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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actors > Feature Interviews A to E > Kevin Alejandro

 

Kevin Alejandro

Acting Chose Him

by Jay S. Jacobs

During the past year, Kevin Alejandroís career has blown wide open.  After years of toiling in the television trenches, he finally has picked up the white-hot interest that has casting directors looking his way as a go-to guy for street-smart sensitivity. 

First, Alejandro took on the recurring role of Santos, the gang-banging ex of Bettyís sister on the ABC buzz series Ugly Betty.  With that series of appearances putting him on peopleís radar, he landed a starring role in the heavily-hyped FOX action series Drive.  Of course, if Hollywood teaches you anything, it is to expect the unexpected.  So despite getting much critical love Drive barely made it out of the gates Ė with the network using an itchy trigger finger to pull it long before it had a chance to catch on.  Not only that, his Ugly Betty character was shot in the season finale of that series. 

However all things happen for a reason and the premature cancellation of Drive and the apparent demise of his Ugly Betty character opened him up for his most challenging role yet (on his third network in less than a year) in the sophomore season of the popular CBS law drama Shark with James Woods. 

The new character is Danny Reyes Ė a tough-but-honest prosecutor with a past who storms into the life of Sebastian Stark and his lawyers and starts a war of wills over the fine points of the law and ethics. 

Alejandro took the time to give us a call Ė after grabbing breakfast at an extremely crowded Venice Beach joint Ė to fill us in on his career and what it's like being the new guy on Shark.

I just watched your first episode of Shark last nightÖ  You were really good in that.  I was supposed to interview you last year when you were on Drive but unfortunately that happened rightÖ

Ö Right as we were getting canceled? 

Yeah...

How were you able to see the first episode? 

They sent me a rough-cut screenerÖ 

Oh, thatís really cool.  Iíd like to see the first episode. 

You were really good in it. 

Thanks, man.  Itís a challenge.  A pretty different kind of character than Iím used to playing. 

I interviewed George Lopez just a couple of weeks ago and he was saying that most roles for Mexican-Americans were criminals and guys with no shirts. 

(He laughs heartily.)

Whatís it like to get to play a smart and principled prosecutor? 

You know, itís amazing.  Like I said, itís the first time I got to play something like this outside the theater.  Itís like going back to school.  I have to research.  I have to understand exactly what Iím saying.  Obviously, Iím not used to some of the legal jargon that has to be spoken.  Itís such a fine stance.  Itís like going back to school. 

I read that you sold everything you owned to move from Texas to Hollywood to pursue acting.  How did you originally get involved with acting and how did you know that you would be able to make it? 

Yeah.  Well, originally what got me interested was high school theater.  I was fortunate enough to go to this high school that was a very successful in the theater department.  My high school teacher was named Jerry Worsham.  There was a thing called UIL, University Interscholastic League, and weíd compete against other schools in sports and arts and math and sciences.  Iím not sure if they have it out here, but I know itís a Texas thing.  I just happened to be with this guy who was the winningest state director.  He was there for like 36 years or something like that.  Through state appearances and fifteen state wins and all the other times were second place.  I played sports and I needed an arts class.  I went in and he took me under his wings for some reason.  I started doing plays, got into one-acts, competed all through high school.  Ended up receiving the best actor at state award my senior year Ė for the role of Oberon in A Midsummer Nightís DreamThat got me a scholarship to the University of Texas.  So, it just sort of planned its way out for me.  It kind of chose me, you know? 

Now that you are doing mostly television, would you like to get back to theater at some point?  How are they sort of different as art forms? 

Absolutely.  I would love to get back to the theater.  They are just two different worlds.  I love the theater because of the instant reaction.  Whatever kind of audience you have at that moment is what affects your show.  You always have a different show, according to your audience, and I love that live interaction.  Film and television Ė I like it as well, but you just never know.  You shoot something and then you wait for several months to see a product.  Whether or not you watch it with people, you donít know how it is received.  I just like the rawness of the theater. 

Speaking of your teacher, you began the Jerry P. Worsham Scholarship Fund to aid underprivileged theater students in college.  How did this come about? 

