From playing the brother of rock and roll Chicano Ritchie Valens in La Bamba to running the country as U.S. president in the new HBO comedy series The Brink, Esai Morales has long been a key advocate for the reformulation of the Latino image in Hollywood.
In an interview with NBC News Latino, Morales shared his views on the misrepresentation of Latinos in the Hollywood and Donald Trump's controversial comments in his 2016 presidential bid.
Apart from his acting, Morales has been an activist for most of his career, co-founding the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and advocating for an increased positive representation of Latinos in the community.
"People are conditioned to seeing Latinos in a certain light including our own people, and that's a problem. Kids need to see something that they can aspire to," he said. “Hollywood doesn't always go to Latinos for heroes and it’s sad because we have them," said Morales. "We don't see our people save the day," he reflected.
Morales shared his opinions on 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump's comments about Mexico and immigrants.
"What he said about Mexican immigrants was clearly disrespectful because he characterized them as some sort of uniform "mob" threatening the sanctity and the peaceful integrity of the United States. I find it really sad and a cheap shot for someone who is so prideful of his billions."
"I find it not classy," Morales added. "I want a president who is classy, who is inspirational, who makes us all want to strive to be better, not somebody who, you know, seems like a circus barker,” Morales said.
Morales believes that the view that minorities are outsiders has long been a deeply rooted problem.
"Latinos are still considered a bit of 'other', Arabs are still 'others,' Africans as American as they can be are still visually 'other' so I would like to say, 'hey we are part of the same family.' We all contribute to this nation. We overindex in the consumption of entertainment but we underindex in the representation and the quality of representation."
Channeling his former character from the critically acclaimed film, "La Bamba", Morales reflects a line in which his character Bob Morales, says, "I'm still here, I'm still your brother." Morales said, "There's a lot of discord that's kind of fomented out there. The reality is we are brothers and sisters."
Morales has been constantly confronted by fellow Latinos questioning why there is such a disparity in the representation of Hispanics in Hollywood from their real life counterparts.
"I want a president who is classy, who is inspirational, who makes us all want to strive to be better, not somebody like a circus barker,” said Morales of Donald Trump's comments about Mexico and immigrants.
"Latinos constantly see themselves grouped in the four Hs of Hispanic Hollywood: overly humble, overly hormonal, overly hostile, or overly hysterical. I want to provide a few more options than that," he told NBC News Latino.
Looking to introduce a new generation of Latino Actors into Hollywood. Morales has been hard at work for the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.
"After years and years of our organization existing and La Bamba being regarded as a significant film for our community that showed a Latino family in a way that we appreciated as human beings, we're working together with powerful people in the industry to bridge the racial gap," Morales said. "We have redoubled our efforts to make sure there's a pipeline of talent being trained. We're showing them how to run a writer's room, produce a show, and write."
Morales who just wrapped up the first season of "The Brink", playing the role of U.S. President Julian Navarro.
"What do we need from a real leader? I think it's moral fortitude, character strength, a degree of wisdom so you have an ability to make tough choices in trying times," he said. "It's adversity that determines who you are as a character."
As Morales continues his role as a prominent activist, he remains very passionate about his acting career, often juggling multiple projects within a short span of time. You will soon see him on Sprout’s “The Good Night Show” playing the role of Tío Javier alongside Michele Lepe and the voice of Rita Moreno.
"Latinos constantly see themselves grouped in the four Hs of Hispanic Hollywood: overly humble, overly hormonal, overly hostile, or overly hysterical. I want to provide a few more options than that," said Morales.
For a sinister dose of Morales, you can catch him on season two of From Dusk Till Dawn as Lord Malvado. Morales is also playing a Bureau Unit Chief on Criminal Minds and will soon be making a special guest appearance in an upcoming episode of Blue Bloods.
Morales wants to see other young Latinos pursuing their passions in the world.
“Learn what's special about yourself. Keep your ego in check and believe in yourself enough that you to climb at great heights,” he said. “Figure out what makes you glow on the inside. That's your bliss. That's what you follow. What truly matters is doing what makes you feel better about yourself as a human being.”