Interview: Michael Peña is Just a Regular Dude Doing Extraordinary Things

Michael Pena Ant-Man credit: Marvel

Michael Peña is the first to admit that he’s one of luckiest Latinos in the U.S. Why? He gets paid big bucks to play everyday guys in movies. We caught up with Peña, who has two movies in theaters this week – Ant-Man and The Vatican Tapes – to find out what makes him tick. Here’s what we learned:

His Son Inspires His Career Choices

Paul Rudd, Roman Pena and me at the #AntMan premiere.

A photo posted by Michael Pena (@mvegapena) on

At only six years old, Peña’s son is already a movie fanatic. “He can remember almost every scene in a movie. He even makes little videos with zombies. I decided to join Ant-Man because of him, he really inspired me. Even Cesar Chavez, I don’t know if I would have done it. In acting you’re alone and it’s almost a selfish process because all you’re worried about is your career and what role is going to be good for you. And now that I have a son, I think more about others than about myself. I just want to make him happy.”

His Admiration for Cesar Chavez Came from His Parents

Me as Cesar Chavez

A photo posted by Michael Pena (@mvegapena) on

“My parents were farmers so I really had them in mind when making [Cesar Chavez],” said Peña. “It was tough to make a movie about a very quiet person. He wasn’t the best speaker and he wasn’t trying to be. In a way, there was one thing that I was uncomfortable when doing the movie and it was basically the politics that came with the job. Once you become acquainted with Sacramento, you realize they’re not really voting for the issue but for their party. Which means the party isn’t for the people but Cesar Chavez was 100% for the people. He wasn’t biased towards any party. He just wanted to help people.”

He Believes Latinos Should Be More Politically Active…

“I do think that when we come to this country it’s important to learn English,” said Peña. “When my parents came to this country they decided to be Americans and they voted. We do need to exercise that right.”

And Voting is a Way to Make Yourself Heard 

Michael Peña Chavez

“We just heard Donald Trump say Mexicans are criminals and rapists. If he wanted the Latino vote he ain’t going to get it. Voting is the way to prove people wrong. There are far more good Latinos than there are criminals. Even the cops, there are way more good one than bad ones. But it all starts with us, we need to take action.”

Danny Trejo: Machete Wielder, Coffee Shop Saver and American Hero

When it Comes to Acting, He Just Wants to Play Regular Dudes

Michael Peña
Credit: Open Road Films

His on-screen roles in Crash, End of Watch and most recently The Vatican Tapes have one thing in common, all are regular people trying to make a difference. “I like playing characters that are as close to a real person as possible. Two of my favorite actors, Jack Lemmon and Dustin Hoffman always played the everyday man. There is something about an everyday man doing something extraordinary that’s just admirable. To overcome the nervousness and be brave, I’m just fascinated by that.”

Working on Ant-Man Wasn’t So Easy…

“It was intimidating for sure,” confessed Peña, who played the role Luis, the motor-mouthed best friend of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man. “There are just more eyes on you, more pressure, more executive producers and a larger production team. Instead of being in one room with two cameras, you’re thrown into five enormous studios with large camera cranes.”

But Loyal Fans Make It All Worth It

Breakfast burrito it's been a long time #tacosdelta #silverlake

A photo posted by @salval on

“I love going to Tacos Delta in Echo Park. The asada tacos are so good, and they have this sauce that’s just insane,” admits Peña, who said one day he had a tear-jerking moment with one of the employees. “One of the cooks came out from the kitchen to share with me that I was an inspiration to him. He was a big man with a bunch of tattoos. I could tell he has lived life, maybe gone through some tough times, and if that guy can find inspiration in my work, it’s all worth it. I drove off wondering what movie of mine had he watched that inspired him. It’s not like people are thanking me for being in People Magazine, that’s different, they’re coming up to me because of my actual acting work.”

His Acting is Influenced By EJO…

Which Edward James Olmos role stands out most? “Stand and Deliver with Edward James Olmos,” said Peña. “He was also doing Miami Vice around that time. I was a Latino kid in Chicago, watching Olmos on the big screen. It was so surreal. I also really loved La Bamba. I can quote that movie all day.”

Sorry, Ant-Man, but You’ve Got Nothing on El Chapulín Colorado

So, What’s Michael Peña’s American Dream?

“The American Dream isn’t a white picket fence anymore,” said Peña. “It’s being able to do something that you dream of. My parents are a great example of people who are living the American Dream. They they came from poverty and found a way through hard work to provide for their family, now they even have a pension.”

What’s your favorite Michael Peña movie? Let us know below.