Mexican Gangster Actor Used To Run The Streets, Now He’s An Actor

Richard Cabral’s life story of reformed gang member turned Hollywood star is so remarkable and rare that if you saw it in a movie you’d be like,”Come on, that sh*t ain’t real.” But it’s for real. He went from nearly spending his life in jail for trying to kill a man to earning an Emmy nomination for his work on a critically-acclaimed TV drama. Make no mistake, his success didn’t come by chance, it came by choice.

Cabral’s story starts in East L.A., where he was born to a single mother in the early ’80s.


As a teenager, Cabral looked to gangs for a sense of belonging.


Like many young people who get caught up in gang life, Cabral spent his most of his teenage years in and out of jail.


At 20 years old, he shot a man for no good reason.


The day before Cabral was supposed to go to trial for attempted murder, he accepted a plea deal.


He served 27 months in jail, where he got…


When Cabral was released from jail, he was ready to change his life.

Soon, he went Hollywood.


Cabral eventually went from playing background roles to earning speaking roles.


Maybe you remember him as the guy from Bruno Mars’ video for “Grenade.”

Or as Demon in the movie “End of Watch.”

Eventually, Cabral landed the perfect role in “American Crime.”

Credit: ABC Television Network / YouTube

Cabral was tasked with playing Hector Tontz, a character described as a “young man who has lived life on the fringes of society and has made bad decisions just to survive.”

Cabral’s performance was so nuanced and convincing that he was nominated for a 2015 Emmy.


Here he is, lookin’ sharp with his wife, on the red carpet at the 2015 Emmys.

Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

The accolades and success are nice, but, more importantly, acting allows Cabral to be a voice in his community.


And the community is listening to and proud of Cabral. He even has a burrito named after him.


Playing several roles as a gang member may not seem like a stretch – it could even be interpreted as typecasting.

Credit: Tommaso Boddi / Getty

But Cabral brings an authenticity and depth to his roles that keeps them from being the same old stereotypes we’ve seen time and time again. Cabral has evolved as a person and he’s now poised to evolve as an actor.

READ: A Mexican Artist Made Bear Rugs Out of Gang Members from MS-13

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