadway Production and BC/EFA Gypsy of The Year Celebration Featuring André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ken Page, Charl Brown, Carly Hughes, Christina Sajous, Alton Fitzgerald White, Lillias White and More
Photos: Ellen Burstyn, Baz Luhrmann, John Leguizamo, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Stephen McKinley Henderson, John Patrick Shanley, David Henry Hwang, Liza Colón-Zayas, Kenneth Lonergan and More Celebrate Stephen Adly Guirgis at The Mimi Awards
Crafting a Career
Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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