You got your acting start in Mexico and broke into the Hollywood scene in 2011 on “Panam,” and you now star on “Quantico.” Did you find it challenging to get roles in the American entertainment industry? Why or why not?
Acting was never a part of my plan growing up…it was destiny, I suppose.
I grew up in the restaurant business and always thought I would go on to taking care of the family business. One day, I happened to be visiting a friend that worked at some television studios. Someone saw me and invited me to join the network’s acting school. I was 20 at the time, and on summer vacation. I decided to give it a chance and before the summer was over, a producer for the network held auditions to all the students for his new show, and that’s where my acting career started. I always had exclusivity contracts, which didn’t let me work for any other network but that one. Once that contract was over, I was able to accept projects elsewhere. So, to answer your question, I think my career is naturally transitioning, it just flows and falls into place by itself. I don’t know if I can say it’s been hard but on the other hand, I’ve had a fourteen year career so maybe it’s taken me that long to get roles in the American market…I suppose it depends on how you look at it.
What are some of the key differences between the Latin American and US industries?
Basically the language…the rest is generally very similar. I guess the programming is different as well, there are a lot more dramas than anything else. In the Latin American market, the most popular shows are Telenovelas, which are on prime time for one hour a day…you can see why they’re so popular, people get very attached to them.
Can you tell us a bit about your character, Leon Velez, on “Quantico?” What drew you to the role? Do you relate to him in any way?
Leon is a photojournalist and because of his work, he is well traveled. He’s seen a lot of things in his line of work…most of which are very dark. I love action and thrillers and that’s what drew me to this project. I don’t relate to Leon and that’s usually the case with most of my characters. One of the many things I love about acting is that I get to interpret different people and that’s what I’m always looking for in characters; that they are different from one another.
In your opinion, what makes “Quantico” stand out from other shows in the crime/drama genre?
The writing; the parallel storylines and most importantly, our very diverse cast.
Do you feel that your Latin American background allows for typecasting on US shows? How do you try and break the mold?
I’m sure it does…I’ve seen it firsthand. The interesting thing in this case is that I’m Mexican American-Mexican father and American mother. I grew up in both countries. If I used my mother’s maiden name, which is Spencer, and didn’t have a career in Latin America, I would most likely get offered other types of characters because physically, I could be from anywhere. I don’t try to break the mold. On the contrary, having a career in those markets means I bring a large following to the project and that is something American networks are aware of and interested in.
Aside from an acting career, you’re also a singer and have released two albums. Can you tell us about your inspiration/creative process when writing music? Can fans expect a new album in the near future?
Music was actually part of my life before acting. Growing up, I had a band and we would play at parties etc. I love music in general but jazz, blues, and big band have a special place in my life. I started listening to it because of my grandmother. When she passed, I dedicated my first album to her and produced a show with a whole big band and dancers in a cabaret in Mexico City, called “Amapola.” Most of the songs I’ve written are for shows I’ve done. I’ve discovered it’s the only way to do both.
What’s the best lyric you’ve ever written?
In my opinion, it’s one that talks about how we are all equal; doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s in Spanish but I’ll translate a little piece for you…
Tu y yo somos iguales
Somos hermanos y somos carnales
Mexicano Americano LatinoAmericano
Es lo mismo somos uno
Abre los ojos mi hermano
Tú respiras yo respiro para que nos peleamos
Ni dividas los latidos de un mismo corazón
You and I are equal
We are brothers and we are carnal
Mexican American Latin American
It’s the same thing
We are one
Open your eyes, my brother
You breathe, I breathe
Why are we fighting?
Don’t divide the heartbeats of one same heart
When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
I wasn’t sure of it even when I had already started my career. It wasn’t until I finished shooting the first role I played and people started calling and writing the production, asking them to write me back in. They did and I ended up being the lead in that show. When I realized the power the fans have and I understood I could make a living out it, and I had the support of fans, that’s when decided I wanted to do this forever.
As a model and actor, do you feel that men and women face the same pressure to adhere to the industry’s (sometimes unrealistic) standards of beauty?
In my opinion, there’s nothing that stands out more than uniqueness. That’s where you find the real beauty. Doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, if you “find yourself,” you will have more success than if you’re trying to be someone you’re not.
Do any of the skills you need for singing/performing and acting overlap or do you keep both careers separate?
I’ve learned that it’s impossible to do both things; each one is a full time job.
That is why I try to incorporate my music to my shows, when possible.
What’s the craziest thing a fan ever done for or said to you?
Wow! Hahahaha, that’s a difficult question to answer. Let me just tell you, I have physical scars from fans trying to take a souvenir.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Playing characters I’ve never played before and looking for the next best character that demands the most of me.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Greg Vaughan
FASHION EDITOR: Javon Drake
HAIR STYLIST: Mike Fernandez for EVO hair products
MAKEUP ARTIST: Asari Suzanne using Rilastil progression HD brightness intensifier and Make-Up Designory pressed powder foundation
STUDIO: Ammon Carver Studio
PHOTO ASSISTANT: Roshanknie Hayes
INTERVIEWED BY REBECCA BESNOS – Vulkan Editor