Posing as a model, appearing in commercials and working as a security guard on Metrorail, Miami native Roberto Sanchez was more or less content doing his thing back in late 2002.
But his agent called one day with an opportunity that was tough to refuse: the chance to audition for 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second installment in the action franchise.
Amazingly — without any major acting experience under his belt — the Cuban born Sanchez snagged a big role, as a right hand man to a drug lord, in John Singleton’s action flick, playing alongside Paul Walker, Eva Mendes and Tyrese Gibson.
“Apparently, they liked me,” says Sanchez, 49, by phone. “I gave my notice, put my stuff in storage, and jumped in my truck. It hit me that this is what I wanted to do. ”
After the blockbuster wrapped, parts didn’t come as easily, but Sanchez stuck it out.
“It was hard reality check but a good lesson — you actually gotta pay your dues. I mean, I got a nice little boost there but still, you have to work from the bottom up, make your rounds and have people get to know you.”
Hollywood did eventually warm up to the Brito Miami Private School alum — and a quick scan of IMDB.com reveals dozens of projects over the years, including a juicy role on FX drama, Gang Related.
But you can come home again. Sanchez is back in town for this weekend’s MIFFecito film fest at the Tower Theater, where he used to go as a young boy “watching Kung Fu movies,” growing up in Little Havana.
In his latest film, Lake Los Angeles, Sanchez plays Francisco Fumero, who runs a halfway house for illegal immigrants. When a young Mexican girl is abandoned there, he has no choice but to watch over her.
“It’s a beautiful story of coming to this country to pursue the American dream, and it hasn’t really worked out for either of them,” says Sanchez, a father of two. “My character has a chance to make things right and it felt very personal for me.”
Sanchez’s Lake Los Angeles screens at 9 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tower Theater. For information and tickets go to miamifilmfestival.com/miffecito or call 844-565-6433 or 305-237-7979.