Q&A with Jay Hernandez

Hot Latin men are never in short supply, but ones who will play dress up for our favorite fantasies are harder to come by. Jay Hernandez, who stole our hearts in his big screen debut opposite Kirsten Dunst in Crazy/Beautiful, looks great in Navy whites, a firefighters uniform, or just a plain old t-shirt and jeans. The actor talks to us about the Halloween costume that never fails to bring him luck with the ladies, why he avoids the paparazzi like the they're the plague, and his latest horror film, Quarantine.

You've become kind of a horror-movie kingpin, between the Hostel franchise and your new movie Quarantine. Is this some kind of fetish for you?

It's weird, because previous to doing Hostel, I wasn't too high on horror sort of films. But after spending more time with [director Eli Roth] and Quentin [Tarantino] and just them giving me a list of films to watch, that sort of changed my opinion. It piqued my interest. and another thing in addition to that is the fact that these movies make money. There's a big audience for them, people really enjoy them, they like going to the movie theater and being scared.

So now, do you look for monsters under your bead and jump at shadows when you're alone?

The only thing that I shot that I kinda took home with me was when I did that torture scene in Hostel. I remember having dreams about it, you know, because we shot it over the course of a couple days and that literally meant being tortured for about three days. It's hard to explain but I was literally being tortured.

What's your biggest fear?

I'm afraid of everything. I don't think I have a big fear. I'm just generally afraid.

Tell us about your new movie, Quarantine.

I play a firefighter who's being interviewed for a television show about people who work after dark. We finally get a call and respond to this fire, which we all go into, and then that's when the madness happens.

This isn't the first time you've played a fire fighter...

I played one before in a movie called Ladder 49. That aspect of it was pretty interesting. I went through the firefighter academy a long time ago. So I knew everything about being a fire fighter and being in that suit. I was helping one of the other actors, explaining sort of what they do and what academy is like and the day to day.

Do you have trouble keeping women at bay when you're dressed up as a fireman?

I'll tell you one when the girls seemed to like. My brother is in the Navy, so I remember one Halloween I wore his Navy get up. I think that was a good night for me, you know what I mean? It was efficient.

Your next film, Nothing Like the Holidays, is a big departure for you. For one thing, it has almost an entirely Latin cast...

Yeah, it was definitely a different thing to have everybody in the cast basically be Latin. And the subject matter, I think it's important to have these sort of depictions, these images, these type of films out there for the audience and not just the Latin audience but for America. It really represents what is going on in this country.

Did you bond with any of the cast members in particular?

Yeah, Freddy [Rodriguez] is great, I hang out with Freddy a lot, he's a really, really great guy. I mean anybody who knows him, meets him, understands really quickly he's got a big heart. He's a family man, he's just a really good guy. So yeah, I spent more time with him more than anybody else.

What about the older folks—John Leguizamo, Luis Guzman, Alfred Molina. The people who have been in this business for years. Did you learn anything from them?

I thought I had it hard when I was getting involved in the business and trying to make my way and trying to get cast in the right roles and do all those things. It was very, very difficult for me. Imagine doing it 20 years earlier.

And they were able to do it and they were able to make a career, a name and really have a huge body of work that speaks for itself. I just respect the hell out of these guys for being trailblazers and making the way for guys like me and Freddy and even Melonie [Diaz]. I think without people like them it would be even more difficult than it is. Because it's not easy by any means.

You're young, hot, successful and live in LA. How come you're not in the gossip blogs every day like so many of your colleagues?

A lot of the younger actors want attention. They know where to go to be photographed, they know the types of relationships they need to be in to be on the front page of whatever it is. They do it intentionally. I don't know if it's to help their careers or whatever it is. I just try to stay away from all that.

How do you stay in such good shape?

Yeah, recently I've been trying to sort of get a little more fit. But I think the main thing is diet. It's all what you eat. You can run, bike and do cardio till the day you die but if you eat terribly it doesn't matter. I eat pretty much everything, it's just portions. If you're gonna eat something you know is not good for you, make sure it's small.

Any weaknesses?

Yeah, my mom's enchiladas are the best in the world. Best in the world.

You turned 30 recently. Freaking out about aging yet?

Not at all, not at all, not at all. I think it's a weird state of mind and once you go beyond the 20s some people sort of freak out. But if you're young in mind then I guess you're young in body, I don't know. It didn't bother me whatsoever.

Here's my thing - every year I get older, every day I'm alive I feel blessed. You know what I mean? There's a lot of people that don't make it to 30. And so next time somebody complains about their age, think about the people that never made it to that age. that's the way I look at it.

Are you following the elections this year?

I honestly can talk about the politics of that stuff all day. Because it does kind of frustrate me and effect me directly, my brother is in the military. And regardless of whether or not you know somebody in the military everybody in this country is effected directly by it.

Which candidate do you support?

I think I am sort of inspired by Barack Obama. I definitely think that he's the right choice for president. Every time I hear him talk he just says the right thing. He sounds presidential, he looks presidential, he doesn't seem to play the same game that everybody else does. I don't know everything about his policy but I do know that he would be definitely a better choice than George Bush.

Even John McCain is a better choice than George Bush...

I think the fact that he's...his African American roots and his multi-cultural roots gives a certain sort of perspective that somebody like George Bush could never have. And it sort of opens your eyes to different possibilities and a different understanding of things. It's easy to have a narrow vision when your world is narrow. He has traveled and lived in a lot more places and that tends to give you a different understanding of people and relationships and all that.