Nicolás Contreras

NicolásContreras.jpg. Nicolás Contreras is a Chilean self-taught actor and artist. Photo by Pablo Wilson. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

Feature image: Nicolás Contreras is a Chilean self-taught actor and artist. Photo by Pablo Wilson. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

Nicolás Contreras’s Emotional Acting Portrays Latin American Social Problems

Nicolás Contreras is a Chilean self-taught actor and artist. His emotional acting in Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” managed to portray Latin America in all its different facets by portraying the region’s social problems. His tremendous Latin American performance and the rest of the team landed “Baby Bandito” straight as Netflix’s number one series in the non-English category for two weeks.


Nicolás Contreras is a Chilean self-taught actor and artist. He was born in the northern part of Chile, where he spent his childhood and moved around different cities because of his father’s job in mining. Then, Contreras moved to Santiago, Chile’s capital, in pursuit of his higher education. There, he studied publicity at the Universidad Diego Portales, but he always had that artistic spark in him that needed to flourish. Art, acting, and music were always present in his life when he was a child, but when he was 10 years old, he left them behind.

“Acting was always present when I was a child. When I was younger, I was ashamed of showing my music, singing, and acting. When I was 10 years old, I stopped focusing on the arts, and then my adolescence happened. I got a bit carried away by the system,” Contreras said. “Until I reached a point in my life where I said: I have to take responsibility for the things that I love. They’re innate, and I want to live off of what I love.”

Contreras’s inner drive and pursuit of his love and passion led him to seek a self-taught path in acting. He started creating his own methodologies and learning approaches based on the workshops and courses he’d find for himself. His need for an art form that speaks to people’s emotions sprouted in his early twenties, a time when he began focusing on working on his artistic craft.


This meant constantly working on castings for agencies for television shows, movies, and independent short films while also honing his musical craft. This also meant finding himself as an artist, where his main focus is getting to the pureness of emotion by generating a feeling or reaction in the spectator.

“Art, for me, implies the big effort of generating emotions in the spectator. Generating emotions in people, and through that, liberation and healing. I want to generate something positive in people,” Contreras said. “When I make music or when I work on acting, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to make people feel because that’s the most important thing for me.”

BabyBanditoChile2.jpg. From left to right: Pablo Macaya, Carmen Zabala, Nicolás Contreras, Francisca Armstrong, and Lukas Vergara. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito,” filmed in Chile. Photos by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
From left to right: Pablo Macaya, Carmen Zabala, Nicolás Contreras, Francisca Armstrong, and Lukas Vergara. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito,” filmed in Chile. Photos by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

The strong emotions and feelings came with Contreras’s big break in acting this year with the release of Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” series, where he was the protagonist as Kevin Tapia. The show is inspired by Chile’s “biggest heist of the century,” which happened in 2014 at the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago.


Contreras’s character, Kevin Tapia, was inspired by Kevin Olguín, who was one of the gang’s members who carried out the heist in 2014. However, for entertainment reasons, “Baby Bandito’s” story was dramatized and changed.

Getting the Role with Netflix

You might be wondering how Contreras stumbled upon this opportunity to create and interpret such a complex character like Kevin Tapia for Netflix. Remember, he had been pursuing his acting career for a long time since 2018. He was in that constant chase for his artistic craft that meant everything to him.

“[Acting and art] are my reason for being. My focus in life. My vision. My aspiration. My greatest challenge. My liberation. My art is my representation, and I always seek to get to people’s emotions,” Contreras said. “I still haven’t made it, but my focus in the future is to reach people. Their hearts. Make them have a good time and heal. Make them reflect on something. Not everything has to be that deep.”

With that in mind, Contreras always strives to do his best job, and he was contacted by the casting agency he’d been working for to make an audition. He was called a day in advance and did the casting. A week passed by, and he was called again. Then, two months passed, and he was initially not chosen for the role.

BabyBanditoChile.jpg. From left to right: Pablo Macaya, Francisca Armstrong, Nicolás Contreras, Carmen Zabala, and Lukas Vergara. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito,” filmed in Chile. Photos by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
From left to right: Pablo Macaya, Francisca Armstrong, Nicolás Contreras, Carmen Zabala, and Lukas Vergara. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito,” filmed in Chile. Photos by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

But then, he was called again to another audition. This time, it was with the actors and actresses doing the roles of Génesis (Kevin Tapia’s girlfriend), Panda (Kevin Tapia’s best friend), and Kevin Tapia’s mother.

“A week passed by. It was just around New Year’s and by January 3rd, I was called and told I got the role. It was super crazy because I was younger at the time and I was very shy. I’d get super nervous when going to castings. So, I never asked anything,” Contreras recalled, laughing. “They called me back saying Netflix approved me.”

BabyBanditoItaly.jpg. Behind the scenes when filming in Italy. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Behind the scenes when filming in Italy. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

Contreras was amazed, confused, and surprised at the time of that call.

“I was like: when did I do a casting for Netflix? No. The thing for Baby Bandito. Baby Bandito? I did not understand anything. But I’m the pro…I was very shy. I’m the protagonist? Yes. Yes. You’re the one who’s going to be on the posters,” Contreras said, mimicking the moment of amazement.

