Jay Hernandez’s life reads like a movie script. He never meant to be an actor, but fate had its way on an elevator.
CUT TO: Jay, a guy just out of high school, is on the 10th floor of a building in Hollywood with his parents. The elevator doors begin closing when a hand slips through and reopens them. An agent who had spotted him earlier begins his pitch.
AGENT: I’m looking for people to manage, and you’ve got a good look. Have you ever thought about acting, or have you ever been interested?
JAY: No. Not really.
AGENT (handing him a card): If you change your mind, give me a call.
That chance encounter ended up changing the young man’s life. A few weeks later he talked with his mother, Isis, an accountant. She encouraged him to call the agent.
After more than a decade in the business, Hernandez regularly gets starring roles, such as the lead in the horror offering "Hostel," which topped the nation’s box office last weekend.
"When I first started acting it was strange," says Hernandez, 27. "The exercises were strange. I had a moment in class when I played a heroin junkie and something about going into that emotion was challenging. I felt changed. Then I started digging it."
Hernandez knew that an acting career wouldn’t be easy. When he finally got work, it was mostly small TV roles. It wasn’t until he booked the role of Carlos Nuñez, starring opposite Kirsten Dunst in "Crazy/Beautiful," that acting became more than a diversion.
In his latest film, "Hostel," Hernandez plays Paxton, an American college student on a European backpacking vacation with a friend.
They get sucked into a gruesome ordeal, complete with torture scenes directed by Eli Roth. Quentin Tarantino served as executive producer.
"I found the script exciting, intriguing and different," Hernandez says. "It really pushed the envelope, and it’s a nice contrast to everything that I’ve been doing. I knew I couldn’t lose if Quentin Tarantino was involved."