As Miguel on "This Is Us," Jon Huertas plays both a younger version of himself in flashbacks and an aged-up version for all his scenes set in the present.
Seeing himself looking decades older than he actually was initially surreal, he said. "The way our makeup artists approach aging is very science-based. It's actually similar to the technology they use when they have a prehistoric skull and they make a model of what they think that person looked like. For this, they're looking at, how do the muscles in your face start to pull down with age? They're really taking that into account when they're sculpting the prosthetic pieces for my face, so it's probably what I'll really look like."
With that knowledge in hand, he joked, "I've quickly decided what I'm going to try to cut off at the pass before it happens. So now I have a road map to follow -- I'm going to take pictures to the plastic surgeon: 'Don't let this happen, don't let that happen.'"
Being a part of NBC's top-rated drama has been a high point in a career that has also included roles on "Castle" and HBO's "Generation Kill." When asked to share a worst moment, it was a movie audition that came to mind.
My worst moment ...
"I have a story about a movie called 'Black Hawk Down' (from 2001). At the time I was feeling good about myself and my work, that I was coming into my own as an actor. I had read the book already and being a veteran (Huertas served eight years in the Air Force), I love stories about courage and military-based stories and I read it fast.
"But being a veteran, it doesn't necessarily give you a leg up when you go on auditions like this. I was going in for a character who was a real-life person, from New Jersey, I think of Irish descent. And you've seen what I look like, I'm not Irish. I am Latino. So I was going in like, I don't think I'm going to get this role as an Irish-American kid from New Jersey -- and I don't want to play an Irish-American kid from New Jersey when the kid's family is going to be watching this movie.
"So I had this idea. When I went in for a meeting with the director, Ridley Scott, at Jerry Bruckheimer's office (Bruckheimer was the film's producer along with Scott) my idea was: Let's string together all these nondescript ranger roles -- in the script it was something like Ranger No. 1, Ranger No. 2, Ranger No. 3 -- and make it a character that's in the book who is Latino and got shot in the butt. I'll be that guy!
"And one of the reasons I wanted to do that is because at that point, I hadn't really seen too many adult male Latino hero-types in television and films. I mean, we still haven't seen a Latino superhero in the Marvel universe or the DC universe. I wanted to be that guy that little kids could look up to and say, 'We saw this heroic Latino soldier in this big movie.'
"So I went in with all of this in my head and I pretty much laid it all out for Ridley Scott at the beginning of my meeting with him. And there was a long pause. And then he says: 'So, do you want to read or not?'
"And I was like (laughs), oookay, that pitch did not go very well. And all I could say was, 'Yes, I do' (laughs). It was embarrassing that he stopped me in my tracks but I love auditioning, it's an opportunity for me to perform. So I read for the Irish kid from New Jersey. And no, I didn't get it. I think Tom Hardy might have ended up playing that part.
"I'm sure they probably talked so much (trash) about me when I left the room: 'Who does that kid think he is, coming in with this crazy idea that we're supposed to change the entire script?'"
That was a bold choice, to suggest a change to the script.
"There was a study done by Columbia University a few years ago called 'The Latino Media Gap' and it found that adult male Latinos usually play three archetypes: The gardener or some other type of low-wage worker; the cop, which I was one of those guys on 'Castle'; and the narco or crime boss or gangbanger. And that was true for something like 75 percent of all adult male Latino characters on television. I saw a problem there and I wanted to change that. But I don't think they enjoyed my pitch.
"For 'This Is Us,' the character actually wasn't written as Latino. His name was Mike and in the first three episodes we shot, everyone called me Mike! They had to go in and do ADR (re-record the dialogue) to change the name to Miguel. When I went to meet Dan Fogelman (the show's creator) for the first time, I saw the other actors they were meeting for the role and they all looked like these white guys in their late 40s with salt-and-pepper hair, so I thought I was in the wrong place. I loved that our casting director was thinking outside the box."
The takeaway ...
"In that moment, their reaction in that audition was not about me. It was about how the writer, the director, the studio wanted to tell the story. So I didn't take it personally. I couldn't take it personally. It was more, how do I make the most out of this? I just had to do my best, knowing I probably wasn't going to get the role.
"But I would pitch an idea like that again in an audition. I would, if I felt strongly about it.
"Years later I did a miniseries for HBO called 'Generation Kill.' We got nominated for 11 Emmys and HBO had this Emmy party and Ridley Scott was there. I'm with all these actors that were in the miniseries and also a bunch of the Marine Corps guys that we portrayed. Some of them actually played themselves in the miniseries. Everybody was a fan of Ridley Scott. And I said, 'Hey, I've met Ridley Scott.'
"So we roll over and I said, 'Excuse me, Mr. Scott, my name is Jon and these are my fellow actors from a miniseries called 'Generation Kill.' And he said, 'Yes, I know it very well. I saw it, it's great.' We ended up talking for a while and at the end I said, 'So, actually, we met before, I don't know if you remember.' And he said, 'Yes, I do -- "Black Hawk Down," right? Yeah, I remember you.' And he goes, 'You're a good actor.'
"I was just flabbergasted. And I realized, I may not have gotten the job but at least I made enough of an impression for him to remember me."
This article is written by Nina Metz from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.