I must have met E.O. around the winter of ‘96. He was that kid from around the way that was in Spike Lee’s Clockers. We’d catch each other in the
heights here and there but not often enough. Years later I decided to make my own short film. I sent Elvis the script. He was down. We shot with a few
hundred dollars on the Canon XL (the Excalibur of its time) on the stoops, brownstones and rooftops of Harlem, New York.
The film had some sweet humble
success with festivals all things considering. I still don’t know how best to direct actors but Nolasco always had that razor sharp focus when it came
to his craft. He made it seem effortless but I knew it came from years of discipline. He’s gone on to work with some of the best and after a few pilots
that weren’t picked up, ABC will debut “American Crime,” an anthology series based on class, race & gender politics created by Academy Award-winner John Ridley, on March
5th. Fast forward, 2015, there’s nothing like seeing your homeboy’s billboard on Sunset and Vine.
LatinoBuzz: Do you recall that first moment you wanted to be an actor?
I can honestly say that…that moment of wanting to be an actor, was a moment that found me. After many early years of dancing, it was not until I arrived
at George Washington High School, where I was faced with the options of what I wanted as my extra curriculum studies. Now, the only thing on that list that
came close to dancing was “Introduction to Theatre”. I said “well maybe I can get to dance in this class”… (Not So). It was my drama teacher Robert
Stonebridge who after the first few weeks in his class he saw something in me, that I of course did not see in myself. He challenged me to play the role of
Bill Starbuck in the play The Rainmaker. From that moment on, I found my voice, my body felt something magical and new, I felt comfortable, I finally was
introduced to a new form of expression, the freedom of expression, the art to play. That was the moment and I never looked back. Thank You Mr. Stonebridge.
LatinoBuzz: What was the most discouraging moment you have ever experienced?
That’s a good question. I feel that the times I’ve had experience those moments, it has been when I’ve allowed outside voices to try and deter me from my
path, my passion. Those voices can be very discouraging and destructive to one’s journey. Today, I make sure to listen to the voice inside me, the voice of
the heart, the voice of my passion, my truth.
LatinoBuzz: Who has been the biggest influence in your life and work?
That’s a long list, however I’ll narrow it down to this many… My mother, my father, who have taught me the importance of hard work in a very dignified
way. My aunts and uncles, who have taught me the value of family, music, dance and history. My good friend Robert (Fileo) Lewis, who has taught me the
power of unconditional love. My brothers and sisters, especially my younger brother Yanko “Valentin”, who is always, and I mean always busy and relevant,
I’m telling you that kid don’t stop. Work wise…Spike Lee, Darnell Martin, John Ridley…And tons of many, many more…
LatinoBuzz: What’s your take on the ‘Whitewashing’ Hollywood has been accused of lately?
The Whitewash of Hollywood is not new but the broader conversation that we are having about it is. The fact that people of color are not the only ones
involved in the public conversation about it, is new. That’s a good thing for everyone involved. Diversity in film and television benefits society as a
LatinoBuzz: You did a one-man show based on Junot Diaz’ Purlizter Prize awarded ‘The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ – you didn’t find that
daunting at all? We are talking a very celebrated novel.
Oscar Wao? Daunting? Nah! When this project was brought to my attention, I was immediately in and up for the challenge. I, at that time (2010) had already
read Junot Diaz’ previous works, had read The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao two times, therefore I was of fan, a fan of the book and of Junot’s work.
Now, having said that, to sit in a stuffy New York City basement at a theatre on 36th street with the great director Elise Thoron for two whole weeks (lost
count of the hours) and together work on the adaptation of this magnificent, extraordinary and compelling Pulitzer prize winning novel…OK, I think we can
now revisit that word… ‘daunting”… Lol. We were able to narrow it down to an hour and 10 minutes and tell the beautiful story of Oscar De Leon and
Yunior and audiences loved it. Truly a pleasure to take on this story on stage.
LatinoBuzz: I always have to ask this: Your dream role, dream director, dream co-star.
Dream Role? I would say, playing Sidney Poitier on the big screen. Directors? Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, Lee Daniels. Co-Star? Will Smith.
Do the social media lovin’!
Airing times and schedule for American Crime can be found here: http://abc.go.com/shows/american-crime