“You just hope you keep your head,” says actor Nicholas Gonzalez of his fate as Detective Luke Morales on the hit series “Sleepy Hollow.” “I’m never told where we’re headed storywise, but I just want to be assured that I don’t die right away.”
As Detective Morales, Gonzalez plays a law enforcement officer who has his hands full in the small town of Sleepy Hollow while juggling his lingering interest in show lead Lieutenant Grace Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie). And while various characters may drift in and out of the show’s story line – including one Ichabod Crane – Gonzalez says fans of the hit show can count on the fact that there will be plenty of suspense and romance in episodes to come.
“Abby and I definitely try to rekindle things, which is kind of hard when you’re on the brink of total destruction,” says Gonzalez, 37. “How do you create a relationship when it’s not the most important topic on the table?”
While in real life Gonzalez may be happily coupled up, he’s in love with the fact that his character on FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow” will continue to evolve.
“I can’t tell where things are evolving, and I do love that – it keeps me and audiences on our toes. And aside from my role, I really like watching scenes filmed by the different characters,” says Gonzalez, whom fans may recognize from TV series “Underemployed,” “Mental” and “Resurrection Blvd.” “We have an African American actress [Beharie] as the lead on a big network show and to see that her race isn’t a part of the storyline is great. I like that’s where diversity is heading on TV – I think that it better reflects the world around us.”
Gonzalez, who recently was honored by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for his work as an example to a new generation of Latin actors – says that pursuing somewhat unconventional roles has always been a priority for him.
“Auditioning has always been a challenge,” Gonzalez explains, who first began acting during his years as an undergraduate at Stanford University. “That challenge is to go out there and get the kind of shows and films that I like to watch myself. I want to have a career that I’m proud and excited about, as opposed to just do work in order to be on your TV. And I don’t want to be a celebrity either.”
The Mexican American actor – who was raised in San Antonio by a mother who made sure that he and his siblings pursued academics seriously – says that after fifteen years in Hollywood, he’s still enthralled by what he calls the “human experience” aspect of his art.
“I love stories that relay triumphs or the lowest depression, revealing something about the human experience,” reveals Gonzalez, a self-described book lover. “I spent a lot of time in Europe traveling as an undergrad, just thinking about books and life, and I think that helped me think about acting as a way to convey that I loved about books.”
Gonzalez – who says he still contemplates an alternate career path as a teacher in Los Angeles – adds that despite the growing prominence of Latinos both behind the scenes and in front of the camera in Hollywood, challenges remain.
“You can ask any Latin actor – inevitably, if they get a part meant for a white guy, producers will change the character’s name to sound more Latin,” shares Gonzalez. “I’m still not comfortable with the fact that I might be asked to throw in some words in Spanish, or add a turn of phrase that doesn’t seem authentic.”
And that’s enough motivation to make any actor – especially Gonzalez, who counts Hollywood veteran Jimmy Smits a friend and mentor – plan a way to create a positive legacy to leave behind.
“I want to be remembered as a nice guy,” says Gonzalez, “Not just a celebrity. I see myself morphing, leaning more towards directing and producing to create opportunities for others.”
“I want to be a story teller not only of the Latin experience, but of people who want to be inspired.”