Walter Perez Makes an Impression

This hard-working young charmer keeps moving up ... a Se Fija exclusive

By Se Fija!
Published on LatinoLA: February 1, 2012

Walter Perez Makes an Impression

There are thousands of young Latino actors trying to make it in Hollywood these days, and they'll all tell you the same thing: it's hard. Very hard. But Walter Perez should be a shining example to all of them: that hard work can pay off‘«™if you also happen to be talented, handsome, and charming as hell.

We've been following Walter for years now, when he was a regular on "The District" and "Friday Night Lights" more than five years ago, then through his appearances on every decent network and cable drama series, from "The Closer" to "Cold Case" to "CSI: Miami." It was great to see him on the (all-too-short-lived) reboot of "Fame," and things continued to get interesting when he joined the cast of "Off the Map." So seeing him listed as the male lead in the new Lifetime movie "The Pregnancy Project" (pictured, with Alexa Vega) wasn't a surprise; it was just a long time coming‘«™and it gave us an excuse to sit down and have a nice long talk with this hard-working young Latino actor, clearly on his way up.

Walter is a son of Los Angeles, born and bred‘«ŰSouth Gate, to be exact. He's still close with his parents and his three sisters, and they've supported him solidly since he decided to take his acting career seriously, all the way back in high school. Not that he didn't have a back-up plan: he went to CSU Fullerton and majored in criminal justice. "My Dad has been involved with the cops and the Community in Action (CIA) program for a long time," he told us. "So when I saw these other actors who couldn't find another job because acting wasn't paying off, I thought about doing the FBI or cop thing. It was always big for me." And also, as it turned out, not necessary. Those gigs on TV and in independent films started in his early twenties, and it's been a steady climb ever since.

But Walter's really been hitting his stride in the last few months, with "The Pregnancy Project" and "Mission Park," as well as a one-episode appearance in ABC's odd new thriller, "The River."

We've talked about "The Pregnancy Project" here before, and Walter admits it's one of the things he's most proud of. "In high school," he said, "I was a teen advocate at the student health clinic, working with the Magic Johnson Foundation. We used to pull students who registered with the clinic out of class and give them the education they needed; we talked to girls about their contraceptive methods, show the guys how to use a condom, and about a woman's anatomy and physiology. So when this script came around, I thought, 'This is exactly what I was always teaching these kids. I'm coming full circle.' There's such a high percentage of teen pregnancy among Latinos." "The Pregnancy Project" was a great opportunity to spread the word. "I loved what this movie touched on‘«Űit sends a really good message. And it doesn't glorify teen pregnancy like Teen Mom and some of those other shows do, which I really liked. These things happen: teens get pregnant. But do they have to pop out three more babies and not continue their education? No. I think some of the parents are to blame, too‘«Ű'You can't do anything now, you have to quit school, get a job, it's all about the kid now. And it doesn't have to be that way." "The Pregnancy Project," with powerful work by Walter, Alexa Vega, Judy Reyes, and others brings that message to life.

And then there's another project, he's equally proud of: "Mission Park," writer/director Bryan Ramirez' crime drama with Jeremy Ray Valdez, Joseph Julian Soria, and Jesse Borrego, among many others. (Soria's accomplishments almost exactly parallel Perez', with regular appearances in network TV shows and arcs, culminating in his current work on the CW's "One Tree Hill" and an appearance in "Filly Brown," the darling of this year's Sundance. And Borrego, coincidentally, is a veteran of "Fame" as well‘«Űbut the first TV version, in 1984.) "We just finished it a week ago," Walter told us, "and it's done and ready for distribution. I tell you, if this doesn't get us some sort of recognition, then we as Latinos are just screwed." And one of the producers of the film is actor Douglas Spain, "Mission Park" isn't a 'message' movie‘«Űit's just a movie: an exciting great story about four kids from the rough side of town who grow up together and take different paths: two become local drug dealers; two others become FBI agents, and as adults the straight edges return to "Mission Park," infiltrate the operations of their old 'friends,' and stage an undercover sting. "I'm one of the big drug dealers," Walter says, "so the message isn't great, but‘«™it's a movie, and it's really good." You can see some shots from the set and another nice piece on Walter and the movie here, on MySanAntonio.com.

And then there was his episode of "The River," coming up soon as well. Like "Off the Map" before it, he was flown to Hawaii for the shoot‘«™and Walter took advantage of the travel to let some of his family share in the adventure, as he has before. "I took both my parents to Hawaii for "Off the Map," and then my Dad a second time when I shot The River, and Mom and one of my sisters to Vancouver for "The Pregnancy Project." My parents have never had the money to travel, so to give them that, so they can explore the world‘«™that's been great."

The episode of "The River" was especially interesting. "It looks really cool," he said, "very unconventional filmmaking for sure, really different. There are twelve cameras on these boats; it's all POV‘«Űpretty much every scene you see in POV of the cameraman. ("The River" is also one of the first network programs to have extensive, subtitled Spanish throughout each episode; when two Latino characters talk to each other, they actually don't speak English.)

And Walter even has a small role in the upcoming superhero blockbuster, "The Avengers." "It's a small role," he admits, "but I wasn't going to say no to "The Avengers." Not that he was a comic book fan in his youth; it's always been about the movies for Walter. "I was always into filmmaking, always had a camera," he recalls. "In fact, I still have my VHS camera in my car."

He's even on the internet. Walter and some of his "Mission Park" friends and actor Jesse Garcia made a very effective and slightly strange video‘«Űone of a series they're still working on‘«Űcalled "Don't Be a Chicken." You can take a look and judge for yourself here.

So what's Walter Perez' next project? Frankly, he doesn't know‘«™but he's not concerned. "I'm just waiting by the phone," he says, "but that's Hollywood. I've been doing this long enough; I feel like I've established myself. I hope to do some directing and producing in the future, for sure, but right now‘«™I'm not worried."

Taking a look at his last eight years, and what already lies ahead in 2012, Walter's probably right: he has nothing to worry about.

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