Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? Did you always plan to be an actor, or was there some other career you’d planned to explore?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY. My parents are originally from Puerto Rico. I got the “acting bug” at the age of nine when a theater group for children called Acting By Children came and started up a performing arts program in Brooklyn. I took to it from day one and I haven’t looked back since.
I’m fascinated by psychology (I minored in it in college) so I probably would’ve chosen that for a career path had I not decided to be an actor.
Everyone has a different path to success. Tell us about your journey to where you are with your career is today.
Well, I’d have to say that I took the long and difficult path to success (laugh). For all intents and purposes, I’ve been a professional working actor since I was ten years old. I had a great deal of success early on as a young actor but my career was at times rife with disappointments and not getting cast in projects. Frustrating as that may be, it is the nature of the beast. But I worked extremely hard over the years, built up a very good resume, learned from my peers, took coaching and classes and really “Invested” in myself. If you’re able to, financially or otherwise, you have to commit to this career 100%, give it your all and have a great deal of tenacity. I NEVER gave up even when times were at their toughest. If you can find something you love doing AND make money doing, that to me is sheer bliss!
Is there a role model, mentor, or other person who helped you along the road to success? Is there someone you act as a mentor for?
First I’d have to say that a role model for me, at least in the artistic community, is someone who not only embraces their craft but also gives back or contributes to their community as well as charitable causes. If they happen to use their celebrity to further those causes then so be it. People like Paul Newman, Angelina Jolie, Bono and others not only inspire me as artists but as philanthropists and givers of their hearts and souls for the betterment of mankind. One of my favorite mentors throughout high school and college was the great veteran actor, Eli Wallach. He was probably the most responsible for not only making me a better actor but also a “tougher” actor. That is to say, he helped me to develop a tough skin for this business. He also taught me about the business side of performing and how to make the most of your abilities.
I’ve been fortunate enough to coach and mentor actors myself or do lectures for young people in school/drama programs, etc. It’s nice to know that you can share your experiences, triumphs and failures with people fascinated by or interested in a career in acting. I feel they can learn a great deal from me that they can’t get in just any classroom.
You’ve done a fair amount of voice work with Sesame Street (and other children’s projects). Tell our readers about how you got started doing voice work.
Well the interesting thing about all the voiceover work I’ve done is that I sort of fell into it. I was around when video games were in their infancy and just starting to use actors to play roles in the “cinematic” portions of the games. I was asked to do some voices for SEGA–something unlike doing animated projects I’ve been involved in. It was pretty new territory but I really took to it. I’ve always loved doing different character voices, impersonations, caricatures from a young age–and I found that I was really good at it. That translated into doing animated features, spokesman campaigns, narration and iconic characters like the ones on Sesame Street. Which was not only a treat but a great honor for me to be part of. The best part of voiceover work? You can do it in your ‘jammies if you want–and I have, sort of, on occasion done so! :)
You are currently in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” which is beginning it’s 2nd Season. Tell us about your character – and how your character has evolved during the series.
I joined Secret Life in the middle of its first season when I was cast in the role of Adrian Lee’s estranged father, Rubén Enríquez. Through an arrangement between Ruben and Adrian’s mother, Cindy, the two decided that it would be best if Cindy raised Adrian from the time she was born. They never married. When Adrian turns sixteen she decides that she wants to seek out and know who her father is. When she finds him, Ruben is at first a bit cold to Adrian and reminds her that per his and her Mother’s arrangement, he would not get involved in her life. Reluctantly, he lets Adrian go disappointed with the outcome of her first encounter with her Dad but then he later makes an effort to become a part of Adrian’s life and be the father he never was (or was allowed to be) to her.
They don’t always agree on things but at least they communicate openly and honestly. I think that’s key in this relationship AND in real life.
Ruben is aware of Adrian’s “promiscuity” and encourages her to embrace a much more, shall we say, conservative approach to dating. But he also praises her for being a straight A and model student, practicing safe-sex and in spite of their butting heads on occasion, they truly care for and love each other as father and daughter. They don’t always agree on things but at least they communicate openly and honestly. I think that’s key in this relationship AND in real life.
Are you a parent? Do you feel the series is a good representation of how kids are living these days? How parents are parenting?
I’m not a parent but my girlfriend is mother to a pre-teen. I also have nieces and nephews that I have a “fatherly” connection to in addition to being an uncle. So, even though I’ve never raised a child, I’ve been privy to the joys, difficulties, challenges and rewards that come from being a parent and raising a child. I think the series is a spot on representation of what teenagers are like today and the challenges and experiences they face–difficult or otherwise on an everyday basis. We really make an effort on the show to dramatize the cause and effect of the often difficult decisions teens have to make these days. Whether it’s issues dealing with sex, drug problems, social acceptance, etc., we try to give real insight on how to approach and perhaps remedy problems that may arise. But we also focus on the fact that, with help from their friends and elders as well as having good communication, children can have very loving and enriching lives on their way to becoming adults.
