Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 November 2013 05:16
Written by Lupe Haas
You know you’ve made it as an actor in Hollywood when you’re starring opposite Edward Norton and Colin Farrell in “Pride and Glory” opening October 24th. Actor Manny Perez is living the American Dream.
Manny Perez first came to attention in 2002 with the independent film “Washington Heights” which he starred, produced and co-wrote. Director Gavin O’Connor also took notice of Manny Perez and five years later cast him as Coco Dominguez, a “sleaze bucket” as Manny describes it from Washington Heights who is threatend and beaten by crooked New York cop played by Colin Farrell in “Pride and Glory”.
Since coming to attention in 2002, Manny Perez has starred in numerous television roles such as F/X’s “Rescue Me” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” on NBC and starred opposite Roselyn Sanchez, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, and Harvey Keitel in feature films. Not too shabby for an kid who immigrated from the Dominican Republic to Providence, Rhode Island with his parents and eleven siblings with no knowledge of the English language. This talented actor tells us how he achieved his American Dream and his on set experience with “Pride and Glory”.
Not a bad gig when you get to work with Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, two of the hottest actors in Hollywood.
Manny: I am a big fan of both but I mostly worked with Colin Farrell. I expected this bad boy because that’s what you hear about him but once I met him, it was the opposite. He was one of the most kindness man I’ve met in my life. He’s totally down to earth, respects the craft of acting, and caters to the actor by rehearsing the scene and bringing out the best from you.
Edward Norton is also known to be very hands on during production and has had clashes in the past with filmmakers, most recently with Marvel over “The Incredible Hulk”. Did you see any of his influence on set?
Manny: I had only scene with Edward Norton and I didn’t see one person taking over the set. Director Gavin O’Connor had full control but he let his actors improvise and everyone had input including the extras who were from the neighborhood. Gavin cast real people from Washington Heights to give it realism and authenticity so if something was not realistic from their perspective, Gavin would listen to their input and take it into account. That’s the beauty of working with Gavin. As an actor, I prefer directors letting the actor do their thing and not just be a puppet.
As a working actor who broke through on the independent side, what advice would you recommend for struggling actors especially minorities who are not offered many roles in Hollywood?
Manny: You can’t wake up one morning and say ‘I want to be an actor’. You have to prepare yourself very well. I came from the Dominican Republic at age ten without knowing any English. I learned the language, studied theater in high school, went on to college and studied acting. I prepared myself very well and I’m always doing something to advance myself. You have to respect the craft and learn everything there is to it. And then you can go the independent route which is what I did.
You continue to advance your career and not rely on Hollywood to come calling. You’re writing, producing, and starring in your own projects?
Manny: I believe in the Spike Lee way, in that no one is going to make films about me or for me so it’s up to me to create my own and continue doing as I first did with “Washington Heights”. Currently, we’re editing “El Hijo del Carnicero” and I’m writing another story set in the Dominican Republic about third world corruption. We hope to start shooting early next year. So I’m continuing doing my own thing.
While doing his "own thing" Perez has his share of Hollywood film projects coming soon. Opening in December, Manny appears with Freddy Rodriguez and frequent collaborator John Leguizamo
in “Nothing Like The Holidays” and he begins shooting an animated film
with Michael Caine and Jack Black this month.
Manny, however, sets both the independent and Hollywood fare aside for a personal crusade. In 2007, he was honored with a Humanitarian Award in his native country and recently the Tony Bennett Excellence in Media Award and Perry Ellis Humanitarian Award in the U.S. for his charitable work.
Manny: I came from a poor mountainous region in the Dominican Republic and I didn’t have my first pair of shoes until I was five years old. I know what’s it’s like to be without something so basic. So I connected with Soles 4 Souls.org and Crocs United to provide shoes to the poor and needy in third world countries. It’s a thing I love to do. Once you have shoes, you feel more grounded as a human being.
And no one knows that better than Manny Perez who will no doubt be one step ahead of the rest. Catch this well grounded actor when “Pride and Glory” hits theaters October 24.