As if the news weren’t enough, Contreras recalled the cherry on the top, or la guinda del pastel, as they say in Chile. He was asked if he had a passport, and he didn’t have one at the time. He was then told to get a passport because he was going to film in Italy for “Baby Bandito.”

“There it was like: uffff. Wow. Wow,” Contreras said, laughing.

BabyBanditoItaly2.jpg. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” with Nicolás Contreras and Francisca Armstrong in Italy. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” with Nicolás Contreras and Francisca Armstrong in Italy. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

Creating Kevin Tapia

With the selection for a protagonist role for a Netflix series came a great responsibility and huge preparation process for Contreras. It entailed 28 days of pre-production to get ready for the filming. Everything implied a lot of meetings, script readings, having an acting coach, speech and voice classes, skating classes, shooting classes, and classes to learn how to hit. Aside from the intense 28 days of pre-production, Contreras had an immersive and solitary process to create Kevin Tapia’s character.

“I enjoy being alone a lot because I feel I connect a lot with my art. It was a lot about going to skateparks here in Santiago. To spend a lot of time there and go to markets. It was a lot of observation,” Contreras said. “It was also about finding the music for the character. Connect it with me and with what I like.”

Creating Kevin Tapia was no easy feat for Contreras because it implied interpreting a character that comes from a very complex and vulnerable social condition in a Latin American context. It implies understanding that Kevin Tapia is a young man with great aspirations in becoming someone in life while being challenged with the hardships from living in a vulnerable community.


Given that, Contreras was challenged to create a character that avoids the stereotypical narrative of a person who comes from poverty. He did not want to portray that trope, which meant diving deep into the character.

BabyBanditoChile4.jpg. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” with Nicolás Contreras and Lukas Vergara at a skatepark in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” with Nicolás Contreras and Lukas Vergara at a skatepark in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

“The greatest challenge was avoiding stereotyping what is believed of a person who comes from a background with scarce resources. I believe Kevin [Tapia] is the perfect example of that. Not everyone who’s poor does not want to study or don’t have an education,” Contreras said. “At least that’s how I took it. I wanted to show a young man who’s not the stereotype of what’s understood of a young person from the lower class.”

To get to that point of creating a deeper and complex character like Kevin Tapia, Contreras works on three basic elements. The first one is to find the beauty of the character he’s interpreting. This means understanding their beauty on a soul level. The second one is to add things from his own life. These can be words he uses, his life experiences, or an earring and necklace. And the third one is trying to understand the logic behind the character.

“I never judge my character. It’s important to understand his logic. Why is he killing his father? Why is he betraying his wife? Why is he traveling? It goes deeper than saying he shouldn’t be doing that. Of course,” Contreras said. “But we humans function more from the unconscious. I feel that when I’m constructing a character and when working as an actor, it’s very interesting to see.”

When Contreras found the beauty and logic in Kevin Tapia, he also added his own touch by taking inspiration from his life. He used his first impulsive love – when he was 12 or 13 years old – to create a sense of innocence in Kevin Tapia. He also took ideas from when he used to skate in his adolescence and then created a music playlist he thought Kevin would listen to in 2014.

Acting That Portrays Latin America’s Social Problems

But creating Kevin Tapia in a Latin American context also meant, to a certain extent, reflecting on the social problems that the region is faced with. Even if creating social awareness was not “Baby Bandito’s” main objective, it’s one of its many complex layers. For Contreras, it meant portraying a reality that many Latin American countries face on a constant basis.

“I think that in general Latin America, being [a region] with third world countries, there’s a lack of opportunities and it’s very difficult to make it. I feel it’s like representing the lack of opportunities,” Contreras said. “Why the lack of opportunities? Why education here in Chile is expensive. And why, for someone like Kevin, it’s so attractive and convincing to do a robbery? I feel that in that sense, it’s a very clear representation of Latin America.”

Aside from that clear representation, a very blatant portrayal of Latin American identity and culture is very present in the “Baby Bandito.” Contreras’s character shows the complexities of a person living in a low-income community faced with problems of drug trafficking, a lack of opportunities, money, and resources. According to Contreras, these factors generated a way more complex character in terms of emotions.

“I think that the emotions of living lacking things are heavy. Kevin Tapia, at the beginning, says: those who say money doesn’t bring happiness, it’s because they’ve never been poor. It’s very heavy to feel that you don’t have anything. That there’s nothing to eat,” Contreras said. “The lack of material things or food is very heavy on people. Somehow, I feel represented with that at some point in my life.”

Latin America and Its Artistic Vibrance

Not only do these hardships reflect Latin America, but the music and vibrant colors come through as true to the region. The series breathes life through its colorful landscapes full of graffiti combined with a soundtrack heavy on reggaeton. For Contreras, it’s a clear portrayal of Latin America being presented in its true essence rather than a stereotyped version of sepia and always in a small town.

 BabyBanditoChile3.jpg. Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” with Nicolás Contreras and Francisca Armstrong at a skatepark in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Frame from Netflix’s “Baby Bandito” with Nicolás Contreras and Francisca Armstrong at a skatepark in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

In regards to the music, Contreras also contributed with his musical craft. He suggested he could contribute music, and then Netflix offered him to produce a cover of Daddy Yankee’s “ Gasolina ” song. For Contreras, that meant a great responsibility and challenge.