It’s easy to say that “bad kids” stem from having bad parents or bad upbringing. I don’t always agree with this theory. There are vast reasons why a child may be experiencing difficulties in life outside of their homes. I do think that the more hands on and attentive parents are and the more they just LISTEN to a child and to what he or she has to say without prejudice the better the relationship between themselves and their children is–I think it makes for better parenting.
How do you feel being Latin as affected your career? Do you feel that you are typecast or ever discriminated against? Or do you feel that being Latin has been an asset?
It shouldn’t matter what color your skin is or what language you speak. What should matter is talent.
Being Latin has been an enormous asset to me in many ways. First off, being bilingual (or multilingual) is SUCH a benefit these days. We are fast becoming a GLOBAL community. And as such, we have to do our best to learn about and respect different cultures. Being bilingual has allowed me to work in TWO markets with regard to show business and opened me up to many more opportunities. It wasn’t always this way. I remember when Latin WASN’T “in” and I was subjected to being pigeonholed or typecast in stereotypical and often demeaning roles. Playing a gang member or a car thief gets old after a while.
It became such a problem for me that for a time I dropped my Latin surname, reluctantly I might add, in order to work more. The good news is that it worked. The bad news is that IT WORKED. It just validated a point that shouldn’t have to be made. I worked more because I was what I consider to be “ethnically ambiguous”. It shouldn’t matter what color your skin is or what language you speak. What should matter is talent. Every other ethnic group in Hollywood has had its share of racism, and often stereotypical roles and difficulties finding work before landing “good”, positive and rewarding ones. It will always be a struggle but things have gotten exponentially better for “minorities” in show business.
How do you stay in shape with a grueling filming schedule? Tell us about your workout routine and eating habits. What is your “go-to” meal?
Working on set often translates to LONG hours on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s tough to stay focused, which you have to be, when shooting. I LOVE working out…especially when I practice boxing and martial arts. It gives me the energy and focus I need to succeed and keep up with my schedule. Whether I’m at work, doing functions or just having fun. I try to eat healthy but I also don’t skimp on the “bad foods”–I love a good burger and fries from time to time and I have a ridiculous sweet tooth! Craft services on set can be the devil sometimes, haha! My go-to meal is grilled chicken, tuna or salmon on a bed of healthy greens! It’s tasty, filling and OH SO good for ya’! Sushi is a close second for the same reasons.
Work isn’t everything; other than what you do for a living, what are you passionate about?
I’m extremely passionate about giving my time and effort to good and charitable causes. I’ve always tried to do my part to help those not as fortunate as I’ve been. There is such a joy I get from helping out people in need. It’s what REALLY matters. I’ve been involved with such organizations as APLA, Habitat for Humanity, Equity Fights AIDS, The ASPCA and others.
What do you do during your downtime? Sports? Games? Travel?
When my schedule allows for it, I LOVE to travel! I’ve been to over thirty-five countries on four continents–and counting! There’s nothing better for me than traveling to far off places and experiencing different cultures. From Iceland to Kenya to Japan to Malaysia, I love seeing the world. I’m also a big sports fan–whether playing or spectating. I’m from New York originally so a BIG Yankees fan, Jets and Giants and even though they are pathetic these days–the Knicks. I’m true blue and not some fair weather fan!
I’m also a freak for Scrabble. Yep, I’m a geek that way.
Many actors are well read. Do you read in your time off-set? If so, what’s really hooked you lately (and what book is currently on your nightstand)?
Well when I DO find the time, I love to read a good book–fiction or non. The last book I read was Angels and Demons. I’m a big Dan Brown fan. I love how he mixes fiction with real locations, organizations and topics and makes it seem as though they were real and actual events. Makes for great entertainment. I’m also starting to read some of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda and The Autobiography of a Yogi. He was a fascinating individual.
What are the “top five” songs on your Ipod?
Hmm, Ok here goes:
- Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You”
- Stevie Wonder’s “Summer Soft”,
- Me’shell Ndegeocello’s “Love Song #1,
- Jill Scott’s “Golden” and
- John Legend’s “Everybody Knows”.
Gotta give a shout out to a little known Latin group called Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela! I love ALL their songs! ;)
Where else can we look for your work? What’s next for you?
My latest film is entitled The Ode, It’s currently doing great in the festival circuit and we hope for a distributor and release in the near future. Next up for me is what the universe deems I should be doing–hopefully, that’ll translate into more work and wonderful experiences!
If you weren’t an actor, what would you “be when you grow up” ?
As I mentioned before, I love psychology. Tells us what we’re all about and what makes us tick. I’d want to be a cooler, modern day Freud with a dash of Dr. Phil thrown in when I “grow up”.
Is there anything we missed? Now is the time to speak up tell us all about it!
I’m hoping to make a trip to the “last great frontier” and continue my passion for travel when I visit Antarctica. My goal is to visit all seven continents and I can’t leave THAT one out–cold and potentially uninviting as it is!
I’m currently working on creating a new website that will feature pictures, videos, upcoming projects and events I’ll be attending. That is under construction. Otherwise you can visit me or my fan page on Facebook and at www.imdb.com for general information on me including pictures and bios.
Photo Credit: cheriefoto.com