Exclusive: “Gotham” Actor J.W. Cortes Discusses Military’s Important Role in Hollywood

One of our favorite appearances during the GIFFX festival was by GI Film Festival friend and champion, actor J.W. Cortes.

J.W. not only attended the GI Film Festival’s 10th Annual Congressional Reception,”Veterans in Transition: Welcoming Our Warriors Home,” but he also performed a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem to a packed room of GIFF sponsors, filmmakers and special guests, including Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), and The Honorable Dr. David J. Shulkin.

Did we mention the multi-talented actor also served as moderator for GIFF’s  Saluting Women in Service Panel?

J.W. Cortes. Photo by Vithaya Phongsavan.

The former marine and NYC cop has infused his knack for heroism into a career in film.

You may know him for his former roles as Agent Suarez in NBC’s “The Blacklist” Agent Lewis in NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura” and Nico in “Sugarfields.”

However, he is quickly gaining fame for his recurring role as Detective Carlos Alvarez on Fox’s hit series “Gotham.”

GIFF sat down with J.W. Cortes to talk about his favorite military films, his role as Detective Alvarez on FOX’s hit prime-time series “GOTHAM,” and his advice to veterans looking to transition into the entertainment industry.

GIFF. Thank you J.W. Cortes for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your story with GIFF audiences. First, tell our readers how has your prior military experience prepared you for your role of “Detective Carlos Alvarez” on FOX’s hit prime-time series “GOTHAM?”

J.W. Spending over a decade (14 years) in the Marine Corps gave me tools to examine where I “fit” in this business and discipline to prepare, strategize and implement a game plan that’s constantly evolving and adapting. I believe that unique skill set does provide me a solid foundation to the artistic playing field. I find my military experiences influence how I audition, create performances that are memorable, speak to a range of audiences and simply remain focused and positive when in a ‘slower’ times.

On a more artistic level, whenever I can draw upon a real experience it’s always a win for me. Much of the training I did at William Esper studio, upon returning from deployment, does provide other tools to help me hone my craft. In the future, I hope to lend more of my training to my GOTHAM character “Alvarez” to truly reflect the comic book character as he was originally written.

As a former Marine, when was the moment that you knew you wanted to be in the film industry as both a filmmaker and actor.

J.W. Looking back at it now, I think I always knew that I had a really strong and genuine interest in pursuing the arts. I had spent so much time as a teenager thinking about what that could look and feel like, but for reasons beyond my control I felt I wasn’t quite ready to take the initial steps.The moment I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I had something artistic working inside of me was during a High School musical production of “The Wiz.” when I landed the role of, The Wiz.

But, it did take me going to Iraq for the 2003 invasion to fully come to grips with an understanding that life is short, we are only here for so long and dreams are meant to be pursued. Since Iraq I have very much lived with that constant reminder and tell others that there really is no better time than the present to follow their dreams.

What’s one of your favorite military films, and why?

J.W.  I believe every Marine could probably attest to the fact that “Full Metal Jacket” is one of the closest and most realistic portrayal in film of what it’s like to go through Marine Corps Recruit Training. It also helps to illustrate to someone who hasn’t gone through training why Marines are such motivated and disciplined individuals. I personally cannot begin to tell you how many times I have watched that film!

Over the years other favorites include “The Deer Hunter,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Black Hawk Down” and, most recently, “American Sniper” (Chris Kyle was a personal friend of mine).

Part of the reason I’ve chosen to work with organizations like Got Your 6 is because they believe, as do I, that films depicting the military, when done correctly, can have a tremendous positive impact.

In your opinion, why do military filmmakers/storytellers have an important role to play in the entertainment industry?

J.W. I believe that stories are the ammunition of life. They allow for us to see up close and personal what service members go through in addition to the impact of deployment on the family and community.

We have been at war now for over a decade and I think we will continue to learn more about what that has done to and for so many of our returning veterans. I cannot think of anyone better to share those stories than those who have lived through them.

Any advice you’d give to a veteran who is interested in pursuing a path into the entertainment/film industry?

J.W.  So much of what we as veterans have already experienced and learned by wearing the uniform does translate very well into what it takes to persevere in this industry. Just as you learned every minute detail about your MOS you can learn the crafts of the entertainment/film business, whether that be directing, writing, acting or producing. I would also remind the veteran that if they’re up to it, they can help share stories that educate and empower us, our families and our communities.

What can we expect from you in 2016? What projects are you working on?

J.W.  Season 3 of “GOTHAM” will go into production sometime in the summer and, like other “Gothamites,” I eagerly await to see what’s in store for Detective Alvarez. I am also shopping a spec script I wrote that is based on a book I’m currently writing that tells the story of a kid from Sunset Park, Brooklyn who went from the neighborhood stoop, to the sands of Iraq to Hollywood.

Other projects that will be out soon include the feature films “Sugarfields” and “Black Wake.”

View More Photos of J.W. Cortes at GIFFX 2016

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