“Gasolina is reggaeton’s anthem. I remember it was the first reggaeton I ever listened to. I feel it was a great challenge for me [to do the cover]. It was also a great blessing. I played with the music and experimented with it,” Contreras said. “I wanted to take it to a place that was more connected with me, which is a much more aggressive tone that feels more thrasher.”

It was the perfect opportunity for Contreras to merge his passions of acting and music, which don’t exist separately for him. For the series, he also participated in a music video for the song “BENDITO” by Chilean artist Pailita . The song is “Baby Bandito’s” theme song, and the video also portrays the series’ overall vibe.

BENDITO.jpg. Frame from Pailita’s “BENDITO” music video with Nicolás Contreras and Pailita. Photo by Rodrigo Navarro. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Frame from Pailita’s “BENDITO” music video with Nicolás Contreras and Pailita. Photo by Rodrigo Navarro. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

But Contreras has also created his own music where he seeks to communicate and express his feelings with the intention of making people feel stuff. Just as art is supposed to do. With his latest song, “Ángel,” he feels is his 2019 self, speaking over a fast beat. With its music video, Contreras again merges his music with acting while performing as if he were in a gym, looking like a boxer. It's a music video where his body plays an elemental role, which is nothing new for Contreras.

The Nude Political Statement

His body is actually a staple in his acting, which serves as a political statement on the screen. Throughout his performance for “Baby Bandito,” Contreras took the risk of making a nude scene when Kevin Tapia ended up in jail. It may look like a simple scene, but for Contreras, it has a deeper meaning than just showing his nude body.


There were two very important factors that helped him in achieving that scene. The first was that Chilean director Pepa San Martín created a safe space where he felt comfortable to do the scene. The second factor was that he had already worked with his team for a long time. That meant that he had enough self-confidence to do it without any problem.

“Making a nude scene for me, as a man, is a political act. For a long time, women have been shown naked, and men are never shown like that. So, for me, it’s super important as a political act. To not be ashamed of that,” Contreras said. “Women have been sexualized unnecessarily many times. I think [as men] we’re in debt with women to open ourselves to this type of acting. As long as I can and I feel comfortable, I think I’ll continue doing it.”

NicolásContrerasÁngel.jpg. Place next to text on the side since it’s vertical. Photo from Nicolás Contreras’s “Ángel” music video. Photo by Romero Martínez and Chokolatin. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Photo from Nicolás Contreras’s “Ángel” music video. Photo by Romero Martínez and Chokolatin. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

Besides making a strong political statement with the nude scene, Contreras believes it’s a key transcendental scene. It shows the raw reality that Kevin Tapia was living at the moment. He had everything. He was living a luxurious life and lost everything. In that scene, he was naked and thrown on the floor in a prison. He was in his most vulnerable state, which is another visual metaphor for a portrayal of the harsh realities in Latin America.


It is through Contreras’s emotional acting in “Baby Bandito” that he managed to portray Latin America in all its different facets. Whether that’s skating through vibrant and colorful graffiti landscapes, energetically dancing to reggaeton, or portraying the region’s harsh conditions with a lack of opportunities, drug trafficking, violence, and crime.


It’s a tremendous Latin American performance that, along with the rest of the team, landed “Baby Bandito” for two weeks straight as Netflix’s number-one series in the non-English category. It’s a marvelous acting performance that leaves Latin America on a high stance.

“It’s very nice that this was completely made in my country [Chile]. I really like it, and in general, I think that there should be more visibility for Latin American stories in these platforms, movie theaters, and culture,” Contreras said. “Latin America has always been my motor. Above all, I feel Latin American, and I feel we have a great richness.”

To keep up with Nicolás Contreras’s emotional acting and music, follow him on Instagram at @nikokont , on TikTok at  @nikkokkont , and on Spotify at  NIKOKONT.


©ArtRKL™️ LLC 2021-2024. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ArtRKL™️ and its underscore design indicate trademarks of ArtRKL™️ LLC and its subsidiaries.

Back to blog

Recent Posts

Feature photo: Pianist without Mask @jomodavila.JPG. Tiffany Román is a Puerto Rican-Chinese pianist, composer, producer, and artist. Photo by Jomo Dávila. Courtesy of Tiffany Román

Tiffany Román

Tiffany Román, a Puerto Rican-Chinese pianist, composer, producer, and artist, merges her diverse cultural heritage and various artistic disciplines.

Elizabeth Lang
AndrésCervillaLights.jpg. Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone player, seashell player, producer, and sound designer. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Andrés Cervilla: Part II

Costa Rican Andrés Cervilla, an award-winning trombone and seashell player, creates tropical futuristic music that merges various cultures.

Elizabeth Lang
Feature photo: AndrésCervillaPabloCambronero.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone player, seashell player, producer, and sound designer. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Andrés Cervilla: Part I

Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone player, seashell player, producer, and sound designer who creates tropical futuristic music.

Elizabeth Lang