When Brooklyn native Rick Gonzalez appeared in 2005s inspirational film Coach Carter, fans immediately latched on to him for his very memorable hair. At that point he was already five years in to his television and film career, and he was determined to make sure that people recognized him for his talent as much as his unique look.
After appearing in numerous television shows like Boston Public, ER, The Shield, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Law & Order, Rick began taking on even more big-screen roles with the likes of Biker Boyz, Roll Bounce, War of The Worlds and Old School. He focused on upping the ante with each new venture, and in 2007 he had simultaneous lead roles with the new CW series Reaper and the motion picture Illegal Tender.
He has also been recording with the rap group U-Krime, striving to build on the legacy of Brooklyn Hip Hop. How does one balance success as an all-around performer? Rick spoke with us about his acting moves and the rap career in the making.
AllHipHop.com: Illegal Tender just came out on DVD, and you had a lead role as opposed to a supporting role for the first time. How was it for you getting that lead?
Rick Gonzalez: It was cool. It was good and a learning experience. I had high hopes for it, not that Im disappointed in it, because I was happy to do the movie. Im glad it came out, and I just look at it as a good experience in terms of still being an actor whos still learning.
AllHipHop.com: Im sure that theres some disappointment, because the movie didnt get as much love as it could have gotten.
Rick Gonzalez: Honestly, I try to keep my head away from the politics. I leave that to the producers, directors and all of the money people that handle that. You just try to focus on your thing which is the acting and thats the only thing that you can contribute to the film. I noticed that a smart actor is gonna get himself involved in so many other things and is gonna understand the game in a broader perspective, because everything is reflective on you when people watch the film. No one is gonna say, That lighting is horrible – theyre gonna say, That actor is terrible.
Its hard, because you want people to like the movie, but theres so many things that the actor doesnt have control over that at the same time hes gonna take the blame for. Im not ashamed of the movie in any way, Im just speaking on the reality of the film. I really look at it like it was a learning experience. I really learned a lot from that movie.
AllHipHop.com: You did take on supporting roles in other movies, and you got the best out of those that you could. Did you have any misperceptions going into having a leading role?
Rick Gonzalez: I tried to be as optimistic about it as possible. At the end of the day you can beat yourself up for so many things in terms of a film, but you can only do the best job you can. The best you can contribute at that moment is all you can contribute. Im not the one putting money into the film [or] speaking to Universal Studios about the film, Im not the one marketing the film.
I cant do eight things. I can only play Wilson DeLeon, Jr. I can only hope people will like the character and want to go on his journey. I didnt feel no pressure in doing that film. It was natural for me because I love working. Its not a pressure for me, its a different type of responsibility as an actor, because theres certain things you can probably contribute, its just difficult.
AllHipHop.com: What are you filming right now?
Rick Gonzalez: Im on the TV show Reaper, its a comedy about a guy whose parents sold his soul to the devil. Were shooting episode 13 right now [for the CW Network]. We dont get as many viewers, but were one of the best shows on television. Thats what the critics say, thats not what Im saying.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us about your character on the show.
Rick Gonzalez: Hes like this kid in Seattle whos best friends with the guy whose parents sold his soul to the devil. Hes basically hanging out with his friends and helping his friends capture evil souls that escape from hell.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of movies do you have coming up next?
Rick Gonzalez: I have one small scene in Pride and Glory with Colin Farrell, I have a few scenes in this movie called The Promotion with John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott, and thats pretty much it for now.
AllHipHop.com: Youve been getting into music lately. Tell us about that.
Rick Gonzalez: Ive been trying not to be jaded about the music. I love it so much and Ill do it, but Im an actor whos trying to do music and Im not a solo artist. Another problem is, when I want to do music with people they sometimes dont want to do music with the people that Im in the group with. Theyre just like, Well Ill do a song with you. It sucks.
AllHipHop.com: Its sad because the guys in the group, U-Krime, with you are definitely talented. You have a name all to yourself and people want to work with you because of that. Its not necessarily about the music with everyone.
Rick Gonzalez: I never take it personally, because I understand its a business and some might feel like, Nah I dont wanna f**k with no actor rapper kid. I dont blame them for doing that. We do s**t on our own. For example, Im speaking on if you deal with the outside industry and getting features on a mixtape, or you come across so-and-so, because this entire game is who you know, who can vouch for you and who and f**k with you.
Its tough. There are some people that can f**k with you on the strength of love, they dont care and its all love, I appreciate that. Im staying positive, because Ill try to get in where I fit in. I know that at the end of the day I wanna do music, but I dont wanna do it at the expense of my career as an actor or to lose integrity in music, when I never had that idea of it in the first place. Thats what music is to me right now, and how its treating me.
AllHipHop.com: You really want to be respected for your music, not like, Oh theres an actor guy
Rick Gonzalez: I always said that, and I have to do that in fairness to my friends whove been trying to do music for 10 years. I feel like I would never wanna jeopardize their opportunities to work in this business just because no one wants to f**k with them because theyre f**king with the kid whos from Roll Bounce. I know what that feels like, so Im not gonna try and f**k that up.
