If you weren't already a Taylor Zakhar Perez fan, after watching Red, White & Royal Blue, you surely are now.
Zakhar Perez, who plays Alex in the movie, is taking lessons from his character. Alex, he says, is "this bombastic, annoying, energetic over-the-top guy that sometimes doesn't look before he leaps and puts people into different predicaments that they probably shouldn't be put into, but he just doesn't care…I wish we could all just be, you know, out there like that."
Here, 5 things to know about Taylor Zakhar Perez:
1. He's one of eight siblings.
He was born on Christmas Day 1991 in Chicago, and grew up in Chesterton, Indiana. His mom, who is Mexican, was an esthetician and his dad had an auto-body shop. He has seven siblings—five sisters and two brothers—and he's the third youngest.
Tragically, one of his sisters, Kristy, died earlier this summer.
One of his sisters (though he didn't specify which one) got him into acting, telling the New York Times, "She did like 40 performances of 'Annie' one winter — you know, that’s like the go-to play in community theater. I went with my parents, and I was watching it like, “OK, this is fun, I could do this.” So then they asked if I wanted to get involved ushering and just handing out the playbills, and I’m a 12-, 13-year-old kid, why not?"
2. He was a competitive swimmer.
Throughout his childhood and high school, he swam competitively, and almost swam at the collegiate level until he decided to go to UCLA, where he studied history and Spanish.
"I think back on if I had just focused on one thing, would I be that farther along? Would I have popped sooner or would I have had more opportunities? But I also think that I had a lot of growing up to do," Zakhar Perez told WWD. "If I would have hit at 20, I probably would be a mess by 30. So I’m really grateful for the time that I had to grow as a human and be away from my family. I have seven siblings, and I love them all dearly, but you need that time to be away and understand who you are and what you want, and not what your parents want, and then you come full circle of, ‘Oh, they just wanted the best for me.’ And you stop resenting. Then you do all the work."
3. He's very outdoorsy—and his type, he says, is adventurous.
Zakhar Perez has hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, and, according to the Hollywood Reporter, "he has also scaled the Inca Trial to Machu Michu in Peru, explored the Serengeti and Ngorongoro safari hikes in Tanzania and South Africa’s Lion’s Head and Table Mountains. As far as his stateside favorites, Perez can often be found in California at Eagle Peak and El Capitan in Yosemite, Mount Baldy and Sycamore Canyon."
He also surfs:
Unsurprisingly because of his love for the outdoors, his type, he says, is someone who is ourtdoorsy like him: "I love adventurous people, someone that says yes all the time. I paddle board and hike and surf, so I feel like my friends are my type. I’m a huge proponent of dating friends or people you’ve had heart-to-hearts with before you become intimate. Emotional intimacy is way more important to me than sexual intimacy."
4. His first big break was in The Kissing Booth 2.
After, he also starred in The Kissing Booth 3, and appeared in Minx. His biggest role to date is in Red, White & Royal Blue, where he plays Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the president.
5. Latinx representation is really important to him.
"For me growing up, [the movie] Selena was my family’s cultural enjoyment. We watched it probably once, twice a month, even if it was just in the background. We just loved it, loved it. Selena [Quintanilla] always reminded me of my mom because I never really saw women of color that looked like her on television," he told ET. "And honestly I think the nearest one next was Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives. That was the next strong, leading, Latina woman that we watched in the household."
He added, "I just want to see less drug dealers, less gang members, less violence, [have] them less criminalized than a guy that plays guitar at school that has his Mexican swag on. Just like we normalize all different types of communities —LGBTQ, Black, Asian—we have to normalize Latinx characters as well. I’m looking forward to that."
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