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Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow

Jay Hernandez: Elevator to the top

by Lori Blackman
Showbiz Today Reports

Jay Hernandez landed the role of Carlos in "Crazy Beautiful" with virtually no experience in acting  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- It sounds like the plot to an old movie: A random encounter with an agent in an elevator leads to a movie career, a starring role in a major motion picture with the beautiful Kirsten Dunst, and the promise of fame and fortune.

But that's just what happened to Jay Hernandez.

Moreover, he had virtually no background in acting. Before he landed the role of Carlos, a well-adjusted, well-mannered and smart Latino high school student in the new film "crazy/beautiful," Hernandez's only other experience had been on a Saturday morning show called "Hangtime."

CNN's Lori Blackman talks to Jay Hernandez, star of 'Crazy Beautiful' (July 6)

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We talked to this week's Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow about his new film and how close it hits to home.

CNN: How does it feel to be starring in your first feature film?

Jay Hernandez: It was hard at first, but once I got over the initial nervousness it was actually really good.

CNN: When they started casting for this film you were one of the first people they brought in.

Hernandez says the film has more depth than the average teen movie  

Hernandez: I think actually the very first person they saw.

CNN: But they couldn't cast the first person they saw, so they did a countrywide search and came back to you.

Hernandez: Yeah, and they even saw people from places like Mexico and Spain, so they pretty much looked everywhere.

CNN: Knowing that, what was your reaction when they told you that you had gotten the part?


Hernandez: Well, I was just like, "Oh, OK, thank you" and he was like, "Well, aren't you excited?" And I was like, "Yeah, I'm excited. But I'm just going to wait until I'm on the set to be excited because I don't want something strange to happen." Because I've been told that before I've got the role and something happens and it didn't work out.

CNN: Do you think this film fits into the typical teen film genre?

Hernandez: Well, I think the characters are real and it's got something to say and it's got more depth, I think, than the average teen movie.

CNN: And certainty a big deviation from the average Latino character.

Hernandez: Yeah. That's what drew me to the role -- the fact that it was so positive and something different. The stereotypes were completely reversed for this film. The more affluent rich white girl was the one who was dysfunctional, the family was messed up and all that kind of thing. And I was from the wrong side of town and that that kind of thing, and my mom was really nurturing and caring and trying to get me to where I wanted to go in life.

CNN: So how much are you like your character of Carlos?

Hernandez: I'm pretty close. I try to bring a lot of myself out and into the character so it's pretty real as to who I am. I think there's a lot of similarities between me and Carlos, especially the way he transitioned into this lifestyle is sort of the same transition that I'm making into the entertainment business right now.

CNN: You have some really intense sex scenes in this movie. How was that for you to shoot?

Hernandez: I was really nervous. Kirsten wasn't as nervous as I was -- she was actually kind of like, "Don't worry about it, it's going to be all right." It's just hard because there's so many people around and the cameras are like right in your face you're being intimate and it's just like a strange environment. It's part of my job and, I don't know, it's a hard part.

CNN: Growing up, you did not want to be an actor. Then you were discovered in an elevator. How did that happen?

Hernandez: I was with my parents. They were doing their thing, running errands, and we were in an office building in Hollywood. We were on the 10th floor going down and the doors were closing and this guy sticks his hand in and opens the doors up.

He walks in and I noticed he was looking at me and I thought, something's weird about this guy, he's looking at me. He ends up opening his mouth and saying, "You've got a great look. Have you ever been interested in acting or doing commercials or anything like that?" and I was like, "No."

So he said, "If you become interested and if you change your mind, here's my card. Give me a call." I called him about two weeks later because my mom kind of pushed me to do it. She was like, "Try it."

CNN: So four years ago you had no acting aspirations, today you're starring in your own film.

Hernandez: A lot of times (the thought) will pop into my head: What am I doing here, doing interviews like this? I did another film called "The Rookie" with Dennis Quaid and ... many times I just sat back and am like, How did I get here? It is really strange.

CNN: You got your start on a Saturday morning sitcom called "Hangtime." It is a very unusual transition to go from a Saturday morning sitcom to a feature film.

Hernandez: Yeah, it was like stepping stones. I started somewhere and just worked my way up to this point.

CNN: Was "Hangtime" your schooling?

Hernandez: Yeah, definitely. It was schooling because you get to be in front of the camera. It was a live audience, so that extra added pressure and environment kind of helps you. I became comfortable in front of the camera during "Hangtime."

CNN: What does "crazy/beautiful" actually mean?

Hernandez: Well it's a line from the movie. She's just so crazy and out there and I tell her that -- "You're crazy" -- and she tells me, "You're beautiful." So that's where it came from.

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