Well, because the guy was such a successful man and such a mentor to many, many other people in our neighborhood.  Where we come from, itís a small town.  Itís West Texas, northern Texas.  Not a lot going on there except oil and football.  He chose to stay in this small town and help people.  Just give us the arts in this whole town.  He was offered to be the head of acting for the University of Texas Ė turned it down.  Just to stay in this small town.  God, he just loved young people and liked to be that influence at that stage of their life.  Like I tell you, if it were not for this guy, college didnít even cross my mind.  He helped point me Ė and a lot of others Ė in a good direction.  So, my best friend and I, Steven Taylor, he and I started this fund together. 

Not too long after you moved to California to become an actor, you were guesting on some of the biggest shows on TV, like 24, Alias, Nip/Tuck, Medium and CSI: Miami. Were you surprised when it took off like that? 

Oh, man, yeah.  You say shortly after Ė it didnít feel like shortly after.  (laughs)  I got here and did extra work for almost a year.  I was like, oh, man, whatís going on?  I donít understand how to get into this business.  Itís a whole new thing.  You asked earlier whatís the difference between film and theater; to come into this industry I had to learn to be more of a businessman.  For a while you think what the hell is going on?  At last I landed a national tour with the national theater of New York.  I toured all over the United States Ė we toured like 42 states.  When I came back here I had a whole different state of mind.  I ended up landing a manager.  That landed me my first role, which landed me an agent.  And work just started downfalling on me.  I was like, thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  (laughs

You also had a recurring role on The Young and the Restless.  They say that soaps are like a boot camp for actors Ė everything is faster and done on the fly.  How did the experience help you as an actor? 

You know what, that was the best job that could have happened to me at that time.  At that time I was missing theater too Ė a lot.  Unfortunately I had to put my theater on hold for a little while in order to make ends meet here.  So when I got that job, it was like being in a play, almost, because we had monologues and monologues of stuff Ė and itís different every day.  I loved it.  It was the best acting coach for me for getting experience to prepare me for other jobs. 

Your first regular series role was on Showtimeís controversial series Sleeper Cell.  What attracted you to that show? 

Well, what attracted me to that show was the first season.  I was given the audition for the second season and I hadnít watched the show.  But I knew that Iíd received a bunch of screeners Ė when theyíre trying to decide who is nominated, theyíd give you the free DVDs.  So I was, I think I have that.  So I watched it.  I was planning to watch the first episodes to understand the pace of it.  I couldnít stop, man.  I watched the entire thing back to back.  Every episode Ė like a movie.  You know, just the complexity and how far they go Ė how they put you inside the mind of the terrorists and sort of humanize them Ė as opposed to dehumanizing them.  Thatís what really attracted me to that.  You can actually go on this journey and sometimes feel yourself being like, ooh, I understand. 

You then got a recurring role on one of the biggest hits of last season, Ugly Betty The show, while it certainly has some very serious parts, is in general much lighter than most of the work youíve done before.  Did you enjoy doing a role that gave a chance to be more comedic? 

Absolutely.  (laughs)  Comedy has been my struggle for a while, since I got out here.  Mostly it was half-hour comedy, because I didnít understand the pace of it, the rhythms that they have.  For a long time, I was like, man, I know thereís some humor in me.  I know Iím funny somehow.  And when this came along... whatís helpful is working with the cast of such funny people.  They really just brought it out.  That was a really groundbreaking feeling for me Ė you know, like finally! 

I live in Philadelphia, and Ana (Ortiz) Ė who you play against mostly Ė is from here.  Her father was a politician here in the cityÖ 

Oh, wow, I didnít know that.  

Yeah, he was in City Council here for many years. 

Thatís great.  I didnít know that.  She never told me that.  

Your character in Ugly Betty was shot in the final episode of last season, but they did not say whether you survived. Obviously working on Shark you canít go back full time, but will Santos be back at all for the new season? 

Umm, you know, Iím not sure what I can tell you.  I mean, theyíre definitely going to resolve the cliffhangers of last season.  Definitely tune in and see what happens.  (laughs) 

I really enjoyed Drive.  I thought it was a shame that FOX didnít give it more of a chance to attract an audience Ė it was pulled after only four episodes.  Were you surprised it didnít get more of a shot? 

I had so much fun doing that.  Playing with cool cars and working with such a huge ensemble cast.  (Series creator) Tim Minear is one of the greatest guys Iíve met out here.  We still keep in touch.  It was just a really good experience.  Unfortunately, I personally donít think it was given a chance to develop whatever audience it deserved.  But I know it was well on its way getting some sort of [following.]  Anyway, itís one of those shows where you have to give it time to boil.  It just wasnít given the time, unfortunately.  That sucks, butÖ  I donít regret it at all because I had such a fantastic time working with everybody. 

