We first met in 2009. He was a Server at the Cheesecake Factory/ The Grove. A handsome young man that was attentive to his customers, had a terrific sense of humor and an infectious smile.
In between running tables, he found time to indulge my curiosities.
I was impressed with the attention he paid me. As he put it, “I’m studying acting. I want to be an actor.” Because of his Latin looks, it was obvious he could be cast in many ethnically diverse and transitional roles. And, with his positive disposition, something told me that success was inevitable for this particular Server and he was bound for stardom… just give him time. Serving would definitely be a temporary gig.
He introduced himself as Carlos Pratts.
As fate would have it, weeks later, I would bump into him again with his cousin, actor Rene Rosado, at a yogurt shop on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. It was a late night and we all sat together to tell our tales of Hollywood Woe. He, like Rene, were studying hard and both were truly dedicated to paying their dues, developing their craft and making something of themselves. But, like all serious Artists find out, you have to survive…
The conversation went on with the three of us comparing survival stories and laughed about how ‘nuts’ and unpredictable the industry can be. It also turned out that Carlos and I were both from Houston, Texas, which opened more doors and more stories to share. Needless to say, it was a long night…
Today, Carlos is 28 and a longtime resident of North Hollywood. He is also a supporting actor in Disney’s feature, “McFarland, USA,” where he holds his own against the film’s star, Kevin Costner.
He took some time out of his hectic schedule to chill with me over an iced tea at Starbucks on Melrose. We discussed the advice Mr. Costner gave him, his sudden fame and the complex scripts and intricate characters he is selectively choosing:
Waide Riddle– Thanks, Carlos, for meeting with me. It’s been awhile.
Carlos Pratts– Awhile? It’s been years. That yogurt place on Sunset. Ah, man! What a night!
(We both laugh.)
W.R.- Yes. Confessions of three artists.
C.P. – So much has happened. For both of us. For Rene, too.
W.R.- Congrats to all of us… Now, I’m going to start with the most controversial of questions…
C.P. – (laughs) You? Controversial? Never!
W.R. – Sarcasm. You do know me. You’re an outspoken proponent and supporter for gay marriage, how did you feel about the SCOTUS decision?
C.P.- Oh my god! Fantastic! I am so happy for my friends. When I first came to L.A. from Texas, it was all new to me. Gay people… To be around openly gay people… Hmm… (searching for words) It’s been a positive learning experience. I ‘evolved.’ I love them and I’m happy for their happiness. Happy for you.
W.R.– Thank you, Carlos… what a kind thing to say… watch out… you’re going to make me emotional.
C.P.- (He makes direct eye contact with me) It’s true.
W.R.– Any gay relatives?
C.P.– No. Just my friends.
W.R.– Congratulations for your nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the Image Awards and the Teen Choice Awards. I’m so proud of you, Carlos.
C.P.– Thank you. It’s so incredible… It feels incredible. I just want to make a difference for my family and help them as much as I can while my success lasts. It is an honor to be acknowledged like this, and to know I’ve impacted people the way I have in the film… I’m very humbled about it. (He suddenly goes quiet.)
W.R.– I touched a nerve?
C.P.– I was lucky. I was blessed. Right place right time.
W.R.– …and talent has something to do with it, too. You are truly a marvel in the film and I hope Disney pushes you during awards season.
C.P.- (His eyes light up and his smile says it all) Yeah, I’m… I’m very grateful. Thank you, Waide. It would be nice, I won’t lie, it would be nice.
W.R.- You miss Houston?
C.P.- Yeah, Whataburger! Tell them in the interview that Whataburger has the best burgers ever!
W.R.- You just did! Actually, the best burgers in the world.
C.P.– Hell, yeah!
W.R.– So, how did you get the role in McFarland?
C.P.– I auditioned eight times.
C.P.– Yes. Then I was given what is known as a chemistry test. Then I got the role.
W.P.– Wow! Did Mr. Costner have any advice for you?
C.P.– Yes. A lot… but, I think the most important tips he left me with were always treat people equally. And with kindness. Respect every single person on a set regardless of what position they hold. Also, as actors, keep the vibe going. Don’t get lazy. Get together with each other, support each other… in a park, garage, wherever, and work, do scene study, rehearse, find monologues and get together and work-out. Find writers that you know and work with them…
W.R.– Smart guy.
C.P.– I think so.
W.R.– You’ve been working steady. Got any regrets?
(He thinks this over carefully, then pantomimes zipping his lips shut.)
Care to elaborate?
(He shoots me a devilish grin)
W.R.– Got a Bucket List?
W.R.- Favorite author?
C.P.– John Grisham
W.R.– Favorite book?
C.P.– “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron
W.R. – Favorite movie?
C.P.– “Friday Night Lights”
W.R.– Favorite color?
C.P. – Blue.
W.R.– Hey, this is going well, mine too… because it’s soothing and cool.
C.P. – You know, I never thought of it that way. Now, I will.
W.R. – Boxers or briefs?
C.R.– Briefs. Because I like to keep everything close.
W.R.– You and I both… you were cast in “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.” Anything special you can share?
C.P.– Great experience with some really fine actors and we were aloud to do a lot of improv. I appreciated that.
W.R.– I was good in my improv class, but I kept forgetting my lines and over-analyzing my cues in acting class… I always excelled in writing.
C.P.– And that’s why you’re the Writer. As Kevin said, “Actors, get to know your Writers.”
W.R. – He’s a smart guy… I like him… Scripts. What do you look for?
C.P.– Complexity. Intensity. Something unique. Not something with stereotype. Difficult characters that make me work. That make me study. That make me sweat. Or else, why bother? Scripts that are multi-layered… that reach out and touch.
W.R.– (He makes me smile) Okay… spoken like the true Artist I know. Thank you, Carlos, for taking time with me.
C.P.– What? You’re finished with me, bro?
W.R. – Ah, yeah, I know you have homework to do.
C.P. – Scripts are waiting to be read. Thank you, bro. It was good to sit and chill with you.
We both stand and he gives me a warm and caring hug. Then, he’s off; a true professional.
Carlos Pratts. Remember his name.