This year is proving to be Latino actor Michael Peña’s year.
Along with drawing attention for portraying activist Cesar Chavez in the biographical film Chavez, Peña’s growing film roles include Frontera with fellow Latino actress Eva Longoria, to Fury with Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt, and currently in theater Marvel’s Antman, Peña years of hard work in the entertainment industry is paying off.
“It’s always a struggle you have to fight for all these different roles,” said Peña, while talking about how he feels he has made it and describing how Hollywood can be both a tough and challenging business to break into while promoting his latest film The Vatican Tapes; which Peña believes will be a huge hit with Latinos.
Out in theaters today, The Vatican Tapes revolves around a priest Peña plays named Father Lozano who is trying to help a young woman who has been possessed by a diabolical entity. Peña was drawn to the film because he notes that the film’s religious and horror genre is very alluring for Latino audiences.
“In the Jennifer Lawrence horror movie, half of Latinos went to go see that,” notes Peña, referring to the 2012 thriller film House at the End of the Street, which “inspired me to look for a cool horror movie.”
Peña also adds that the religious element of the film also pulls in Latino movie goers.
“This, I think, was perfect because a lot of Latinos grew up Catholic or in very religious households and I think that’s why we gravitate toward this kind of movie.”
Appearing in films that are appealing to Latino audiences is something that is appealing to the 39-year-old actor who has been in an array of films, playing characters of various backgrounds because for Peña the wide range of roles he played allows Latino audience members to see themselves in various roles they see fit within their everyday life.
“I remember like watching Edward James Olmos [play] a teacher in calculus, and that’s kind of inspiring to kids to people of Latino descent,” Peña said, adding, “ remember in high school I took up calculus, it was a big motivator for me, so maybe who knows I can inspire some people,” seeing firsthand how inspiring representation of Latinos in positive movie roles can have on younger, or other Latinos.
Peña has appeared in the following recent movies: Next Gen (filming) Momo (voice), 2018Ant-Man and the Wasp (filming) Luis, 2018A Wrinkle in Time (post-production) Red, 2018Extinction (post-production) Peter, 2018Horse Soldiers (post-production), 2017My Little Pony: The Movie (completed) Grubber (voice), 2017The LEGO Ninjago Movie Kai (voice), 2017CHIPS Ponch.
Other facts to know about Michael:
- Parents were farmers who migrated to the U.S. from Mexico.
- His first role was in Peter Bogdanovich’s movie-of-the-week To Sir, With Love 2.
- Briefly lived in a van while pursuing acting work in Los Angeles.
- Appeared in back-to-back Academy Award Best Picture winners Million Dollar Baby (2005) and Crash (2006).
- Lived with New York City Port Authority police officer Will Jimeno and his family before playing Jimeno in the film World Trade Center (2006).
- Was at the scene of a Los Angeles gang shooting with Jake Gyllenhaal in 2011. The two were riding along with LAPD officers to prep for their roles in End of Watch.