How did you get involved with Shark? 

Shark, man, Shark came right at the perfect time in my life.  I was just offered a role in Prison Break. I would have had to have moved to Texas to shoot it.  After I find out that Iím up for the role in Prison Break, I find out my wife is pregnant.

CongratulationsÖ

Thank you.  So do we move to Texas?  Then, a day after that Iím having all these mixed emotions.  Great, Iím going to have a job, but I have to go to Texas.  Hey, youíve got an audition for Shark.  Shoots here, la la la.  Okay.  Shark Ė I didnít think Iíd get it at first.  Itís was a lawyer, Iím like everyoneís having a hard time seeing me as anything but Ė you know, as what youíve already seen me as.  But luckily Iíd already started growing out my hair a little bit.  I think that really helped Ė as far as my appearance goes.  I auditioned for it, ended up testing for it and going to the network.  I was the only one who tested for it.  I got a series regular, as opposed to a strong recurring Ė which is what Prison Break was offering me.  So I got that and my wifeís baby is doing fine and I get to stay here.  It was a crazy process.  I tested with one guy at the studio and then the network it was just me. 

One of my co-writers on the site just interviewed your co-star Sophina BrownÖ 

Yeah, I love Sophina. 

She said that her character was not going to be butting heads with Shark this season Ė there would be a new character to be a thorn in his side.  Iíve only seen the season premiere, but it looks like that character will be youÖ although Kevin Pollak was in his face as well.  Is that the case, and how will they play Reyes off of Shark? 

Yeah, theyíve done a really good job with the dynamic between our two characters.  We butt heads Ė he is who he is and Iím just sort of a young, snappy version of him.  But we like each other.  We have a weird sort of: I love to hate you.  Oh great, youíre right?  Well I was just less right this time.  (laughs)  Yeah, theyíve done a really good job.  I think Kevin Pollak also is there to butt heads, but most of my stuff is with Jimmy, soÖ 

Obviously, James Woods is considered to be one of the great actors working.  What is it like doing scenes with him? 

Heís exactly what you just said.  He is one of the greatest actors out there, man.  Heís soÖ I donít want to sound like a clichť by saying his work is organic.  Heís a master at improv and ad lib.  He knows that script forwards and backwards.  He knows every moment that happened before, every moment that happened afterwards.  Heís always keeping you on your toes.  Heís a great guy to work with.  I wish every actor would get a chance to work with James Woods, because then you definitely know what itís like to be on top of your game.

Is it a little hard coming into a show with a cast that has already had a year to gel together? 

Everyone has been really inviting.  Itís been a pretty easy transition, you know?  First I was a little nervous because itís a much more mature show than Iíve ever been a part of.  As far as the cast and the crew, everyone is just sort of more mature.  Jeri (Ryan) is fantastic; she was the first person to talk to me.  Itís an easy question to answer, not just a lengthy answer.  Everyone is great. 

Without giving away too many secrets, what are some other things we can expect from Reyes over the season? 

One thing to look out for is you get to figure out who this guy is.  He has a bit of a past and thatís going to unfold.  So I think thatís one of the most interesting things you can look out for.  Heís an edgy lawyer.  Thereís a reason why. 

Do you have any sort of fantasy storyline youíd like to see Reyes involved with? 

You know, right now Iím just sort of going with it.  Rolling with it on how itís going and enjoying whatever journey they are giving me.  Iím new at it, too, still new to the cast, so Iím like, thank you for giving me the opportunity or playing with all you. 

In the end, how would you like people to see your career? 

I would like people to say, ďThat guy, he was in everything.Ē  Not necessarily remember my name, just remember thatÖ.  I like to be the chameleon actor.  I really like that. 

Are there any misconceptions youíd like to clear up?

No.  (laughs)  Not that Iíve heard of yet.

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2007 Robert Voets.  Courtesy of CBS Television.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2007 Robert Voets.  Courtesy of CBS Television.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2007 Robert Voets.  Courtesy of CBS Television.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2005.  Courtesy of Showtime Network.  All rights reserved.
#5 © 2006.  Courtesy of ABC Television.  All rights reserved.
#6 © 2007.  Courtesy of FOX Television.  All rights reserved.
#7 © 2007 Robert Voets.  Courtesy of CBS Television.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: September 23, 2007.

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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: September 23, 2007.