EXCLUSIVE: 'War For Planet Of The Apes' Star Gabriel Chavarria Talks On A Meeting That Changed His Life

Ricky Middlesworth

Growing up in South Central, L.A. Gabriel Chavarria never imagined that his path would lead him to the big screen, much less an iconic movie brand like Planet of the Apes. “That’s the question of my life right there,” Chavarria says, laughing, when asked how he ended up in Hollywood.

MORE: WATCH: Gabriel Chavarria Makes His Way From 'East Los' to 'War For the Planet of the Apes'

The East Los High star (which airs on Hulu) planned to be a professional soccer player when 2007’s Freedom Writers came along. “I was at a park playing basketball and a casting agent was there,” Chavarria says.

The agent thought Chavarria would be perfect for a role in the film; coincidentally, his brother had already auditioned for it. Putting all doubts—and potential sibling rivalry—aside, Chavarria took the leap and got bit by the acting bug. He realized he’d have to choose between his love of the arts and his love for the game. “When I was 19, I tried out professionally in Honduras, where my parents are from,” he says. “They wanted me to join the reserve team and move up the ranks. Mentally, I wasn’t prepared to leave everything behind.”

So he quit the sport to give “acting 110 percent” and says it was the best decision ever. After wrapping East Los High, which comes to an end this fall, Chavarria graduated to summer blockbuster status with War for the Planet of the Apes.

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“I play Preacher. He’s this young guy that’s part of the army on the hunt to find the apes and wipe them out,” Chavarria shares. “It was a dream come true to be part of a big franchise. Everyone is going to see this movie, everywhere. It’s pretty badass!”

War For The Planet of the Apes hits theaters everywhere July 14, 2017!