Serendipity Has It

Latin actor Steve Wilcox kicks off 2006 with three films

Published on LatinoLA: February 19, 2006

Serendipity Has It

When Steve Wilcox was forced to put wrestling and fencing on the side because both classes were at capacity, the thirteen-year old high-school student chose another curriculum that turned out to be a perfect substitute! He joined the drama club and, against all odds, found more than merely an alternative, he found a career!

A couple of years later, as serendipity would have it, Steve found, yet again, another alternative to a minor complex he had, that, in the end paid off. Indeed, it was Malcolm McDowell?s performance in 'A Clockwork Orange' that made Steve realize that if, despite his impressively imposing manly looks, he could not be a bad boy in real life, he would simply play one on screen. A substitute that gave him his niche and a type of character that would later earn him praising comparisons to Nick Nolte.

A native of Venezuela, Steve comes from an eclectic background - a Venezuelan mother and an English/Canadian father. He spent his teenage years in Caracas before moving to Los Angeles to complete a BA in Theater, Film & TV Studies at UCLA.

Wilcox's entertainment debut might have started by default, but his acting career has been nothing short of successes. He got his SAG card appearing on Telemundo's "El Juez", a Spanish version of "The Judge", a role which might have seemed insignificant to Steve had it not been his calling card to his next big project - the feature film classic "American Me". The casting director who had booked Steve on the 'dramatization' show called him out of the blue to go audition for a part in a feature film directed by a famous Latin actor. Little did Steve know that he was meeting with long time character actor Edward James Olmos who, giving him the benefit of the doubt, hired him on the spot with no formal auditions. What resulted from this was not only Steve's big acting break but a wonderful friendship between the two actors that endures to this day.

"American Me", the directing debut of Olmos, is an unflinching look at the rise of LA Chicano gang and at prison life. Wilcox plays the young version of William Forsythe's character, a white man trying to be Latino. Despite his Latin heritage and fluent mastery of the Spanish language, Steve's Caucasian look has sort of found him victim of reverse discrimination for not looking Latin enough. Ironically, he easily gets booked to play Americans who try to speak Spanish but speak it badly - roles he played twice on TV in shows such as the "The X-Files" and "Resilience". It is probably, no wonder that Edward James Olmos gave him the endearing moniker "half-breed"!

Proving the adage that a film "makes or breaks" an actor, "American Me" did put Steve on the Hollywood map giving him his next gig: a co-starring role opposite John Travolta and Harry Belafonte in the feature film "White Man's Burden". Desmond Nakano who co-wrote "American Me", remembered Steve and booked him for the project. It was during the shoot that John Travolta found out that he won a Golden Globe for "Pulp Fiction", and the first person he shared the news with was Steve who happened to be a few feet away from the phone. Another unforgettable moment in Steve?s career was on the set of "Gang Related", the feature film starring rap legend Tupac. In between a scene, Steve and Tupac found themselves outside the studio for a nicotine break. The rapper immediately recognized the actor from his all time favorite movie "American Me". Tupac was allegedly reported to always carry a copy of the film around with him and had sampled Steve's voice, using a line from the movie, for the chorus of his hit song "Death around the Corner". A month later, Tupac died.

Steve's acting has been nothing but a series of serendipitous encounters. Answering an ad in the defunct "Dramalogue", Wilcox met film director Brian Flemming, known for his highly-publicized controversial documentary "The God who wasn't there". Flemming used Steve in two of his feature films, "Hang Your Dog in the Wind" winner of the Audience Award at the Florida International Film Festival, and "Nothing So Strange". It was "Hang Your Dog in the Wind" that brought the most media attention. In the mid-nineties, the director and cast launched "Slumdance", as an anti-Sundance/anti-Slamdance response. The festival screened a series of films, all rejected by Sundance including "Don's Plum" starring Leonardo DiCarpio and Tobey Maguire. "Slumdance" became the talk of the town and A-list celebrities such as Tim Robbins were reportedly blowing off their own party to attend the one hosted by the "Slum Dancer"! Ironically, a few years later Flemming and Wilcox came back to Park City with a legitimate Slamdance invitation for the feature "Nothing so Strange".

Steve has certainly paid his dues! Nothing came easy. As big as were his roles on screen, as small were the ones he played behind the scene to make ends meet. From painter, waiter, to production assistant where he was fired for bad attitude and for incorporating his own errands into his daily production schedule, Steve did it all. But his most memorable ?odd? job was the one he secured over a weekend while back in Venezuela driving a head banker from London. Not knowing the city too well, Steve got the business man late to a dinner with the Venezuelan President. He found out later that this British banker was the man whose signature is engraved on all UK currency!

Fortunately the banker was compassionate but did leave Steve with the following quote: "I am not very happy with your performance, but good luck acting"!

Luck? Steve has certainly had plenty of it. This year will reunite him with his father figure, Edward James Olmos, in the HBO feature film "WALK OUT", directed by the latter.He will also play the lead role in an upcoming movie under the direction of another very good friend, Brian Flemming. And again, secured another homecoming to his prolific 2006 Film parade, working with director Brian Cox (with whom he previously worked with in "Scorpion Spring") in the feature film "El Muerto", due out this summer, opposite Wilmer Valderrama, Maria Conchita Alonzo, Billy Dagro and Tony Plana.

From winning "Best Actor Award" in both High School and Junior High, a "Dramalogue" Outstanding Performance for "A Prayer For My Daughter" (the same night Jack Black won his for a different play he was in), to simply winning the recognition of his peers and the heart of the public, Steve Wilcox is as real, talented and genuine an actor as it gets -there's just no substitute!

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