Charming award winning Boricua, E.J. Bonilla can currently be see in a festival favorite, “The House That Jack Built” which tells the story of Jack
Maldonado, a hot-blooded, ambitious young hustler who buys a small apartment building in the Bronx and moves his boisterous Latino family into the
complex to live rent-free. Tension builds as he imposes his views on everyone around him, including his fiancee (Melissa Fumero), while hiding the
fact that his corner store is a front for selling marijuana. E.J. talks to LatinoBuzz about upbringing and his skyrocketing career so far.
What was the moment you decided you wanted to be an artist?
For a long time I didn’t know what I wanted or what I loved to do. Friends had that blessing and I remember thinking when I would have my turn. Then,
in 9th Grade I sort of fell into playing Danny Zuko randomly in that years GREASE themed portion of the dance show. The moment I hit the stage I think
something in me knew. Even in rehearsals. I’d fallen in Love.
Did you grow up in a household of artists?
For a while I felt like I spoke a different language than my immediate family. It wasn’t until my teens that I met and got to know better members of my
extended family (my cousin Alma in particular) that self- identified as artists. Something in us clicked together; in the way we thought, in the
language we chose to use, in what we enjoyed. She helped me see and appreciate a lot both about myself and my loved ones. And when I look back I
recognize now that I indeed do come from a large family of artists. Whether they necessarily realize it or not.
Were you aware of ‘House’ writer Joseph B. Vasquez’ work or his life when you got involved with The House That Jack Built? And what did you think?
Please, tell me you have seen Vasquez’ ‘Hanging With The Homeboys’!
I was not aware of Joe before this movie but ‘Jack’ has certainly allowed me an education and an opportunity. Hanging With The Homeboys was one of my
first homework assignments by Henry Barrial, our director. I welcomed it. We could say Joseph Vasquez was before his time but really I just think he
was a real artist and Real art stand the test of time. ‘The Homeboys’ is no different. Even with the theatricality of cinema at the time, Joe made it
feel intentional. Painting a portrait of our time in the 90’s within urban New York with colorful and lavish brush strokes. I Loved it. It was a
What drew you to the role of ‘Jack’? Could you relate to the core of the character?
To me, ‘Jack’ is an ode to the males in my family. Strong. Opinionated. Loving. And with that special “hint” of machismo, to say the least. I loved
having the opportunity to play him. This film is in honor of my mother and those males in my family, specifically my brother Ivan from whom I borrowed
most of Jacks mannerisms.
How does working with Henry (House), Cruz (Drown) and Nick (Mamitas), Joshua (FOUR) differ from one another? (btw I recommend you for Mamitas!) and did
you have to adjust your approach as an actor?
First of all, thank you for the recommendation. Lol. And yes honestly, they are all very different directors. Some are more specific, some are calmer
than others when the pressure is on, some use more colorful language and they all communicate differently. But they all have love and care in common.
They are all artists. And they have voices that I believe shine through within their films. To add to that, as a director myself I have learned so much
from all three. I would like to thank them for that.
Ok, Ideal role: What’s the story, who is the director and who is your co-star?
Lol. Always one of the hardest questions to answer…. I don’t know. I love telling truthful honest stories. I suppose I’d love the opportunity to be a
superhero within a realistic dramatic piece. It would have opportunity for humor too of course. And ideally I would be the writer/director? (Though I
suppose if I was, it is POSSIBLE I would give myself a meaty but smaller part so I could focus on the latter of my duties… Maybe). Annnnnnnd my
co-star would be… One of my actual best friends. I am blessed to have so many beautiful talented people around me, I would like them all in my film
What is next for you?
I’m working on creating a sitcom with some of those best friends as we speak. We recently just shot our pitch video. You can follow us on our endeavor
on INSTAGRAM @TheGatosNegros. Also my writing partner and I are in the midst of finalizing a final draft of our latest short film, “The Normally.” We
should be shooting sometime in December under the production company we’re creating, ALMOST DARK, prod. In addition, if you guys are looking for
amazing music from a brand new indie artist, I just copped “LIFE HAPPENS: The BiPolar Symptoms” by Naiqui on iTunes. Seriously one of the greatest
pieces of art I’ve ever heard. It is genius. I’m looking to see if I can have him score my next piece.
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