Jay Hernandez: Surviving Hollywood

Jay Hernandez in Nothing Like the Holidays

A chance run in with a Hollywood talent manager jump started Jay Hernandez’s career, but the good looking young actor from Los Angeles has stayed in the Hollywood game by turning down roles often offered to Latino actors…. the gangbanger.  Recent roles such as Samuel L. Jackson’s police partner in “Lakeview Terrace” and another turn as a uniformed officer in “Quarantine,” transitioned the well-grounded actor to more adult roles. 

Next up for the respected actor is his third movie release in 2008, “Nothing Like the Holidays” starring John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, and Freddy Rodriguez.   In “Nothing Like the Holidays”, Jay broke with tradition and agreed to play Ozzy, a gang member from Chicago’s Humboldt Park.  Jay sat down with CineMovie.TV to explain his recent choices at the movies. 

CineMovie: You’ve avoided taking on the negative Latino stereotypes in movies since your debut ten years ago.  Do you attribute your success to that?

Jay:  It’s hard for an actor of Latin/Hispanic background to have a real career in Hollywood because we are not the leading man they want.  All I got offered initially was the drug dealer or gangbanger.  It’s very easy for a guy who looks like me, named Hernandez, to be gang member all the time.  That was a very conscience thing for me and I worked really hard on keeping away from those roles. 

Jay Hernandez and Vanessa Ferlito in Nothing Like the Holidays
CineMovie:  So why take on the role of Ozzy in “Nothing Like the Holidays”?

Jay: Contextually this film is different.  It’s not about Hispanic people being portrayed negatively.  It’s about life. It’s the American experience.  So if you’re going to be realistic, you have to show the broad spectrum.  That’s what I liked about the film.  The family represents all of that; the lawyer, someone coming back from the Iraq war, a struggling actress returning from Hollywood, and me, the gang member. 

CineMovie:  Lately you’ve been playing the good cop in two movies this year,  Lakeview Terrace and Quarantine.

Jay:  It seems like everybody has this image of me as the good guy who does the right thing. That’s what appealed to me about Ozzy, the guy who’s making bad choices, doing bad and shady things.  I don’t always want to be the one saving the day or getting the girl. 

CineMovie:  Can we expect a turn as a bad cop a la Denzel Washington in Training Day anytime soon?

Jay:  That would be interesting.  I don’t want to be defined as an actor.  I want to keep people guessing.  It’s a smart thing to do in Hollywood to play a nice broad range of characters. 

CineMovie:  What role have you NOT been offered that you would love to do?

Jay:  I’ve been pretty fortunate in doing lots of different things but I’d like to try a straight up comedy.   Something really funny with guys who do a lot of improv would be really great.  That would be challenging.  I think it’ll happen soon.  I’ve been offered comedies but they weren’t right but I think it will happen soon.

CineMovie:   Would you consider a physical comedy?

Jay:   Yeah!  One thing I would love to do is put on some prosthetics and create crazy off the wall characters.  It’s something I like doing with different voices.  Not everyone knows this but I’m a clown.   I really am a clown.  With my family, they expect me to do that kind of stuff.  So one day I’d like to change up the way I look and do something really funny. 

CineMovie:   The Latino version of The Nutty Professor.  We can’t wait.  So tell us about working alongside such a large cast that included John Leguizamo and Freddy Rodriguez.

Jay: Working with John and Freddy was an honor after watching them for years jump through hoops to land good roles specifically John whose paved the way in Hollywood for someone like me.  And on set, everyone got along like family.  We had a lot of rehearsal time before we started shooting so we can have that family dynamic on camera, and it shows on film.

Nothing Like the Holidays cast

CineMovie:  Speaking of families, “Nothing Like the Holidays” deals with the crazy family antics around the holidays.  What are your family gatherings like?

Jay:  My father is the youngest of nine so the holidays were crazy with my immediate family of six plus his side.  When we got together, you had to talk loud and kind of yell or you wouldn’t be heard.  So it was very similar to the movie in that respects but I’m very tight with my family.  There’s no coming home after four years away like Freddy Rodriguez’s character.  My mom would not let me get away with that.

We can also thank Jay Hernandez's mom for keeping this down to earth actor grounded, which should translate to a long career in Hollywood.  “Nothing Like the Holidays” opens nationwide on December 12th.

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