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‘Never Stop Training,’ Advises Actor Alejandro Hernandez, in Return Trip to MCCC’s Studio Theatre


Alejandro Hernandez and Theatre-Dance Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person.

Hernandez with, from left, alumna Nicole Schulnick, current student Natalie Bogach, and alums Ricky Rodriguez and De Haven Rogers following the talk.

West Windsor, N.J. – Actor Alejandro Hernandez, a 2008 alumnus who spoke at Mercer County Community College's (MCCC's) Studio Theatre on Oct. 13, has learned a lot since performing in MCCC student productions in the late 2000s.

“It’s a hard business. There are days when you are hungry,” Hernandez said.

But Hernandez’s commitment to acting is unwavering, and he has had enough encouragement and success along the way to know he is on the right track.

Theatre Program Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person, who was the moderator for the evening event, told the audience, “That’s the reason I decided to invite Alejandro back to campus to speak. He is one of the few students who is continuing to pursue his acting career. A lot of people leave the industry because they need more stability.”

A member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Actors Equity, Hernandez may be a familiar face to TV watchers, especially those with a taste for crime dramas. He has appeared on Blue Bloods and Elementary on CBS, and on Gotham on Fox, as well as in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series Sneaky Pete. He just completed shooting on  a new television show, Instinct, in a featured role. The CBS crime drama stars Alan Cumming and Bojana Novakovic and will premiere in January, 2018.

Hernandez admits that acting is not a career choice for the weak. “When you go on an audition, you have to understand the role and know your lines. But there are 20 other guys there who look just like you. There are so many factors you can’t control,” he said.

He notes that self-doubt never goes away completely. “You learn how to manage it. You need to stay busy being creative and doing something related to your career every day– whether it’s staying in shape, taking a class, going to a film, auditioning, or reading plays."

Hernandez says he got sage and encouraging advice from actor Bobby Cannavale, who he met on a set. “Cannavale didn’t start getting major roles until he was in his 40s. He told me, ‘The guys who work the hardest and are the nicest are the ones who get there.’”

Hernandez traces his passion for acting to his childhood. “I always liked to play make-believe as a kid. I didn’t know that an acting career was even feasible," he recalls.

"I didn't get serious about going into theater until I was at Mercer. I appeared in three major student productions in the late-2000s: Rent, Hedda Gabler and Angels in America," Hernandez said.

Angels was a heavy show about gay men living with AIDS in New York City during the Reagan administration. I had to do my research, including reading articles from the CDC to understand the vastness of what was happening,” he said. “Jody helped me be creative and dig deeper to gain knowledge of the character. You want to make it look easy when you are on stage. Jody taught me to do that,” Hernandez said.

After Mercer, Hernandez transferred to Montclair State University, where he spent three valuable years getting his B.F.A. in Theatre (2013). He was the 2013 winner of the Marc Mattaliano Theatre Award and a two-time Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan Regional Finalist. He notes that the B.F.A. prepared him on a comprehensive level. “You learn stage combat, voice and dialects, among many other things,” he explains.

And, Hernandez got plenty of time on stage. “I was in a play every semester. One semester, I was in two plays,” he said. “‘I learned how to navigate on stage, how to work with different actors, what they need, what I need. I never stopped training.”

He also continued his practice of getting to know his characters inside and out. “If you are serious, you read the play and then you read it again and again,” he said.

After college, Hernandez’s career moved slowly at first, with auditions trickling in every month or two.  “At the time, I was living back in Hamilton and taking the train into New York. I would bring my lunch. I had a day job here. I would lose jobs because I had to take off to audition” he said.

His big break came when he landed a highly coveted internship at the Actors Theater of Louisville, one of the most famous regional theaters in the world. “They audition about 2,000 young actors and select just 12,” he said.

As part of that program, Hernandez appeared in The Wedding Guest, Goodnight, and Peter and the Starcatcher.

“That was baptism by fire,” he recalls. “We were resident understudies for the mainstage shows. For Peter and the Starcatcher, I was asked to fill in one hour before show time. I played Slank [the ruthless captain of the pirate ship], and I nailed it. People took notice.”

He also performed in Louisville’s Humana Festival of New Plays, where he met his current agent and manager. That part of the Louisville experience -- getting to know people who could help him advance in his career -- was key. “You need to be seen. And you have to make a good impression, work hard and be nice. No one wants to work with a jerk,” he said.

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