I think I have a lucky streak going right now because I contacted Mr. Bustamante for an interview for you, our readers, before he won the Imagen Award for Best Actor last week. The 24th Annual Imagen Award Gala was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The awards are given to those who portray Latinos in a positive light.
We decided to meet at a quaint little coffee house on Melrose Avenue. The last time I saw Hector was on the red carpet at the premiere of Little Girl Lost: The Delimar Vera story. He casually walked up to my table and we sat and chatted as if we've known each other forever. I wanted to know everything such as how it felt to win such a prestigious award, how it felt to be recognized by such a worthy organization and more importantly, who was his date for the evening?
Hector tells us:
"We don't do this work for the awards but this was very exciting. My date was my Mother. She made the sacrifice to come to this country. She knew that both my sister and I would have more opportunities here than in our native Colombia. I knew that if I won, I would dedicate this win to her. And so I did.
I was born in Medellin, Colombia. I am very proud to be Latin American. I came here when I was 12. We settled in the New York area. I spoke no English and I went to school and learned to be an American. I watched the I Love Lucy show and was influenced by Desi Arnaz. Desi was acting, singing, dancing and he had a beautiful redhead as his wife. That's what I wanted to do. I acted in high school and my drama teacher told me that I would never make it because I had an accent. He told me I would be better off going to Mexico and acting in soap operas. I was 18 years old and I thought my drama teacher must be right. I gave up my hopes of being an actor and got a regular job.
Fast forward to eleven years later and I was working in San Francisco. I stumbled onto the set of the police drama Nash Bridges. Cheech Marin was one of the co-stars. Seeing a Latino on the show rekindled my love of acting and I decided to find out everything I needed to become a working actor. I enrolled in acting classes with Jean Shelton at the Shelton's Actors' Studio. I didn't move to Los Angeles until 2003 and by then I had an agent and my SAG card.
I started working right away. I got my first major television role in the drama series, The Agency. I played the head of the Colombian police. It was a very meaty role. I've been lucky; I've been working steadily ever since that time.
When I auditioned for Little Girl Lost, the people at casting did not want to see me. However, my manager pushed for me to be seen. I was still not considered an A-list actor even though I had 30 projects under my belt in less than five years. I did some research on this true story and I decided I wasn't going to make Pedro Vera mean or evil. I was going to portray him as a hard-working man who just wanted to move along with life after going through some tragic circumstances. I added some machismo and there was Pedro. I felt that I nailed the part. I did my best and a week later I got the call that the role was mine. There are some roles that can change your life. You know it from the time you read the script and I felt that this was one of those roles.
We started filming in May and we wrapped just 16 days later. Judy Reyes was already attached to the film and I was thrilled to have an opportunity work with her. Everyone knows of her fine comedic skills on Scrubs. I don't think they knew what a good dramatic actress she is. I was sad that she didn't win an award. I was equally excited to work with actor, A Martinez. He is another actor that is so talented. I felt that we had this amazing cast and we each brought our best game to this project. Little Girl Lost won the Imagen Award for the Best Primetime Television Program."
What's next, I asked?
"Well, I'm going to New York. I have some things lined up. I call New York home. I attended the Parsons School of Design and I am using my talents as an illustrator on a new project. It is a comic book. We are doing the unveiling of this project next year at Comic Con in San Diego."
Is there anyone that you would like to work with, I asked?
"Yes, I'd like to work with Benjamin Bratt on The Cleaner. I met him at the award show and he was very gracious. I'd like to work with Andy Garcia. I'd like to work with Jimmy Smits. I wanted to be an attorney after watching him on LA Law."
Do you think that we will see another series with a Latino cast on network television, I asked?
"Yes, I think this will happen sooner than you think. Roberto Orci won the Norman Lear Writer's Award and he said that we are going to use Latinos to tell our own stories. We have a top agent at CAA who is Latino. We have a top screenwriter in Roberto Orci. We will be more visible."
To those who wish to be in the Entertainment industry, Hector advises: "Never take no for an answer. Eat well, exercise and study. Opportunities come and so you must be ready. Stay in school and learn from different acting teachers. If you truly believe this is what you want to do, when it hurts so bad that you can't think of doing anything else, then you have to live it and believe it. I have a saying and that is make the impossible possible. I've made a career from making the impossible possible. I know, because it happened to me and if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
Thank you, Lisa and to your readers for your continued support."