I look at it like, you can achieve anything you want in this world if you know what youre doing – if you have a little bit of luck and if you have your talent really solidified. I think that were good at the kind of music that we like to do. I think it all comes down to marketing too. Especially in music, everything is now how you sell your product to people to get them to accept it. Thats what Im working on right now. How can I get people to listen to the music before they know its me
AllHipHop.com: As far as Hollywood, you ride a line because you have a look that doesnt necessarily define you [racially]. Do you feel like that gives you an edge, or do you feel like sometimes you get stereotyped into roles?
Rick Gonzalez: I dont think Im being stereotyped. I think I can only play ethnic [roles]. I think at the end of the day its always been set up so that they can have white people play Latin, and Black people play Latin if they wanted. Its just the way it is – they always wanted it that way. Im not surprised if I cant play another ethnicity that they wanted. People always assume that Im either Black or Latin to say either one is correct in my case. So I dont really feel stereotyped in any way. If they ask me to play a white guy, then hell froze over – so Im not tripping.
AllHipHop.com: Sometimes there are roles that whoever they put into it [will work]. They can even say, We want to put a female in this role [when it was originally written for a male].
Rick Gonzalez: Theres certain roles they dont mind letting that go to. I dont give a f**k, they could give me a Sprite can and Ill walk across the movie screen in a Spielberg film, I dont care. But Spielberg is not gonna give Justin Chatwins roles to some Latin kid. That kid Justin Chatwin is gonna be a marketing tool, no Latin kid has ever been able to get to that level. They would give Yul Vasquez and Rick Gonzalez the two dudes who run across Tom Cruise in the neighborhood who are probably mechanics who live in Jersey. Its not a problem to get two good actors to play that role and make it happen, and Im not saying that in a negative way, thats realistic.
The point is, you want to see somebody of color at a different level being in a film thats on the level of like Spider Man and s**t like that. The closest youll see is Halle Berry in X-Men. I take away from the fact that I was in [War Of The Worlds] like, Yo, thats dope. Im happy to be in that s**t, I dont think anyone would not wanna be in that position. When you see a different level of the game, you start to see the big picture and what the real s**t is. Im sure that 50 Cent saw it differently before he got into the game, and now that hes 400 million deep he sees a bigger picture in this s**t.
I understand what this s**t is about. It aint about getting pimped by a label just so you could push the music out. Im looking at everything from what it really is – my whole career has been a lot of steps going backwards in order to go forward. Going backwards meaning, yeah, Ill take one scene in a Colin Farrell film, but its a film with Colin Farrell that Im doing something in. Most people would be like, Maybe hes too big to be doing one scene in a film. Im like f**k it, I gotta do the work. I gotta work with good people and be in projects that make sense, no matter how small it is.
AllHipHop.com: Have you thought about doing anything in the theater?
Rick Gonzalez: I came from theater. I was in a musical theater company a few years before high school off Broadway on 42nd Street. I was putting on productions and doing all kinds of s**t. The stage was the beginning of me and where I learned how to act. Me going back to the stage would be a natural progression, and thats something I would entertain the idea of once I have the ability to do that. You gotta look at it like, because theres no money in theater anymore they only need [big] names for that. Thats a progression for people who have built a name and they can use you for the stage.
AllHipHop.com: Were seeing more big actors go back into theater. A lot of people come from doing local theater work at first, then to film, and then progress back into theater.
Rick Gonzalez: It becomes a passion project and an evolution that shows the actor really taking serious steps towards his work. So he goes back to the stage, gets his name and they sell tickets. There are many Miguel Pineto plays for me to do on Broadway that I can play in, unless they decide to cast me in Othello or put me in Shakespeare in The Park The point Im trying to make is, Im still earning my stripes with every role, whether its with one scene or the whole movie.
AllHipHop.com: What do you want people to remember about you if anyone was to reflect on your career and the things youve done?
Rick Gonzalez: What I want is for the playing field to be even. If I could be somebody to contribute to the playing field in this business, then I really made some sort of change. If I could make it even and change peoples perceptions in this industry about Latinos and Blacks and the talent level in each culture, I feel like that would be something great for people to remember me by.
Theres nobody in my position that goes from Bushwick and can be in Malibu in the same year and deal with different types of people all the time. My mom is still in the hood, so I go back home and make music with [U-Krime], but at the same time Ill catch a plane the next week and shoot a movie with people that are from all walks of life that are dealing with another type of world.
I represent that new person in the inner city whos intelligent and talented, whos not ignorant but can behave ignorant if you f**k with him. I feel like theres nothing wrong with coming from the inner city and being intelligent about how you move and wanting what you want and changing peoples perceptions of you. If we make people feel like were not as smart as they are, then well never get to their level – theyll never allow us to get to their level as far as what were trying to do. Its supposed to be an even playing field and it aint, so Id like to be remembered for.Listen to “Brooklyn” by U-Krime: