E.J. Bonilla is a man on the rise. The New York native brings his latest film, The House That Jack Built to the LA Film Festival. It is the tale of a resourceful, young Latino man, attempting to relive the idyllic days of his youth. A Daytime Emmy Award nominee for perhaps his best known role as Rafe Rivera on Guiding Light, Bonilla is a determined man on a mission, to find challenge and artistic fulfillment as he charts a promising chart up the Hollywood food chain.
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, NY
AN OLD FASHIONED OR A GOOD ‘OL BEER: I’m not a big fan of “the drink,” but recently though, I have found a wine that I don’t hate. Pinot Noir Vorte Sante.
THE GETAWAY TRAIN: Someplace exotic. With a beach or pool. Breathtaking scenery and weather. With even BETTER food.
I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT…WALLET–PHONE–KEYS… It’s literally my mantra/checklist as I walk out the door.
ACTOR THAT MOST INFLUENCED YOU: These actors keep changing for me but I love and respect any actor who are capable of being more than great. Someone who strives for TRUTH and is capable of being seamless. Anthony Hopkins, for example, is one of those actors.
LAST TWEET: #BlurredLines
GUILTY PLEASURE: I watch all of Gordon Ramsey’s shows. Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, all of them. If I’m too full to eat, I at least like to LOOK at good food.
IF I PEEKED IN ON A FRIDAY NIGTH I’D FIND YOU…Watching Hulu Plus with my young lady love, curled up under the covers laughing.
YOU – IN 3 WORDS: Genuine Positive Kid.
HYDROGEN MAGAZINE: What were your early years like?
E.J. BONILLA: I’ve always had a lot of fun, been full of energy and spirit I think but it was hard for me, earlier in life, to find
the courage to be myself. [Laughs] I was at one point very socially awkward. I didn’t interact with strangers with ease. That has since been sorted out a bit more, literally thanks to God and my relationship with Him.
HM: When did the acting bug really take hold and were your family on board from the start?
EJ: I first caught the acting bug in my ninth-grade performance of Grease where I played Danny Zuko. I had no idea that performing and telling stories were going to be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My family has supported me all the way in my career. I have to thank my mother for allowing me to be crazy–bouncing off walls in my room alone.
HM: You might be best known for your Guiding Light role as Rafe Rivera. How did that role come to you?
EJ: Like anyone else, I auditioned and was lucky enough to book it. Thank God I did.
HM: You are a New Yorker, born and bred. How does that backdrop inform your life today?
EJ: I think I am honest. New Yorkers have a habit of being that way for better or for worse I think. I am polite however.
HM: In The House That Jack Built, your character is an idealist yearning for the magic of his youth and he buys
a Bronx apartment building, moving his raucous extended family in rent-free. And as one would imagine, family ties are tested. Tell me about your role.
EJ: To Jack, his main flaw is almost that he loves too much. He allows that love to justify his actions for better or for worse. As a result ignoring the real needs of his family. The idea though of someone who is the head of their house; the head of their family one who nobly feels as if the well-being of the group rests on his shoulders reminds me significantly of my brother and in a lot of ways this role was an ode to him. I based a lot of my character off of my brother and the other males of my family including mannerisms
and figures of speech.
HM: What’s a typical day off-set like for you?
EJ: I love to eat, I love to sleep and I love to play. All of those things in one form or another keep you healthy and feed your soul.
Recently I’ve joined UCB classes to learn about improv comedy and a group of friends and I meet up on Wednesdays to practice just playing and having fun on stage comedically.
HM: What does your family make of all your success?
EJ: I think they are proud of me and they make sure to help keep me grounded. In a way success in the form of attention isn’t real. It can be fleeting and in this business you have to be prepared for that. So for me, my success comes from my growth as an artist and as a storyteller.
HM: If you close your eyes, where do you picture yourself in say 5 years?
EJ: Happy. Making movies and telling stories. Hopefully doing well enough to treat my family well and to take some of the
financial strains of life off of their shoulders.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Brett Erickson – www.brettericksonphoto.com