Budding actor gives behind the scenes look at his life (Video)
Oct. 8, 2011 at 5:08 a.m.
Updated Oct. 9, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.
Poor little Mexican boy from South Texas.
That's the complex role Santiago Villalobos was cast into at birth.
Villalobos' life has proved to be a difficult, but not an impossible, undertaking.
"It was hard," said Villalobos, 36. "I kind of hated it at first, but it's who I was so I embraced it."
His early role prepared him well for the subsequent roles of his life, including his current one of budding actor.
A triple threat - singer, guitar and piano player and horse rider - Villalobos, who is known by many for his long black hair; sculpted, World Wrestling Federation frame; and his affinity for zoot suits, has accumulated 28 professional acting titles.
"I've come a long way," said Villalobos, as he prepared to promote his latest movie, "All She Can" during the Magic 95.9 morning show. "I've slithered with snakes and now I'm soaring with the eagles."
The scene of Villalobos' childhood began in the Austwell-Tivoli area.
Villalobos was the second oldest of six children born to a mother, who was a homemaker, and a father, who played an accordion in the Tejano bands.
His parents were second-generation Mexican-Americans.
Things were financially tough for the family.
"It was a little embarrassing. We'd have to wear the same shirt a couple of days out of the week," said Villalobos. "Every now and then we would be able to buy new clothes but not Girbaud or Levis just Walmart.
Always a character, Villalobos said, his comedic antics often landed him in hot water.
"I got in trouble a lot for trying to make people laugh," said Villalobos. "I now know why I was like that, but back then, they just called me a trouble maker."
"People didn't get me."
Villalobos' craving to entertain others drove him to participate in school plays, providing him with some of his earliest encounters with rejection.
"The little roles we did get we tried to knock them out and hope it would make an impact," he said.
After graduating from high school in 1993, Villalobos joined the U.S. Army in hopes of earning money for college and giving himself time to figure out what we wanted to do with his life.
Following a three year stint in the armed forces, Villalobos moved to California to be with his first wife.
While there, he noticed the acting bug beginning to nip at him again.
"The newspapers were always advertising for extras," he said. "I always wanted to do it, but my wife wouldn't let me."
Having grown tired of the California life, Villalobos, along with his first wife and oldest son, moved to Victoria in 1998 to be closer to Villalobos' family and so he could attend Victoria College on the GI Bill.
When he arrived in Victoria, Villalobos began working in a warehouse and taking classes to become a Spanish teacher.
The unrelenting acting bug was not about to give up that easily on Villalobos, however.
After a series of recurring dreams, things came to a head in May 2001.
"I had a literal dream about being in a movie for two and a half months straight. I was in the film, and I was the director in charge, every now and then. It became so real," said Villalobos. "I told myself if I go to sleep and have the same dream, then I know God was trying to tell me something."
The day after his declaration, Villalobos was at peace with his decision to begin pursuing a career as an actor.
"My (first) wife thought I was crazy," Villalobos said laughingly. "She called me every name in the book in English and Spanish."
She took the couple's son and returned to California.
"I got a Dear Juan letter," said Villalobos.
Although saddened by the departure of his wife and son, Villalobos decided to press on with his career, moving to Corpus Christi to study drama at Del Mar College.
While in school, he acted in a number of plays including "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and directed others including "Zoot Suit."
"I loved it," Villalobos said about his college acting opportunities. "That was my calling. I knew that I was doing what I was meant to do."
Villalobos' first big break came in 2002 when his mother told him about an upcoming movie casting call.
The independent period film, which was called "Antanasia" featured noted names such as musician Freddy Fender, Hollywood stuntman David Alvarado and Happy the Clown. It detailed the struggles of a Mexican woman's struggle with becoming an early Texas settler.
Villalobos auditioned and was awarded the part of an extra before being promoted to a small speaking role.
During that role he met the woman who ended up being his current leading lady - Tanya Leite-Villalobos.
A producer for "Antanasia," Leite-Villalobos casted Villalobos for the part.
"I thought any guy confident enough to take a picture of himself wearing a white zoot suit has got to be a flamboyant person," she laughed as she described the unprofessional yet intriguing headshot he had submitted in hopes of being cast in the film. "I thought I have got to give this guy a shot."
Although it was not love at first zoot suit for Leite-Villalobos, the two eventually began dating and got married.
While working on "Anastasia," Villalobos caught the eye of Alvarado, who went on to invite the young actor to his house for a casting call a few months later for the 2004 blockbuster "The Alamo" featuring award winning actors Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid.
Villalobos landed a role as a member of the Mexican Army.
"It was a dream come true. Starting off, being able to work with these guys," he said. "It was a sense of accomplishment in the beginning stages of my career."
His biggest role to date, though, was in 2007 when he played the supporting role of Lalo in the movie "Mexican Sunrise," which went to the renowned Cannes film festival.
For Villalobos, the road to success has not been easy.
"There have been ups and downs, but mostly up," said Villalobos. "There have been times when I had no money because I was working for free. I would pawn stuff just to get gas money just to get to audition. I got out there and paid my dues."
Unlike years past, Villalobos said the fact that he is a Hispanic actor has worked in his favor to get roles.
"They are really pushing for Hispanics now. Thumbs up for guys like George Lopez who showed we don't just have to play gangsters, thugs or the guys behind the bar," he said. "We can play lead roles, too."
Villalobos said he hopes to provide that same kind of inspiration to youth as well.
"I want to be that guy who wasn't there when I was there," he said. "So if there's that one boy at home right now who will see me and know that guy was from his hometown and if I could do it, then he can too."
In addition to acting, Villalobos said he is currently enrolled in massage therapy classes and enjoys spending time with his wife of eight years and their three children.
Despite his steady incline to eventually play the lead actor role of a Golden-Globe winning movie in the future, Villalobos has not yet reached his career climax.
But based on the plot thus far, Villalobos' life story will seemingly be one with a fairy tale happy ending.
"You will see me on the big screen. I've come all this way. I don't see myself going down," he said. "Remember the name Santiago Villalobos."