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Paris Hilton

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Page 134 of 181

This month, Shalim joins the cast of Grand Hotel as hotel manager Mateo —we might not always know his intentions, but this mysterious character is very good at his job and very professional. Grand Hotel is based on the Spanish telenovela Gran Hotel. The sexy ABC drama, co-produced by Eva Longoria, centers around the life of owner Santiago Mendoza (portrayed by Demián Bichir), his children, his wife Gigi (portrayed by Roselyn Sanchez), and the hotel staff. This family-owned hotel has many secrets. "Don't miss Grand Hotel, it's one of those shows that with every episode it just keeps growing and the show grows with it. Like most shows that you fall in love with where the pilot is amazing, but then there are so many more layers [to] make sure people keep watching." Shalim has been working toward this moment —being a part of this cast— ever since he could remember. "I'm what you can call a child actor because my father gave me my first job at six years old. He was a big-time television producer in Puerto Rico, and I asked him to throw me into one of his TV shows, because I was loving what he was doing," says Shalim. "It was a calling from very early on." Shalim went on to star in Los Angelitos, a television show in Puerto Rico, which aired for three years. He explains that Los Angelitos was a mix between Menudo and Carrusel —a popular show in the 80s. "Just kids at school who would sing songs and have little comedy sketches. It was a great little training camp for me." His character was the youngest one in the group; his name was Rabitin. "It means little tail," he chuckles. "My character was the young little child who was after all the other guys. He always wanted something to do with the older guys, and they wouldn't listen to him. I was small and short so they kind of bullied me in a funny way." As time went on, Shalim began to live a normal childhood. When he was in junior high, he decided to dive into theater and joined the Thespian Society of Performing Arts. "It confirmed this is what I wanted to do." He then landed the lead role in Rocío! In Spite of it All, where he received rave reviews. Then, in his 20s, Shalim wrote and recorded two albums produced by Emilio Estefan. "I've always loved music. I took vocal lessons and I wanted to do it right. I wasn't your typical singer, I always challenged myself and wanted to learn," he says. Shalim moved to Spain and experienced the life of a musician under Emilio's wing. "I would sing at big venues over there. It was very different than anything else." Though he found success in the music industry, Shalim always knew acting was his biggest passion. In 2005, Shalim returned to the acting world with a role in the movie, Spin —his first film ever. "I'm very fond of that movie, even though nobody watched it," he laughs. "I was so naïve and I did not know the difference between independent and studio films, so in my mind I thought I was Top Gun, I thought, This is it," he laughs. "I thought I was doing the film of the decade." Prior to starring in Grand Hotel, Shalim struggled, but he also accomplished a lot. His biggest one: being a part of NBC's Heroes — which, at the time, was the #1 show on television. "The moment I got the callback, I started screaming my life away. This was my first big acting job; my first big mainstream moment in American television." He did about five callbacks before landing the role of Alejandro Herrera. "It was not a straight offer and I had to fight for that role. Something that really helped me was that I didn't watch the show. I made sure I hadn't watched a single episode." He did this because he knew his nerves would get the best of him if he was invested in the show. "I just knew that everybody wanted to be in it." That same year, he landed his first leading role in a Dominican film, Yuniol, which he explains is an abbreviation of the word junior. "Kind of how people say it in the streets." While it presented its challenges, Shalim only has fond memories of it. All of his past experiences have prepared him for the role of Mateo on Grand Hotel. But his time on set was unlike anything he has experienced before. "Like its name, it's a grand show, from the set to the cast to the producers. You have a dream team and an amazing dynamic," Shalim shares. He explains that women are the heads of multiple departments, and that the majority of the directors are women. "I fell in love with the energy on set. You women have a completely different way of taking charge, you freak out much less than we do," he chuckles. "Women know how to handle stressful situations in a much more methodical way. Us guys have a lot to learn from you." Shalim has worked in both film and television throughout his career, and has found that working in television is much more rewarding. "I really don't prefer one over the other, but there is an instant gratification in television," says Shalim. "I have done 15 or 16 films and probably 90% of them haven't been seen by most people. So there is a little frustration when you are doing film —of course, unless you are doing something with Sony Pictures —that hasn't been the case with me." For Shalim, the film industry has come with too many uncertainties. "There is so much good television now to be made, I wouldn't miss doing film if I go through a streak of doing back-to-back television." Shalim has been able to navigate more than just American television and films. Being bilingual has given him the opportunity to work on Mexican films and telenovelas. In fact, he only recently felt comfortable working in English. "That took me a long time, probably 2-3 years ago I started thinking in English and feeling strong intention, a natural instinct whenever I had to portray a character that demanded strong emotion in English. It's been a long journey and it hasn't been overnight." Shalim learned English when he moved to Miami with his parents at 12-13 years old. "I was a late bloomer learning English," he explains. "It wasn't easy, I got bullied and had to learn by force. It wasn't enjoyable." His heritage and being bilingual has allowed him to integrate and land roles both in the U.S. and Mexico. Shalim was a part of one of the longest-running telenovelas in Mexican history, La Señora de Acero, and for two seasons he played immigration officer Arturo Sánchez. "It was awesome. It was an action- packed type of project. I met some great people, definitely a completely different rhy thm than what you do in the U.S. My charac ter was supposed to be born in the States, so they gave me complete creative freedom to throw in English and to speak in Spanglish, and speak the way we speak amongst ourselves when we are second generation Latinos who live in the States." ML Don't miss the premiere of Grand Hotel June 17th on ABC and follow Shalim on Instagram: @ShalimOrtiz

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