José Carlos “Pepe” Soriano (September 25, 1929 – September 13, 2023) was an iconic figure in Argentine theater, television, and cinema. Not just an actor, Soriano was also a talented director and playwright. Throughout his multifaceted career, Soriano left an indelible mark on Argentine culture, capturing the nation’s imagination with his performances and storytelling.
Early Life and Education
Soriano was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, into an environment that would naturally nurture his artistic talents. Initially enrolling at the University of Buenos Aires Law School, Soriano soon found his true calling. He joined one of the university’s theater groups and eventually left law school to fully immerse himself in the world of theater. His first work, El chaleco encantado (“The Enchanted Sweater”), premiered in 1950 while he was still in school. His professional acting career began with a debut in A Midsummernight’s Dream at the esteemed Colón Theatre in 1953.
Early Television and Theater Success
Soriano made his television debut in 1954 and quickly rose to prominence. He starred in Argentine premieres of notable works like Paddy Chayefsky’s The Tenth Man, Marcel Achard’s Voulez-vous jouer avec moi? (“Would You Like to Play with Me?”), Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness!, and Carlos Gorostiza’s adaptation of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s Rashomon. These roles earned him the Martin Fierro and Cóndor del Plata Prizes in 1964, two of the most prestigious awards in Argentine entertainment.
Foray into Cinema
Soriano’s cinema career began with a leading role in Juan José Jusid’s production of Roberto Cossa’s Tute Cabrero (1968) and in Raúl de la Torre’s Juan Lamaglia y Sra. (“Mr. and Mrs. Juan Lamaglia”, 1970). He also appeared in several historical dramas during the politically turbulent 1970s.
Political Climate and Exile
Soriano faced challenges as he took on politically sensitive roles, such as Schultz, the German, in Osvaldo Bayer’s La Patagonia rebelde (“Rebellion in Patagonia”, 1974). The portrayal led to issues for those involved, prompting Soriano to leave Argentina for Spain in 1977.
Return to Argentina and Continued Success
After some time in exile, Soriano returned to Argentina and was cast in Director Héctor Olivera’s film version of Roberto Cossa’s La nona (“Granma”, 1979). He was also among the first adherents of the Argentine Open Theatre movement in 1980, a collective aiming to revive the arts in the country.
After the return of democracy in 1983, Soriano took roles that were critical of the abuses during the dictatorship. He starred in Mercedes Frutos’ 1984 film version of Adolfo Bioy Casares’ Otra esperanza (“Another Hope”), and reprised his role of Senator Lisandro de la Torre in Juan José Jusid’s Asesinato en el senado de la nación (“An Assassination in the Senate”, 1984).
Later Years and International Success
Although he began working less in theater, Soriano continued to take leading roles in film and Argentine television. He even gained international fame by starring in Spanish television series like Farmacia de guardia (“Night Pharmacy”). His work in films like El último tren (“The Last Train”, 2002) and El brindis (“The Toast”, 2007) showcased his range as an actor, including reflections on his Jewish roots.
Personal Life and Death
Soriano passed away at the age of 93 in Buenos Aires on September 13, 2023, leaving behind a rich legacy in the world of performing arts.
José Carlos “Pepe” Soriano was not merely an actor; he was a cultural phenomenon who navigated the complexities of Argentine society through his art. From theater to television to film, Soriano’s work resonates as a testament to his profound impact on Argentine and Latin American culture.
The life and career of José Carlos “Pepe” Soriano encapsulate the transformative power of performing arts. In a career spanning several decades, Soriano touched on various social, cultural, and political themes, making him one of Argentina’s most iconic and enduring artists. His death marks the end of an era, but his influence will undoubtedly continue to be felt in the years to come.