“I travel a different path” said Denzel in Book of Eli…and I do.
On a sweltering 90 degree summer afternoon in late August, the first day of high school football double-sessions, I strode to the edge of the field, helmet in hand. Heatwaves shimmered off the hot track surrounding the scorched grass. Neighborhood dogs waited anxiously so they could dodge to lap up the vomit on the sidelines from heat exhausted, fatigued players. The temperature was oppressive and the air was thick, there I stood poised in my pads, a mighty senior. Okay, so truth be told, I weighed only 145 lbs. at nearly 6 feet tall, but I was proud of my newly developed physique. I’d done a man’s work all summer long pumping iron in the weight room and put on 5 lbs. of solid, “hulking” mass (mostly hair). It really didn’t matter to me that there were guys on the team that outweighed me 2 to 1, guys who did time in reform school, guys who shaved like men who played the sport because it was the only place they could hit somebody and not get into trouble with the law. It’s one thing to ride the little yellow bus; but there I was…licking the windows. What was I doing? I had absolutely no business being on that field. I had no experience and lacked the physical build; but I had heart. Sure, there were those who thought I was crazy, and maybe I was (and still am). Fact is, I didn’t belong out there with those monsters. You see, my parents were always afraid I would get hurt; so, I never played before. But this was my senior year, my last chance, my decision. I was gonna be a baller. So, when I left in the morning to go to try-outs, I didn’t tell my parents, I just did it. So it was the sweetest satisfaction at the end of the first day, hearing my name called out by the head coach because I was awarded the “Captain of the Day” sticker for the back of my head on my helmet. I had received recognition for performing well, playing with my heart and motivating those around me to push harder…and I was on my way.
Flash forward some years after college. My new wife and I had a baby on the way in a new house, with a great new job. But this new job required me to pass an exam to stay employed. But this was no regular exam because nearly 70% of those that attempt it fail on the first try. And the only way to retake it, was to score at least a 60%, which many don’t. You see, I was studying for the Series 7 Stockbrokers license. But who was I kidding? I had no background in finance or economics and had never taken a class in either. I partied my way through college, stopping occasionally to study for a communications exam or compete in a track meet, while almost all of the people taking this test had finance degrees. I on the other hand had only crammed for a month studying a 700 page book on the stock market and securities law. Of course I wasn’t feeling confident, I was a nervous mess because I knew I HAD to pass. But guess what, on test day I nailed the exam and passed on my very first attempt! I had beaten the odds again and would work successfully as a stockbroker.
Flash forward yet again, ten years of working in investments made me realize the truth, that making good money was not the root of my happiness. This was apparent because every day my soul bubbled and popped in the corporate fryolator. I fought anxiety attacks in company town hall meetings, I had to resist the urge to make humorous and inappropriate comments in morning team huddles. I felt trapped in my cubicle and yearned to escape the confines of company mission statements and policies. I knew that although I was successful, I did not want to be like my fellow coworkers. I would not sport an invisible “Cube Life” tattoo on my belly like 2Pac. This was NOT the life for me.
Luckily, I stumbled back into something I loved to do as a child around the house. I would imitate Clint Eastwood’s stoic stillness or John Wayne’s swagger. I’d emulate Brando’s naturalness, Deniro’s intensity and Daniel Day Lewis’s morphing ability. I admired Keitel’s edge, Anthony Garcia’s smoothness and then later Denzel’s unpredictability in Training Day. And it was all because one day a friend asked me to play a part in her indie film project because I was “right” for the role. So I did and I fell back in love. Now all my free time is consumed by acting. I always wanted to do this…be an actor, to live in New York City, to live that life, to breathe that air (I know…yuck). Finally after 10 years on the responsible road, I rediscovered my joy for the world of acting. I re-found a whole population of people like me who love to express themselves, people who love stories, new experiences and new relationships. This is my tribe, my people.
I was once lost for a long time but now I’ve finally found myself. I’ve studied acting, read books on it, done intensives, retreats, private coaching and joined acting studios. I breathe acting and still continue to study formally. I am extremely fortunate that in the 2 years that I’ve been acting full-time, I’ve played principal roles in many indie films and shorts. I’ve been cast on NBC’s THE BLACKLIST, I’ve had a recurring part on Netflix’s DAREDEVIL and CBS’s BULL…all in principal roles. I’ve worked opposite Keke Palmer in a pivotal scene for the upcoming feature film, PIMP. I’ve also appeared in principal roles on two Showtime series HOMELAND and BILLIONS and am set to appear in principal roles in two major Hollywood feature films to be released nationwide in theaters; DADDY’S HOME 2 and PROUD MARY. I am a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and am repped out of New York City with an agent, commercial agent and manager. I am happy. I finally know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. This IS who I am. But this is only the beginning.
I still feel that Captain sticker on the back of my head as I wade bravely into the unknown. I’ve dedicated my life to performing well, playing with my heart and motivating those around me to push harder. Through it all, I still hear the voice of Coach Kenyon…
“If you’re not gonna give 100%, then what’s the point of doing it at all.”
This is my mantra.
I’m Jose Guns Alves. I am an actor…and wait till you get a load of me.