Miami Living Magazine

Aaron Diaz

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School days were suddenly filled with practices, and rehearsals included singing lessons. While at home, Jon created his own personal sanctuary to practice. "I turned about 25% of the closet into my 'beehive.' I would have a boom box, lamp and I would do all kinds of creative things and practice my lines. When I was a kid, that was my little nook where I could talk to myself. It was a place that felt safe. No one could tell me that I was weird or crazy. As an actor, you look for a place where you can feel vulnerable and where you can feel safe," Jon explains. After school, Jon entered the Air Force, because it's a rite of passage for the men in his family, but also because of the amazing education package offered, allowing him to further pursue his passion for acting. Working in show business has given Jon a number of great opportunities, including being sent to Africa and three different countries in an eight-month span with fellow actors Kellan Lutz and Alexander Skarsgard for Generation Kill (2008). "The commitment that every single actor put into telling that story was incredible. We were portraying real people. There were 25 main actors, about 30-35 lead/ heavy supporting actors who were all doing this. I think people forget Generation Kill was nominated for 11 Emmys, it matches This Is Us. Shows like this are under the radar and when people approach me on the street, I assume they're going to mention Castle or This Is Us, which is so cool, but then they surprise me! Being a veteran and being able to do something well-received by veterans is amazing." He adds that Generation Kill is among the most rewarding projects he's worked on. "The same thing happened on Castle and with This Is Us — I never thought about how a TV show has impacted someone's life so much. The reason I'm here is because of people like this. Being an actor is a lifestyle —not a job," says Jon, who won awards for his work on Castle: the 2012 NCLR ALMA Award for Favorite TV Actor —Supporting Role in a Drama as well as a 2012 Prism Award for Performance in a Drama Episode. Now, Jon is starring in NBC's This Is Us as Miguel, Rebecca's second husband. His character was originally named Mike, but Jon suggested changing it to Miguel, so that there was more of a Latino presence –and the show went for it. "Miguel really understands that this family is going to have their drama, but he knows that everything is going to be okay. So far, he's very optimistic. He's funny. He's always waiting to laugh about the situation they're in. He always means well. What's amazing is that the audience went in the direction thinking he has bad intentions for Rebecca. He's not trying to be Jack. I actually saw on TV Guide, I think it was TV Guide, that Miguel was listed as one of the top villains for 2016!" [It was actually Entertainment Weekly's Baddest TV Villains of 2016.] Fans will not want to miss Season 2 of This Is Us. Jon teases that he can't reveal too much of what happens, but he and the writers are busy working on ways to get the audience to warm up to Miguel. "We've come up with a plan and I think people will like the direction. You can expect that characters Toby and Miguel are going to make people smile. And you'll see how Miguel is going to deal with Jack's death." Jon has a never-ending, impressive resume of amazing projects under his belt, but not every role has been a favorite of his. "Sometimes a project changes midway through —you take jobs because you want to work. For me, being a minority [he's Puerto Rican], there were roles that I had to take playing a gangbanger or other less desirable roles. Some things have changed, but I've had to prove myself to be hirable. In the past, there weren't a lot of roles that weren't gang-inspired. There is a lack of development of Latino male characters." Jon is also very comfortable behind the camera, and has already directed the short films The Box and Lone, which he starred in, wrote the screenplays for, and released via his production company, WestSide Stories. (Yes, the name is partially inspired by living in L.A. and the musical —he's a huge fan of 40s musicals, like Follies and films like The Little Rascals.) Recently, he pitched a new superhero idea to Marvel. I have my fingers crossed for you, Jon. His involvement with Kind Traveler, as an ambassador, is also inspiring. Listen to this, Kind Traveler is the travel industry's first socially-conscious, 'Give + Get' hotel booking platform and blog. Kind Traveler celebrates 130 hotels, destinations, and charities that have come together to fulfill this vision. And they only partner with hotels and destinations that make a point to give back and are continuing to add more inventory each day. "A couple of friends of mine decided to create an OTA that focuses on finding a way to give, while also receiving a discount. I started with just donating $10 a day during my stay in New York at City Harvest and that hotel gave me a rate of just $76 a night! My friends saw hungry dogs and bought them food —onlookers saw and started to pitch in as well. They inspire other people, and to me, that's how we're going to heal the world." The Wildlands Network is another charity he works with —they lead critical on-the-ground campaigns to protect wildlife and wild places. "The last remaining wildlands remain in North America and they're being segmented by human development. I want to encourage people to invest in our own animals. We're trying to educate ranchers and farmers so they can overlap wildlands, allowing animals to pass through their land peacefully. One day, I want to create the great American safari so that inner-city kids can have adventures. They don't get to see the wildlife. They might get stuck in a job where they're unable to. Those kids are the future and it's my goal to inspire them." ML Keep up with Jon at and follow him on Twitter: @Jon_Huertas, Facebook, and Instagram: @Jon_huertas.

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