You may have seen David Zayas guest starring on episodes of today's most popular police procedural shows, like Law & Order, N.Y. Undercover, and NYPD Blue. If he seems a natural on those types of programs, it's because Mr. Zayas spent 15 years with the New York Police Department before transitioning into a full-time actor.
But Mr. Zayas has stood out in every role of his career, splitting screen time with George Clooney in Michael Clayton and Sean Penn in The Interpreter. He exuded a menacing, cool confidence on the prison drama Oz, alongside respected actors like J.K. Simmons, Ernie Hudson, and many more.
Currently, Mr. Zayas can be seen as Detective Angel Batista on Showtime's hit drama Dexter. The show, which will launch its third season on Oct. 1, 2008, stars Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, a serial killer who concentrates his unsavory efforts on other serial killers. By day, Dexter is a blood spatter specialist for the Miami Police Department. Detective Batista is Dexter's best friend and co-worker, and is unaware of Dexter's extracurricular activities.
While the role of Detective Batista may represent a return to Zayas' familiar cop territory, it also represents a creative challenge. As Detective Batista, Zayas provides a breath of fresh air in what is a very dark and intriguing, if frequently disturbing, drama. He's a fallible character, or as Mr. Zayas puts it, Batista is "very human, very complicated, and very flawed."
Mr. Zayas sat down to talk with HispanicBusiness.com">HispanicBusiness.com about his background as a police officer, and his life and influences as an actor.
HB: You transitioned from policeman to actor. How did you get into police work in the first place?
DZ: I would say that I'm a guy who always wanted to be an actor and became a cop. I was always interested in movies, and just wanted to be involved in them. But where I grew up is a very blue-collar environment and acting was an unrealistic thing to do. I grew up in the Bronx -- the Hunts Point section.
Life takes over, things happen, and you put dreams like that to the side. So I went to the Airforce, and then I got out. I had a family--I got married when I was young -- so I joined the Police Department. It was a steady job, you get benefits, and I needed it for my family . . . and that's what I wanted to do.
HB: You grew up in the Bronx -- but when we see you on Dexter, you seem to epitomize a sort of Miami/Cuban "cool." Did you spend time there, or should we chalk it up to good acting?
DZ: No, until I filmed there, for the Dexter pilot, I had never been to Miami.
But, being in the acting world, you run into every ethnicity from everywhere, so I had a lot of friends I could call and just talk about the experience of being a Cuban in Miami. And I was able to create something from there. A little bit of cultural research and how that would affect my character in any way . . . and then the rest of it is my imagination. [he laughs]. I try to do as much as I can.
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