The Guilty Girl’s Handbook” – Hanna decides Mona is her only hope to save her mom in “The Guilty Girl’s Handbook,” an all new episode of ABC Family’s hit original series “Pretty Little Liars,” airing Tuesday, July 30th. (Photo/Courtesy Ron Tom for ABC Family.)

Ryan Guzman talks “Pretty Little Liars,” announces new “Step Up 5” details

He’s an actor and mixed martial arts expert, but it looks like there’s more to Mexican-American hottie Ryan Guzman that the way he flexes his biceps and smiles just so to reveal a set of pearly whites. Well, maybe there is, but as far as Lucy Hale’s character Aria Montgomery on “Pretty Little Liars” is concerned, maybe not.

“I know some of the fans don’t love my character,” chuckles Guzman of the backlash online from loyal fans concerning his guest arc on the show as Aria’s new love interest. “But I think I’ve persuaded a few to join Team Jake. There’s a budding interest there, but I’ll leave it for fans to speculate whether it’s going to grow or fade.”

The 25-year-old Texas native has been spending his summer filming a guest arc on the hit ABC Family show “Pretty Little Liars,” playing Jake, a martial arts instructor who helps Aria find healing after last season’s traumatic – make that nail-biting – breakup from boyfriend Ezra. And while fans of the show know that there’s more to the show’s female cast than meets the eye, Guzman – who had never watched “Pretty Little Liars” before auditioning for a part – says he was surprised at Hale’s strength on the karate mat.

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“She actually did take me down once because she didn’t know her own strength,” says Guzman, who earned his first black belt in tae kwon do at just ten years old. He says that he did run through some simple moves and training with Hale (fun note: he first met Hale about a year ago through mutual friends in Hollywood) for safety reasons before filming, but what you see on TV is real, including those now-infamous romantic sparks.

Lucy Hale (l) and Ryan Guzman (r) in action in a scene from "Pretty Little Liars."

Lucy Hale (l) and Ryan Guzman (r) in action in a scene from “Pretty Little Liars.” (Photo/Courtesy Eric McCandless for ABC Family.)

“We have a really great relationship,” says Guzman of the pair off-screen, insisting the two are just friends. “We joke a lot, send lots of funny tweets back and forth. Filming with her has been a blast.”

But as fun as filming “Pretty Little Liars” has been, Guzman says a laundry list of projects are calling for his attention, meaning he most likely won’t be able to commit to a regular part on the show. And as far as his busy schedule goes, there’s one project in particular that fans are eagerly awaiting. That would be “Step Up 5,” the follow up to 2012’s “Step Up: Revolution.”

“I literally just signed the contract,” says Guzman, whose role in “Step Up: Revolution” earned favorable comparisons between he and former franchise star Channing Tatum. “I didn’t expect the producers to come calling again, but I’m so excited.”

The news that Guzman will headline another multi-million dollar film just one year after his breakout role in “Step Up: Revolution” is the stuff of Hollywood fiction. Less than five years ago, Guzman was in college in Sacramento, California, playing baseball and doing “just enough” in the classroom. He went from “zero to 60” quickly after a few auditions and is now chasing his dream of one day becoming a feature film star and director. In addition to signing on to ‘Step Up 5,” Guzman is making an independent film based on a script he’s written himself and says he intends to write and produce more movies.

“There aren’t many projects out there that inspire me,” says Guzman, who says he likes comedies, indie films and dramatic movies. “I want to be able to infuse a little bit of each of the genres I love to create projects that people have never seen before. I don’t necessarily need my name out there as an actor, but I like to be creative and I want to write, as well as become a good director and producer.”

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But all work and no play leaves little time for romance, giving hope to the millions of girls that first fell in love with Guzman as a dancer in “Step Up Revolution.” The self-described “simple” guy is single and says he’s still looking for the girl of his dreams. And once he finds her, he’ll break out his skills in the kitchen, cooking her Mexican classics like tripas, posoles, and his all-time favorite, carnitas.

“I love stuff like that – I love cooking, and especially the stuff that white people wouldn’t really know about” says Guzman, who says he prefers low-key dates. “I even have a little oil fryer at home for making the carnitas that works really well.”

But most importantly, when there aren’t crowds of screaming fans present or a glare of production lights aiming their spotlight on the actor-dancer-model, Guzman says he takes time for reflection, revealing how grateful he is for each day.

“Being Mexican, I feel a lot of proud about where I came from and how far I’ve come,” says Guzman, who says his family is in disbelief over his near-overnight success.

“And it’s my hope that one day I can give back as much as I’ve received. That would be the ultimate gift.”

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