Actor Jacob Vargas might be oozing with machismo when he shows off his athletic physique and precisely-trimmed goatee during photo shoots and maintains his manly image when he stars in films like “The Hills Have Eyes II” as a mutant-hunting solider or as a stereotypical Mexican gangster in “Next Friday,” but he’d be the first to tell you about his sensitive side.

“I like to watch “Design Star” and “Project Runway” with my wife,” Vargas, 37, says during an interview to promote the release of his last film “Death Race” on DVD. “Maybe on the surface people would think I was macho, but…I’m not scared to get in touch with my feminine side, you know? I like gardening and interior decorating. Every now and then I like to cook.”

In “Death Race,” Vargas pushes his testosterone to its limits when he plays Gunner, prison mechanic who rebuilds muscle cars used in races where inmates kill each other in hopes to win their freedom. Set in a futuristic world where the economy is in shambles, the bloody competition is a moneymaker when the prison’s icy warden (Joan Allen) charges the general public to watch via Pay-Per-View.

Now, four months after the film was first released in theaters, Vargas sees the fine line between fiction and reality as the current U.S. economy worsens every day and institutes like banks and credit card companies are feeling the crunch.

Metaphorically speaking, it might be a different movie than it was in August with an economic crisis looming, but Vargas doesn’t think the film makes any real political statement. He’s not sure, however, if something as drastic as death races could appeal to a mass audience, even though he is stunned at what people find entertaining these days.

“The taste people have in entertainment surprises me,” Vargas said. “I remember when reality shows first started, I thought, ‘Who would watch this stuff?’ I thought people got dumber every time they watched an episode of “Flavor of Love.” However, these shows are huge and draw in big audiences. And they are cheaper to make.”

Vargas says he sees the same thing happening in the world of sports.

“I remember I used to watch boxing with my family and all of a sudden UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] and MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] came out,” Vargas said. “I thought it was so brutal and that no one was going to want to watch it. Now, it’s one of the biggest sports out there. People always want something new.”

Although he does not watch much reality TV, Vargas admits that he does like a few of the shows that are more talent-based. Basically, he’d rather be inspired by a designer’s creativity when choosing a color palate than watch a group of desperate women fight over a millionaire.

“I like the shows that are on Home and Garden [HGTV] where someone is given a blank slate and by the end of the show there is something beautiful that has been created,” Vargas said. “There’s actual talent there.”

The same sentiment can be said about Vargas, who, after 22 years as an actor, is as excited to land a role as he was when he first started. He still takes nothing for granted and is thankful his success in the industry continues to give him a viable shot at every audition.

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