Michael in his breakout performance in the film Crash, starring Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate
Michael Peña has an impressive resumé for an actor so young, especially for a man who admits acting was not always his passion. His tough looks have brought him a number of roles. He began with Gone in 60 Seconds. He then landed a significant supporting role in the Clint Eastwood-directed, Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby. This season he was seen in The Shield, playing an ex-Marine turned cop. He also starred alongside an impressive cast in Crash, a role for which he received critically-acclaimed reviews. He will also be playing an important role in 50 Pills and the lead in an HBO movie directed by Edward James Olmos, entitled Walkout, the true story of a Mexican-American teacher whose students stage a walkout in 1968 to protest injustices in the public school system. Michael is also set to star in a lead role alongside Nicolas Cage in Oliver Stone’s as yet untitled movie about the last two survivors rescued from the World Trade Center wreckage on 9/11. The film will also star Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
This month, Michael Peña talks about his career and the Scientology services that have helped him achieve the success he has achieved.
Q: How did you get into acting?
A: I was working at a bank at the time and I was hoping to get into college. Then my mom’s best friend asked, “Why don’t you try being an actor?” — because I was pretty good at doing impressions. I used to actually do impressions of the teachers for lunch money.
At the audition, the guy asked me, “Can you act?≵ I said, “I guess we’re gonna find out.” Seven callbacks later I was tested for the lead. I went from having never acted a day before, to testing for the lead. I didn’t get the part, I think I got a featured extra part, but I didn’t care. I was able to be in a movie every day for two months with Sidney Poitier. I thought, “Yes! I made it.” The movie was To Sir, With Love II. I learned so much from the talks we had.
Q: When did you get into Scientology?
A: Well, I always heard about it from people talking about Dianetics, and I was interested. But really, how I got into Scientology was when I was living in LA. The house I was in was pretty big and I was living pretty well, having all the amenities that a young Hollywood kid would have. But I wasn’t happy. And I remember seeing Jenna Elfman being interviewed by Barbara Walters or maybe on 20/20, one of those shows. She said something like, Scientology enables you to be the real you without all that other stuff. My roommate was flipping through the channels, so it was like a 6-second deal, but I really cognited on that. I was like, “Wow! That sounds amazing.”
Not only did it sound amazing, but it sounded true and very practical. I thought, “Wow, if Scientology is for real, I want part of it.” So I literally just walked into the church and asked, “How do I start? How do I become a Scientologist?”