The Orange County Register
Carrillo made up his mind about a decade ago: He wanted to be
the first big-screen Latin action hero.
So he went
into a producer's Beverly Hills office, walked past the
secretary and pushed open the door.
me a star," Carrillo said.
"You mean you
want to be an actor?" the producer asked.
"No, I want to
be a star."
laughter filled the room.
was determined to use his background in business and martial
arts to become famous. He set out on a 10-year journey to make a
movie. Along the way there were frustrations and lessons about
the movie industry, experiences that Carrillo says made him more
knowledgeable and stronger.
Now the San
Juan Capistrano resident, a former executive in the
health-insurance industry, is banking that a decade's worth of
networking, hard work and hard-learned lessons will lead him to
After years of
bit parts, he took a big step toward his dream with his starring
role in "Latin Dragon," released directly to the home video
market in September. The $2 million movie, co-produced and
co-written by Carrillo and also starring Lorenzo Lamas, Gary
Busey and Pepe Serna, is about a war veteran working as an
undercover agent for the government whoreturns to his native
East Los Angeles.
has sold about 40,000 copies so far and recently debuted as a
pay-per view movie through Time Warner Cable.
Carrillo, who graduated from the State University of New York in
Albany with dual degrees in marketing and Spanish, making and
starring in "Latin Dragon" was only the start. The Ecuadorian-
born Bronx-raised actor, who holds a fifth-degree black belt in
karate, plans to star in two more films this year. He's also in
talks to appear on a television program.
In the past
few years he's stopped working in health-care insurance to focus
on acting and spending time with family. If the celebrity life
doesn't work out, Carrillo said, he'll go back to being an
executive making a healthy six-figure salary. In addition, he's
an investor in a marketing technology company and a benefits
consulting firm in Laguna Hills.
"The truth is
that this (entertainment) business is brutal," said Carrillo,
who will only say that he's in his mid-30s. "I tell acting
students to study something else that will give them some
financial stability. They don't have to suffer. They can study
acting at night, especially in California when you have the best
acting schools in the world."
there have never been any major Latin action heroes in
English-language cinema. Typically, martial-arts stars have been
Asian, such as Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, or white, like Chuck
Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
tongue-in-cheek Latin action hero emerged in the late 1990s in a
film shown at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
The "Harry Knuckles" movie, directed by Lee Demarbre of Canada,
featured actor Phil Caracas, a real- life movie theater manager,
in a hybrid genre movie described as a "kung
action movie hero would certainly work in an underground level,"
said Demarbre, whose films are featured on
www.odessafilmworks.com. "It remains to be seen what happens on
the mainstream level, but I'm hopeful."
on the mean streets
upbringing could easily be made into a movie, too. It's a story
about a 3-year-old who moved with his family to the United
States from Ecuador for a better life.
They lived in
Florida, then California. Once his parents divorced, his mom
moved her children to New York, where she worked as a
seamstress. Her son was inevitably exposed to neighborhood gangs
Carrillo knew the neighborhood kids were tough, he decided to
take karate training when he was 8. Gang members regularly
challenged him to fights, which he tried to avoid.
"One day I got
tired of running," Carrillo said. "There were three guys and I
kicked their butts. The next day 20 of them showed up."
encouraged her son to stand up for himself, even if that meant
fighting. Carrillo eventually was made a member of the gang,
which he stuck with for three months before quitting. Still, he
had proved his toughness and the gang members never bothered him
again. After that, he could walk home.
have easily gone in the wrong direction as a young man. These
days he speaks to youth and other organizations about his life
and ambitions for a movie career.
"He's a very
family-oriented guy," said David Dye, Carrillo's martial-arts
trainer in Costa Mesa. "He has two beautiful children and a
lovely wife. His family comes first."
release of "Latin Dragon," Carrillo has been fielding calls for
more films, scripts and TV interviews.
Carrillo likes to tell in interviews is about the time he was
making "Latin Dragon." He injured himself on the first day of
filming, tearing the main tendon in his leg.
The pain was
extreme and the production was likely going to shut down. As
Carrillo walked back to his trailer, he recalled, somebody told
him a child wanted his autograph. As he walked over to see a
young boy in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic, something clicked.
Suddenly, making the film was the only choice.
"How could I
not complete the film?" Carrillo said. "I was collapsing, but
when your will is there, it's amazing what you can do."
production's staff was surprised to see Carrillo make the film,
which required action sequences. Eventually he had surgery to
repair the injury.
me a couple of times," said Howard Caldwell, Carrillo's acting
coach, chuckling. "He used to be a body builder so he has a lot
Camacho, who will work with Carrillo on his next film,
celebrates the actor's Latin action-hero approach, but he's
cautious about making broad, sweeping statements.
to see action heroes that happen to be Latin. That way stories
can be universal and the ethnic background secondary, but still
think of Arnold Schwarzenegger you don't think Austrian action
hero," Camacho said. "These characters shouldn't be defined by
agrees. He wants to tackle roles that have nothing to do with
the martial arts so he can show his versatility as an actor. He
also wants to inspire others.
"I want to be
able to open doors for young people," Carrillo said. "I'd like
them to know they can dream and make it. They don't have to give
up. It doesn't matter where you come from or what color you are.