One-On-One Interview With Actor Kevin Alejandro

You have probably seen Texan native Kevin Alejandro’s familiar and suave mug on at least one of your favorite prime-time programs.  The actor has built quite the impressive resume and has been seen on just about every network on television and has been considered the “go-to” guy whenever a show needs an alluring and charismatic guest star. 

Earlier in his career, Alejandro has always played the quintessential bad boy. 

On SHARK, Alejandro played Deputy District Attorney Danny Reyes

His versatile television roles range from playing a guy who burned his girlfriend up in a fire on CROSSING JORDAN to an assistant district attorney with an edge on SHARK starring James Woods and his ground-breaking performance as Justin’s dad, Santos on UGLY BETTY starring America Ferrera.  Those are just a few roles that have encompassed Alejandro’s already impressive resume.  He has also appeared on the following television shows:  ALIAS, HEROES, KNIGHT RIDER, WEEDS, CSI: MIAMI, CSI: NY, SLEEPER CELL, DRIVE, 24, WITHOUT A TRACE, THE CLEANER, MEDIUM, BIG LOVE, JAG and many others you can find on his IMDB page.
Recently, I sat down with Kevin Alejandro at Rick’s Tavern in Santa Monica drinking Irish coffees on the back patio on a brisk evening to discuss his new series SOUTHLAND premiering on NBC April 9th.  The mood is subdued and calm as we went from good friends to getting down to the purpose of our meeting.
Jerod Williams:  Could you tell us about your new show SOUTHLAND?
Kevin Alejandro:
  SOUTHLAND is about the day in the life of different departments in the LAPD.  The show is not only about the LAPD, it’s about what kind of person it takes to be LAPD.  You’ve got your detectives, your patrol guys and it’s about how they go throughout their day and experience what they have to experience.  They also have to shut off that mentality and be with their families and live their lives.  It’s an interesting sort of balance on how you shut that off.  The show was written by Ann Biderman (co-writer of NYPD BLUE and the upcoming film PUBLIC ENEMIES starring Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum).  It’s a great project and we will be taking over ER’s time slot for the first seven episodes following THE OFFICE and 30 ROCK

JW:  Tell everyone about your character of Nate? 
KA:  Nate is a gang’s detective.  One of the things that attracted me to Nate is that he is straight-laced and there’s not a lot of edge to him.  He’s very good at his job and he is one of the best detectives on the force.  He has a lot of room for development and he has a lot of layers and obstacles. 

NBC's SOUTHLAND premieres April 9th on NBC following THE OFFICE and 30 ROCK. Pictured is Arija Bareikis (Chickie), Michael Cudlitz (John), Tom Everett Scott (Russell), Benjamin McKenzie (Ben), Regina King (Lydia), Michael McGrady (Daniel), Shawn Hatosy (Sammy) and Kevin Alejandro (Nate)

JW:  So you got the chance to get involved in the action?
  Most definitely.  We got the chance to ride along on a full shift with actual LAPD officers and see them in action.  It was basically spending a day in the life of a patrol cop.  You start with roll call and respond to any kind of action.  We saw just about everything.  One time, there were guns drawn and with the entire adrenaline going – there were knees shaking and we got the chance to see how quickly these officers respond to action.  I now have a lot of respect for police officers.  I got so into it that I actually wanted to join the force.

JW:  You actually wanted to join?
  For anyone who loves adrenaline, it’s a great job.

JW:  What is it like working on the set of SOUTHLAND?
  It’s like a well oiled machine and one of the great things about working with John Wells is that he has his own team that he knows and trust and there’s so much chemistry.  It feels like a tight ship and they have a very unique approach and style for this series that they are sticking to.  They expect the actors to be prepared.  We don’t get sides and we don’t have a lot of time to be in our trailers and that’s what I like about it – is that there isn’t a lot of downtime.  One of the great things about working with this team, particularly one of the directors of the show Christopher Chulack, is that they are open to ideas and will let you do the scene and then tweak it to where it’s most comfortable.  He was there for ER during the entire run and as John Wells’ right hand man.

On SOUTHLAND, Kevin Alejandro plays the character of gang's detective Nate Moretta premiering on NBC April 9th

JW:  What can the viewers expect from SOUTHLAND?
  Expect to be entertained.  The show is visually amazing as we are actually filming in Watts, Compton, East L.A., Lincoln Heights and South Central.  There’s a great deal of authenticity to this project.  The people they hired to capture the eye of the show are great.  All of the film is being shot on the new red cam that captures any light available so that you don’t have to do any setting of the lights.  The show is funny, dark and the writing is great.  All these elements complement each other.  It’s such a big ensemble and gives the audience a chance to not just relate and fall in love with one specific character.  You never know which character is going to be featured more.  You have so many different story possibilities and it keeps the show interesting. 

JW:  Out of all the characters you have played so far, which one is your favorite? 
KA:  ( pondering)  My favorite character.  I’m not sure I have a particular favorite.  The one I played in ALIAS was a lot of fun.  It started off with a few of the scenes in Spanish, but when we began shooting, the scenes didn’t make sense for me to waft between Spanish and English, so they changed about 95% of the language to Spanish which was a challenge.  ( Pondering again.)  What else did I have fun doing?  I had a great time working with Steve Zahn and Justin Long on STRANGE WILDERNESS.  I don’t get to do a lot of comedy and it was my chance to be crazy and go off script and be with people who are good at it.  DRIVE was fun.  It was like getting the chance to be a young boy playing with cool cars.  SHARK was amazing especially working with James Woods.  He is on point in every scene that he is in and I learned so much working with him.  Plus, I got to wear a suit for the first time.  ( laughs)

Kevin Alejandro, pictured with James Woods, on CBS's SHARK

JW:  Are there any dream directors or actors you want to work with? 
  That’s a tough one.  Honestly, I want to be a part of great project with good people.  It doesn’t matter if they have a big name or not.  As long as it is someone that has a style and a mindset that makes good quality work.  I respect a lot of the greats and of course it would be great to work with them all.  There’s something romantic in my eyes about working with a group of people who are all on the same page working on a great piece of art. 

