Whether it’s moving our careers remotely or helping kids learn in a new way as school moved home, “pivoting” has been something that so many of us have been forced to master in the past year. Actor Paolo Andino (best known for roles on Modern Family and The Big Gay Sketch Show) did exactly that and took his passion for cookies, finally taking the plunge to make it a truly sweet business during the past year; Don’t Touch My Cookies was born! As he continues shipping cookies nationwide and gaining nationwide attention (Andino just had a segment on The Doctors), this burgeoning baking businessman chatted with me about his heartthrob roles on screen, launching a business during a pandemic, and how he’s not just keeping his passion for acting thriving during this time, but balancing it with creations like Guava Chocolate Chip cookies!
Michael Cook: Let’s start at the beginning; how did you get your start in the world of entertainment and acting?
Paolo Andino: I went the school route. I got my BFA and MFA in acting and then moved to New York to be a serious Shakeperean actor on Broadway! I lived there for thirteen years and booked a lot of regional theatre jobs all over the country which I loved. I got to see and experience many different cities and meet lots of interesting people along the way. Back in NYC, I got to use my Spanish skills in the commercial world. Then came TV and film work which was a learning curve since I was mostly trained in theatre. I had to learn to condense my performance without sacrificing intensity or energy. It was a lot of fun figuring that out.
MC: So many in the LGBTQ community got to know you on The Big Gay Sketch Show. What was it like being a part of a show that has gone down in history in the infancy of Logo as a network?
PA: I loved being a part of that show. We did both studio tapings and live audience shows. The audience performances were electric. Lots of running around getting ready for the next sketch. I played many of the sexy-body roles back then and one time during a quick change I couldn’t get my shirt off because they had sewn the arms so tight!… I think that made it onto one of the backstage clips on the DVD.
MC: Kate McKinnon was one of your co-stars on that show & has gone on to become a global star; did you see that special “something” when you worked alongside her? Ever think about taking your own crack at Saturday Night Live?
PA: Absolutely, Kate was special. We had a few really incredible comedian/actors on that show. I adore Stephen Guarino, who is so so talented. Kate had some very funny characters on the show that I wish she could have transferred to SNL. They were hilarious. She did this one where she played a British little 10 yr old boy with a magical stuffed unicorn who wanted only one thing… a vagina!
MC: You have appeared on shows like Modern Family & Scandal; what is it like being on the inside of shows that are truly going to go down in history?
PA: Working on Modern Family is like going over to someone’s house for dinner. They treat you like a special guest and everyone is so nice. Eric Stonestreet is a true southern gentleman. He made sure I knew where to go when we broke for lunch and was very hospitable. I was never in a scene with Sofia Vergara and I still don’t think my mother has forgiven me for it. Scandal was a well oiled machine. When I went in for it, I think they were shooting Season 5. I had just started binging the show and I kept telling people to please not tell me anything because I was only on Season 2. They got a kick out of that and were very accommodating, no spoilers.
MC: One role that I am sure you get plenty of attention for from our community as Damien Cassidy from Where The Bears Are. The scene where you emerged from the pool gave you Bo Derek/’10” type credibility! Have you heard from people a great deal about that scene?
PA: LOL… Bo Derek/10 credibility!!!! Yessss!!! I love that. It’s funny when I get recognized for that show. It’s always unexpectedly, like in line for the bathroom at Starbucks in Palm Springs. The funny thing about that “Bo Derek” moment was that the shot they used was one where I swam up and then as I turned around underwater to make sure my hair was flowing back properly,… I smacked my head SO hard on the side of the pool that I winced and screamed (all under water), but just kept going bc I didn’t want to ruin the shot. They must have liked the pained look on my face as I emerged from the water in that take.
MC: Your new venture Don’t Touch My Cookies; tell me the path an actor took to become a much-buzzed about baker and cookie master?
HAHA. Well it has been a true Lockdown experience gone right with Don’t Touch My Cookies. As an actor in NYC, I was always looking for the side hustle to generate cash flow. I tried the cookies out there, but didn’t have the business savvy to make it fly at the time. I still made the cookies through the years and last June my cousin Liza (who is now my business partner) encouraged me (very forcefully) to try again. She posted some cookie pics on her Instagram and from there, there was growing interest. She was on hiatus from her production job so she kept helping me with the website, Instagram account etc. Before I knew it, she had gotten the domain name, the trademark, the LLC, permits, the works. We realized we worked very well together and now she gets paid in Guava Chocolate Chip!
MC: What has the reaction been to Don’t Touch My Cookies? What is the long term plan? Can we expect to see them on store shelves maybe?
PA: Well I can proudly say, we have a five star rating on Yelp! and Google Maps. The reaction has been incredible; it turns out cookies are edible joy. It’s an honor to get to bake and sell that yummy joy. The long term plan is world domination – of course! Right now, I am truly enjoying every step of the steady growth the company is taking. Next up is a series of funny commercials to promote DTMC online and hitting the Farmer’s Market circuit this spring. We ship country-wide, but my favorite is the curbside pick up at our WeHo location because I get to interact with folks. Talking about cookies with serious cookie lovers is an intense experience. I’m looking forward to the wacky world of farmer’s market vendors! There might be a screenplay in there.
MC: Between acting and cookies, how do you find time for a personal life and that “balance”?
PA: Um… I haven’t had too much of a personal life in terms of dating in the last year due to the lockdown. But I’ve fared pretty well. I was fortunate that my mom stayed wit me for two months in the beginning and I had someone to share my home with. Since she left, I just pretend I live in a spaceship and all my interactions are through one of my portals; the tv, the computer and the phone. I workout with You Tube, chat with friends on Face Time, audition on my phone, and I have every a subscription to every entertainment platform known to man.
MC: Actors typically have so many types of roles or performances that they would love to dive into. What types of roles would you like to really take a crack at? Any dream co-stars?
More and more I m feeling connection with dramatic roles. I had a great time shooting the teaser for NCIS a few weeks back. I would love to be on a show like This Is Us. I also love some of the gems on the streaming platforms like Gentefied and Vida. I’d love to tell more stories about Latinos today. I would die to work with Issa Rae. I am obsessed with her on so many levels. I think she is strikingly beautiful, her acting is so honest and real and her writing is of the moment. She’s got her finger on that pulse! She’s awesome.
MC: What is next for Don’t Touch My Cookies?
PA: DTMC seems to have a life of its own. It has a way of flowing and growing in the perfect way at just the right time. So I just want to facilitate that growth and enjoy it without squelching it or getting in the way. Things keep coming our way; The synchronicity! It has taught me to trust in timing, in evolution. It’s been a nice road so far.
MC: How do you stay inspired and creatively fueled during a time that many can find so challenging?
PA: Well I don’t mind being alone. I put a lot of value in my dog as a companion. I also like to do a lot of things that are easy to enjoy at home; cook, dance, work out, paint, bake, remodel. I also think it’s important to have a spiritual practice. I meditate every morning and that keeps all my mental ducks in a row. It keeps my monkey brain calm and my heart open to what’s next. I also try reach out and help others as much as possible. Giving is for the giver as much as for the receiver. I share food with my neighbors a lot and vice versa. It has made a community of our building during these times. Today, in fact, I got pineapple pizza from my friend upstairs. Can’t beat homemade pizza!
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