It wasn’t long after making a name for himself in the modeling industry in Mexico that underwear model Fernando Noriega realized he could use his charisma, talent, and good looks to expand into other avenues.
When he was given an opportunity to make an appearance in an episode of the Spanish TV series “Lo que callamos las mujeres” in 2003, he jumped at the chance of becoming an actor. Since then, Noriega has starred in a number of Spanish-language TV shows including “Amor en custodia,” “La doble vida,” and “Glam Girls.” He was also in the 2008 film “Más allá de mí” opposite Humberto Busto (“Amores Perros”) and Flor Payán (“Arráncame la vida”).
While all of Noriega’s work has been produced in Mexico, it was always a dream of his to make a crossover and shoot an English-language film in the U.S. Noreiga got his first chance to do this last year when he was cast in the movie “Hollywood Untitled,” which also stars Spanish actress Elsa Pataky (“Máncora,” “Snakes on a Plane”). In the film, Noriega plays Julio, an immigrant who moves to Los Angeles to earn a better living for the wife and child he left behind in Mexico. “Hollywood Untitled” is scheduled for release later this year. Along with a new film, Noriega can also be seen on the TV show “Morir en martes” starting in May.
During an interview with me, Noriega, 27, talked about working on a movie in L.A. for the first time, what drew him to the project, and explained how he was able to overcome the challenges of acting in a language he is still trying to master.
Why did you want to be a part of this project?
First of all, the casting was awesome for me. Sharing credits with Elsa Pataky (“Snakes on a Plane”) and Eric Mabius (TV’s “Ugly Betty”) was exciting. Then, I read the script and fell in love with my character and the whole story. It’s a very intense and human story. I was really happy about getting the part.
Tell me about your character Julio. How is he similar to you in real life?
He is a very kind character and someone who doesn’t care too much about himself. He wants to provide for his family and give them a better life. I think one of the similarities with me is because I came to the U.S. like Julio, looking for a better life and better opportunity.
This is your first English-language project. Did you find acting in English a challenge?
It was very challenging. When my character is first introduced in the story, his English is very poor. But there are many years that pass in the story so there is a lot of progress in the way he speaks English. The director (Mun Chee Yong) really helped me with my scenes. I even had a coach who helped me with the language. As you can tell, I have a really strong [Mexican] accent.
Would you like to continue doing movies in the U.S.?
Yes, it was a great experience. I had been working in Mexico for the past seven years. Coming to the states and going to a city where I had never been and being exposed to a new way of working was hard, but I felt comfortable. Everyone made me feel at home. I still live in Mexico City, but it would be great to work in L.A. again.
Did anything surprise you about working with actors from Hollywood?
I was really surprised how nice and sincere everyone was and how helpful they were with my character. These are big stars but they are all very grounded. I wasn’t expecting that.
There are a lot of movies that have tackled the issue of immigration in one way or another. What makes this movie so special when it comes to this topic?
I agree with you that there have been many, but I think this script is not all about immigration. Even though my character is an immigrant, there are a lot of stories. My character makes promises to his family. I think it has a lot to do with that, too.