Pepe Serna may be recognizable in many TV and film shows from the past 50 years.
Scarface featured Serna as Tony Montana's Cuban drug dealer friend. He was killed by a rival's chainsaw. He acted alongside Richard Pryor and George Carlin in Car Wash. He was Punk #1 with Steve Martin, Edward James Olmos and his brother on the run in The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez. He's now the star of Pepe Serna: The Life is Art, a documentary about him and his career.
Filmmaker Luis Reyes said Pepe Serna dispelled stereotypes. Serna recalled that he was often killed or wounded in roles he played earlier in his career.
Gloria Calderon Kellet, showrunner, said that "He's been consistently working since the '70s and it's a difficult task even for a Latino actor."
Pepe Serna, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984).
Serna sat down in the lobby at L.A.’s Biltmore Hotel before the film was shown at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival to reminisce. He spoke about his childhood in Corpus Christi (Texas), where he started acting at the age of 3. He went to Mexico to study, and Cantinflas was his idol from the Golden Age Mexican cinema. This helped him get into the movie industry as an extra. Serna was a star in the Bullfighting Movie and in the Musical Hair productions. He eventually made it to Hollywood in 1969.
Serna shared many stories during our interview. He often broke into character and changed his voice from a humble farmer to a rootin'-totin Tex Mex to a poetic Pachuco. He performed monologues from his one man show, which he is turning into a movie, and improvised characters for the interview.
Serna has collaborated with many artists over the years, including Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep, as well as Latino artists like Cheech Marin. Eva Longoria describes Serna in the documentary as a hero from her hometown. "If you are from Corpus, Selena, Farrah Fawcett and Lou Diamond Phillips know you, Pepe Serna.
Serna, 77 years old, is still the same energizer bunny that he was at age 7. Longoria's Flamin' Hot will feature him. He also stars in Abuelo which will be shown before Longoria's documentary at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.