JW:  Who or what were your biggest influences growing up?
  My high school theatre teacher Jerry Worsham.  I was very fortunate to get into one of the top theatre programs in the state of Texas.  We competed in UIL (University Interscholastic League) and he was the one that won the most trophies in high school theatre.  He opened my eyes to theatre while I was in high school and to culture in a town where there was not much going on.  I thank my mom and dad and in the beginning they never quite got my dedication to it until they saw me in ROMEO AND JULIET.  After they saw my performance, they were very proud of me.  Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, I had a lot of support and they were very proud.  Once I got into college, I was again fortunate to have Michael Bloom, Stephen Gerald and Lee Abraham to take me under their wing and give me roles that were a challenge to me – that really helped me grow as an actor.

Kevin Alejandro played Winston Salazar on FOX's TV Show DRIVE

JW:  Let’s talk about your theatre experience at The University of Texas at Austin.  You also have an extensive theatre background, were there any particular roles you’ve enjoyed playing
KA:  You know I have gotten to play anywhere from Oberon ( A Midsummer’s Night Dream) to Florizel ( The Winter’s Tale) to Dimitri ( The Brothers Karamazov) and to you casting me in my first contemporary role (Grant in The Manipulation, Love, Lust and Betrayal of a Career Woman) where I didn’t have to do an accent and play a normal guy with real emotions.  When I got into the BFA program at UT, I was fortunate that Michael Bloom took a special liking to me.  I had the opportunity to sit in his graduate class and to turn it into my own acting conservatory and be cast in a graduate acting show. 

JW:  Does your theatre background work better for you in either television or film?
  Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to do a lot of film.  With the little bit of film that I have done, I found that there is a lot of time to take those beats and be more natural.  Mainly, theatre has helped me tremendously in my television career.  My first regular gig was on The Young and the Restless ( playing Dominic Hughes).  Every day you have pages and pages of dialogue and a wide range of emotions you have to convey in one scene.  It was like doing a play in that aspect.  Television scenes are usually out of sequence much like a play.  There is a certain rhythm and a pace that is easier to pick up just like working on a play. 

On ABC's UGLY BETTY, Kevin Alejandro played the recurring character of Santos. Also pictured is Hilda(played by series regular Ana Ortiz)

JW:  Is there anyone special in your life? 
KA:   My wife Leslie.
JW:  How did you meet your wife? 
KA:  I met Leslie six years ago as I was helping one of my friends move into an apartment.  We met the first day and I used to visit her and hang out.  We formed a connection.  I didn’t have a lot of things go right in my life, but it didn’t come into order until I met her.  She started supporting me in my desire to be an actor and she was that last piece of the puzzle that helped me push forward.  Last year, we had a baby and that has been absolutely amazing.  He’s the other part of the puzzle that is making my life work.  She is working again.  She’s a musician and they say musicians and babies usually bring good luck so we are happy right now.

Kevin Alejandro pictured with his wife, Leslie, at the TV Guide Party

JW:  What is it like being a father?
  It’s indescribable and I’ve got to say I haven’t laughed and smiled so much in my entire life after having him.  We’re lucky because we got a good one.  ( laughing)  For a while, we were like, “We are going to have a baby and he’s going to keep us up all night!”  For the longest time, he has slept until 10AM, which is very much our sleeping schedule and that has made us happy.  Now he’s waking up earlier and it’s keeping us in check and you hear all the stories about how wonderful it is to have a baby and it’s all true.  It’s amazing how someone so small can affect you so greatly and I was fortunate when she got pregnant during the time of the writer’s strike and I wasn’t working.  I got the chance to go through her pregnancy and attend her Lamaze classes and I didn’t have to work out any schedules.  I got to be there through the delivery and then had about three weeks of being at home.  I was there to help her figure out what our son needed and embrace this experience.  When I went back to work, it was weird because thirty minutes into getting ready to go to set, I began missing him.  It’s great to watch his development and the baby sign language helps.  He’s a smart baby and I am looking forward to him getting older and taking him out to the water and surfing.

Leslie peeks in to see how the interview is going and tells Kevin that she bought finger painting and baby paint brushes so that they can have family time to paint and explore Kaden’s creative side. 

JW:  What is a day in the life of Kevin Alejandro entails?
  Wake up early and go surf a few hours.  When Leslie and I got married in Costa Rica, I never had any interest in surfing.  She has wanted me to do it and honestly I haven’t stopped since then.  It’s something we love to do together.  It’s a great way to find who you are in a big part of nature.  Surfing keeps me young and that’s one of the reasons why we live by the beach.  (Pondering.)  I come back and hang out with my family.  We walk down the street in our neighborhood over to a little park near the beach.  We are very good about having family time.  I am now playing tennis.  I am very adamant about doing my work reading scripts when it’s there and when something great comes along.  I work in my garage and I have this great place under my building where I can memorize my lines.  I make time to hang out with my friends. 

Alejandro enjoys surfing as a way to keep active and stay young

In closing of our interview, we had a couple of drinks off the record before making our way back to his home to check on his wife and the newest little one that has brought a significant impact to the Alejandro household.  One thing can be said about him is that he is blessed on two fronts:  blessed with all of the wonderful acting opportunities that have come his way and blessed that he has a beautiful family to share that with.

Kevin Alejandro is represented by Main Title Entertainment.

For more information on and about NBC's SOUTHLAND, visit the official SOUTHLAND website. 

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