Danny Trejo finally plays the good guy in the upcoming film, “Counterpunch.” (Photo/Getty Images)

Danny Trejo, the good guy? “Counterpunch” producer talks reinvention of an icon

Danny Trejo has nailed the role of tough guy, thanks to a long list of film credentials (think “Machete” and “Desperado”) but the Los Angeles native is about to stun audiences in “Counterpunch,” a new film where Trejo draws from his experiences as a boxer, ex-drug addict and former convict to play a loving mentor named Manny Navarro.

“Audiences have never seen Danny like this before,” says “Counterpunch”producer, screenwriter and lead actor Alvaro Orlando. “When he acts the part of the bad guy, he’s acting – but in this film, we see the real Danny Trejo.”

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Danny Trejo in the role of caring mentor on the set of “Counterpunch.” (Photo/Courtesy Lionsgate)

“Counterpunch” – a film directed by Kenneth Castillo which is now available by pre-order online for a Jan. 15 2013 Lionsgate DVD release –  tells the story of a young boxer (played by Orlando) who has big dreams of becoming a world-class champion but finds himself suffering from bi-polar disorder. Alone and without the support of his troubled family, he finds a mentor (Trejo), with whose encouragement he finds the strength to deliver a punch that can make him victor in the boxing ring – and in life.

The film heavily draws on the theme of perseverance through trial, a story which Trejo found hit close to home. The Mexican actor was a boxer himself  as a teen, but his talent and hopes of hitting it big were crushed when he was arrested and locked up for eleven years in prison under drug and robbery charges. And so, when Trejo received the screenplay for “Counterpunch” – which draws from Orlando’s own experience as a junior boxer during his troubled teenage years in Miami – it seemed the perfect chance to act in a role which was reminiscent of so many of his life experiences.

“You could tell that this film reminded him of the second chance he got, getting out of jail, becoming a motivational speaker and giving back to his community,” says Orlando, who personally recruited Trejo for the film through his close relationship with Robert Rodriguez’ niece, who in turn put him in touch with the icon. “I never had a mentor – and that alone made me want to write in the part of a mentor for my character in the film, someone who received a second chance just like Danny got.”

Orlando– who started out in the entertainment industry as a camera operator and transitioned to acting in indie films before receiving his big break on VH1’s smash hit “Pick Up Artist” – says that while “Counterpunch” is his very first screenplay, it’s a story that he was born to share.

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Alvaro Orlando and Danny Trejo in character on the set of “Counterpunch.” (Photo/Courtesy Lionsgate)

“This movie represents how I’ve had to fight for success, just like Danny has,” says the 27-year-old, who has dedicated the film to his grandmother Daisy. “There was a lot of temptation to change this film for mainstream production, but I know that this movie represents more than meets the eye.”

“And Danny Trejo is the big name that will bring in audiences – but his acting will leave people with a message.”

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