Do you consider this a breakout role?
Sure, I do even though I’ve done other things. I’ve been praying to God for a breakout role and he brought me [the role of] Jesus in “Next Day Air.” It’s a beautiful thing and a lot of fun. It’s a really exciting time in my life right now. I’ve popped up here and there in the past but as far as a lead role in a major movie that’s going to hit 1,400 screens across the country…that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.
I’m guessing your life is made up of a lot of days dedicated to auditions.
You gotta audition until you become like Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington where you start getting offered roles. I do have roles offered to me, but as far as the bigger movies you have to prove yourself in Hollywood. I have no problem with that. I consider myself a pretty talented guy. I make sure I’m always training and learning and sharpening my skills every day. I have no problem going out for the same role as 10 other dudes because I know nobody else is me. They can’t do what I do and they don’t have the same swagger. When [the character of] Jesus came around, I read the script and thought to myself, “This is me. This is Cisco without the criminal activity.” He’s from the East Coast and he’s Puerto Rican just like me. If I had to write a role for myself to step out into the scene, this would be it. I was able to bring so much of myself to the role.
Do you feel that up to this point you’ve been paying your dues in the industry and, if so, when will you know that that part of your career is behind you?
I definitely think that I have paid my dues. A lot of actors paint a picture like they got discovered overnight or that they just showed up in a film and they have arrived. I’ll be the first one to keep it real and let the public know that’s not how it happens. It’s a lot of hard work and patience. If it happens overnight it goes overnight. Nothing has happened overnight for me. I’m not going to win the lotto. You gotta pay your dues. God puts you through tests to see if you really want it. If you really want it you have to stick to it and you’ll end up making it sooner or later. You just gotta show up with your A game. When you draw in box office like Will Smith, things will get easier.
You’ve been living in L.A. for about nine years. What have you learned about the cutthroat part of the industry that you didn’t know when you first started?
Hollywood is all about relationships. When I got [to L.A.] my first audition was great and the casting director thanked me for doing such a great job and he even got great feedback from the director. The next thing you know some other guy got the part. Why? Because he was the producer’s cousin or the director’s best friend. When it comes to relationships, I like to build friendships. Then, the rest will come. There are millions of people out there. At the end of the day, who are you gonna hook up? Are you gonna hook up your boy or some stranger? Everyone’s gonna look out for their friends. I’ve learned to not get upset about things like that. It’s an element of the industry you gotta deal with. But the more friends you have, the better your chances are.
Since you’re now part of that element, will you hook up your own friends?
I won’t lie, I will. But only the ones that deserve it and that I believe in. Not all your friends have talent to be honest with you. I’m a Sagittarius so I’m gonna tell you straight up. If you can’t sing, get your butt off of “American Idol.” I’m not gonna push my friend who has a dream to become a singer if he has the voice of an alley cat. You have to look out for your own, but you have to be realistic and honest or you’re gonna end up throwing someone under the bus.
What was the chemistry like between you and Yasmin Deliz?
It was good. She’s Dominican from New York. I’m Puerto Rican from New York. We already had that East Coast flavor crackin’. It was really easy to create that chemistry. She was like the Abbott to my Costello and vice versa. It was a lot of fun. At the beginning Chita was supposed to be Chito, my brother, but the producers thought there would be too much testosterone so we needed a female to break that up. They did a great job bringing in Yasmin. I auditioned with every Latina in town and Yasmin came in with natural talent. Not to mention she is beautiful, which made it very easy to show up on set to do my scenes with her. She’s feisty and fiery and spicy in real life.