Michael Acosta often lands roles as a bad guy. Blame it on his Latino heritage, he said.
Those same looks landed him a role as a Cuban tough guy -- officially a "Finca Lowlife" -- in the HBO film "Hemingway and Gellhorn," starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, but his 5-foot-10, 150-pound build cost him a planned fight scene in the movie with the taller and heavier Owen.
The 27-year-old Tracy native laughs about those and the other twists and turns of his road to success as a professional actor.
"It's such an insecure profession," Acosta said. "You're always on a job hunt, and people can tell you, 'No, you're not the right color; you're too old; you're not pretty enough. Every time you walk into a room, you're judged by a producer or director there to critique you. It's hard. If you really want nothing more than to act, then you should do it. It's worth your time. But, unless you have a burning desire, it's easier to do something else. It's a brutal industry."
Becoming a doctor, say, would be easier for the son of a doctor and a nurse who once imagined a career in medicine for himself, but Acosta is going all-in on the tough business of acting.
He's young enough to take the chance, backed by his supportive parents and sister, Danielle, a nurse in the Air Force reserve who lives in Texas with her husband. She made Acosta an uncle with the birth June 8 of a girl named Kaila.
Besides, the West High School and University of California, Davis, graduate is getting enough work to salve the ego and keep him busy.
In addition to commercials for Lexus and Samsung that he's yet to see on television, Acosta had an uncredited role in "Chasing Mavericks," the surfing movie starring Gerard Butler, and last month, he had a role in "Nightmare Christmas," a crime re-enactment program on the Discovery Channel. He's also shot a spot in a similar program called "Love Triangles," a new show tentatively scheduled to premiere on the Biography Channel in the next few months.
In "Nightmare Christmas," Acosta played a guy who robs a church of $20,000 on Christmas Day. He also plays a bad guy in "Love Triangles."
"I'm always playing the bad guy," Acosta chuckles. "I'm making my parents proud."
His dad for sure is proud, happily talking about the work of his second, youngest child.
For a kid living in Tracy, several hundred miles north and east of the filmmaking mecca of the world, Michael Acosta is providing plenty to talk about.
Indigo Films, which produces many of the popular television crime re-creation shows seen on Investigation Discovery and other cable stations, launched Acosta's bad-guy career when it cast him in an episode of "I Almost Got Away With It."
He's done several of those shows since and keeps getting called to audition for more.
Most of the programs are filmed on Treasure Island.
"I'm one of the few who works consistently," Acosta said. "I auditioned one time and they happened to like me. It's a small market in the Bay Area, and once you get your foot in the door, as long as you can keep it there, you're all right.
"Fortunately, I ran into an executive producer on the set for 'Love Triangles.' She told me the network loved me for 'Nightmare Christmas.' That was a nice gesture on her part. They don't have to say anything nice to you. Normally, they don't."
The lack of positive feedback can doom any insecure ego, but even a brief conversation with Acosta makes it hard to believe he's ever down in the mouth. He laughs easily, is wise enough to understand the vagaries of his chosen profession, and giddy that he can earn a living in a career that is just plain fun.
Among his biggest credits to date is the spot in "Hemingway and Gellhorn," which was filmed on Pier 80 in San Francisco. His previous gambits for the local production company helped land him the audition, and the role enabled him to earn his Screen Actors Guild card, the holy grail of acting.
Acosta is taking his time with all the paperwork, though. For now, he's content to work non-union jobs in Northern California, where he's building his resume and perfecting his technique.
Ultimately, he'll move to Los Angeles and take on the challenging world of filmmaking, when the time is right.
As it is, he's already grown in the five years since he left UC Davis in 2007 with a degree in cellular biology.
"A few years ago, I started to evolve as a person," Acosta said. "I realized who I am and what I was and what I wanted to be. I am me. I'm perfectly comfortable with myself and I can take those (rejections) easily. Early in my career, it was hard not to take it personally. Then, I realized you can't let it discourage you. You have to take it with a grain of salt and show up the next day and audition. When they judge you, and tell you 'no' to your face, it's difficult to not take it personally. You have a good cry and go on your way. I carry a lot of tissue around with me."
Then he laughed. Acosta gets the joke that an easy-going, friendly guy from Tracy can make a living playing a bad guy. He knows it's funny that instead of being in medical school, he sat in a chair next to Kidman, both of them having hair and make-up done for a movie.
That moment didn't skyrocket him to fame, but it bolstered his self-image and assured him he's on the right career path.
"Being part of a big production is humbling, but also, at the same time, it felt very right," Acosta said. "I felt like my time investment, my emotional investment isn't a waste. All my hard work is paying off when I'm standing on the set with Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen or with Gerard Butler in 'Chasing Mavericks.' I have faith I'm headed in the right direction."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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