He may have started taking acting lessons to get out of detention back in high school, but actor Maximiliano Hernández soon found himself attending the same theatrical classes even when he wasn’t getting in trouble.

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Hernández, who is of Honduran descent, got his start in the industry off-Broadway before turning his attention to T.V. After one-episode bit parts on shows like “Law & Order” and the short-lived “Conviction,” Hernández earned roles in director Mira Nair’s 2006 drama, “The Namesake” starring Kal Penn (“Harold & Kumar”) and the crime drama “Pride and Glory” starring Edward Norton (“The Incredible Hulk”) and Colin Farrell (“In Bruges”).

Hernández now stars in the family comedy “Hotel for Dogs” with Emma Roberts (“Nancy Drew”) and Academy Award-nominated actor Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda”). In the film, Hernández, 35, plays Officer Mike, a policeman on the trail of the film’s two troublemaking albeit dog-loving kids. Via phone, he talked about what led him to acting and what kind of dog he’s hoping his son will choose when he’s old enough to take care of one.

Other than it getting you out of detention, what else did you enjoy about acting when you first started?

I think it’s all about finding a character in yourself. When you start exploring the things that are inside you, it’s interesting and cathartic. It’s nice to go through those emotions.

How has your theatrical experience helped you with the work you are doing today?

I think theater did everything for me. It taught me to focus and listen to people. These are tools I can carry with me for the rest of my life. To me there’s nothing like theater. Television and film are great, but there’s something about having an audience watch as you put yourself through these moments. There’s something beautiful about that. You don’t always get something like that in life. For young actors, it’s a perfect way to start your career.

But at some point you realized you wanted to move on…

Yeah, I was doing theater for years. One night at a show in New York, a manager came up to me and handed me his card and said he’d really like to talk to me. Within a month of having a manager, I did an episode of “Law & Order” and starting doing more TV. It was nice find someone who could see my ability.

I know you have a 5-year-old son named Diego. How exciting is it for him that you’re in “Hotel for Dogs,” a movie that he can actually see?

(Laughs) He’s really excited. We just got back from New York and he saw this huge display for the movie and he pressed his face against the glass and was like, ‘Papa, the movie!’ This is my first family film.

Do you have a dog at home?

We don’t have a dog. My son asks me for one everyday. I grew up loving dogs. I was the one that brought strays home. When [Diego] turns 10, he can pick any dog he wants.

Since you worked with so many purebreds in this movie, is there any that you’re hoping he’ll choose when he’s old enough to get one?

I’m very partial to the French bulldog and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. But I’m not going to put any thoughts in his head, wink, wink.

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