Esai Morales has been a household name for over three decades. Yes, he is one of those artists that our parents and our kids love, just like Bon Jovi: timeless. I’m sure some of you had altars raised in his name, with posters all over the ceiling to admire his Puerto Rican genes. I digress.
From La Bamba to Gun Hill Road, from The Equalizer to Criminal Minds, we’ve enjoyed his award-winning performances. But more importantly, this self-proclaimed actorvist is one of the founders of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, taking inspiration from his mother, who was an organizer for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Not surprisingly he serves his union, the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as an elected official.
With all this experience gathered as an activist and an actor, he’s inevitably the perfect fit for his new on-screen job: president of the United States of America. He’s an autodidact, he’s talented, he’s eloquent and now, he’s an advisory board member of the Latino Rebels Network. And you lucky Rebels are getting a nice treat, for he drove me home after a business meeting and ended up talking about his new role, unionism and his political inclinations.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: You have an enviable, incredible career, and now you’re in HBO’s The Brink. If anyone should play the president of the United States, it’s you. How did you get that role?
Esai Morales: I got the part like everyone else: scrapping it out, to be honest with you. I auditioned, read the script and thought it was very funny, and I realized this is the chance to do what I always wanted to do: lead the free world. Since I was young I used to have delusions of grandeur and saw myself speaking to large global audiences at night, for some reason, kind of employing the basis to unite different people to work in harmony.
MF: In real life you did run for president of your union SAG-AFTRA. Are you running again?
EM: Yes and no. I ran and won local vice-president, and it was easier for me to handle as opposed to running for the presidency again. You know, running the country on HBO is one thing, but also running a union is a bit much. So I went with the less taxing position where I’m still a national board member and a local union official, but do not have the massive responsibilities of representing all 163,000 performers.
MF: How many Latinos are serving in the union?
EM: Not a lot, I got to tell you. I’m one of the handfuls of people. Within the actual organization there’s amazing representation like Carlina Rodríguez and Ray Rodríguez. I mean there are members serving, but we need more.
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