Originally published at SeFija. Republished by permission.
One word more than any other seems to be used when writers describe Clifton Collins, Jr.: "Chameleon." It's not entirely unfair. You've probably seen Collins a dozen times, in everything from dramas to comedies to action films, playing Anglos and Latinos, villains and the boy next door. And you probably still wouldn't recognize him. He looks a little like everyone you've ever met.
Born in Los Angeles, Collins Jr. is the latest generation of a Latino entertainment industry. His great-grandparents were musicians; his grandfather was the legendary Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, king of the Latino sidekicks (remember him in "Rio Bravo"?). And because of his lean, light-skinned looks, Collins has been playing about as many non-Latino roles as Latino since we first started seeing him regularly on TV and in the movies, twenty years ago.
Among his most memorable roles (and there are plenty) are "Javier Perez" in "Alias," Ken "James Garcia" in "Resurrection Blvd.," "Thomas" in the NBC series "The Event," "Edgar Allen Poe" on "Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and/or Kenneth Bianchi, the Hillside Strangler himself, in the TV movie "Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murder." You'll see him next as "Ross" in "Parker," the Jennifer Lopez/Jason Statham action flick premiering later this month.
As you can see: sometimes Latino roles, sometimes not, through no particular fault or design of Collins' own. So it's good to see that his regular role in the new ABC series "Red Widow." The story is a little complicated: Australian beauty Radha Mitchell ("Pitch Black," "Silent Hill") plays "Marta Walraven," a stay-at-home mom in Marin county who's devoted to her three kids and her husbandÔÇªand who is the daughter of a big boss in the Russian Mafia, the Bratvas, and whose husband makes his living exporting marijuana. Marta's husband is brutally murdered and everything changes.
Enter Collins as FBI Agent James Ramos, who tries to enlist her cooperationÔÇªand fails. Soon Marta finds herself stuck between The Bratva family and Ramos' FBI. As ABC says, "Just how far is Marta willing to go in order to beat her adversaries at their own deadly game?"
It's exactly these kinds of roles that show off Latino Hollywood at its best: Latinos who were not gang bangers, not gun runners, but obviously (and proudly) Latino good guys, in a world filled with less-than-good guys. It's the kind of meaty and slightly mysterious role that Collins can sink his teeth into, and one that promises to be a highlight of the new show.
See Agent Ramos battle the Bratva beginning Sunday, March 3 on ABC, and see him kicking ass in an entirely different way in Parker, opening in theaters on Friday, January 25. And you'll see him again in Guillermo del Toro's upcoming giant-robot epic "Pacific Rim," one of the big releases of Summer 2013.