Interview with RJ Cantu

By Diana Bierman,

RJ Cantu is both an actor and a magician, whose played roles in Secret Life of the American Teenager, Death Valley, and more. RJ recently spoke to TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Diana Bierman to discuss his experiences, accomplishments, and goals for the future.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: So you are a 26-year-old an actor and a magician. That is quite the pair and pretty impressive. Let’s talk about acting first. When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?

RJ Cantu: It was probably when I blew out my knee in football my sophomore year. I was a varsity football player, but at the time I was still studying magic so I guess, technically with magic, you’re playing the role of the magician, so you’re kind of acting as well. The doctor basically told me that I had to tone down the sports, you know, maybe find another hobby, so I joined the one-act play at our school and got hooked when I was on stage for the first time. Later I went to New York to study acting and came out here in LA to pursue it.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: And magic? When did you first know you were interested in magic tricks?

RJ Cantu: I was actually 8-years-old…it’s a crazy story, my aunt bought me this magic set for Christmas and I was like ‘Magic? Why magic? Seriously?’ But it wasn’t until I did my first trick on my grandmother and she was like, ‘How’d you do that?!’ that I got hooked on it. I started going to libraries and magic shops and later became, like, the local magician in our hometown and it just kind of took off from there. Once I did that, I just kind of got hooked on the art and I figured there’s so many levels to magic, to misdirection, to timing, and coming up with your own shows. When I moved to New York for acting, I didn’t really pursue the magic until I came back out here. That’s when I, you know, having the magic capital here in Hollywood, that I had gotten back into the magic aspect. I joined the capital and starting doing shows there and more private parties, club shows, and stuff like that, so it’s been really fun.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Where did you go to school and what was it like?

RJ Cantu: I went to a school called AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in New York. I studied there for about a year and gosh, what a culture shock! I mean, it’s so different from living in a small town and then moving to a big city, but I loved it. It had so much history and the classes were so great. We had stage combat to voice production to Shakespeare, so it really sucked you into all of the acting aspects.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: You play Mac on The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Could you tell me a bit about what that’s like?

RJ Cantu: It was probably my first meatier role…more lines and not just, like, ‘Hey, your line’s here, you deliver pizza,’ you know? It just flipped the straw for me, just even one episode. Because I did actually played the pizza delivery guy, and it was just one scene. So it was great to be on set, working with the different actors. I got to really know Francia Raisa, who plays Adrian, and Daren Kagasoff, who plays Ricky. And it was just a blast. I ended up having the role of kind of hooking up with Adrian and having there be drama between her and Ricky, haha. But I learned a lot from Secret Life, definitely.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: What was performing on MTV’s Death Valley like? I’m assuming the genre is pretty different than Secret Life?

RJ Cantu: Oh, definitely. You’re going from ABC Family to MTV, which is a little edgier. It was really taking it to the next level, especially for a bigger role and a bigger character. Definitely trying different things, especially with Rico, my character, and a vampire. Everything’s been done, you know, especially for vampires with Twilight and Vampire Diaries all the other vampire shows that are out there. So I wanted to kind of go in a different direction, but talk about really expanding yourself as an actor, Rico was definitely fun to play around with.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: I know you were also featured as extras on some TV shows. Are movies something you’d want to ever get in to, or are you a made-for-TV man?

RJ Cantu: No, definitely film. When I came out here I knew I wanted to tackle film, but you kind of have to go through the television stage to get to the movies. But with films, I’ve been doing a lot of independent films, like Footprints, which premiered at the Chinese Theatre and was directed by Steven Peros, who wrote the screen play for The Cat’s Meow starring Kirsten Dunst…and this was the first one he wrote and directed, so I was so lucky to be a part of it. I played a character in there, Manny. And I just finished a film with David DeCoteau, which is a horror film called Snow White: Deadly Summer, starring Eric Roberts, and that’s probably gonna be out later this year. So yeah, slowly moving into film, and it’s definitely something I want to grow more into.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: And now let’s get into some magic. What kinds of magic do you do and where are some places you’ve performed?

RJ Cantu: I started off when I was younger with kind of a lot of private parties, like birthday parties, kids’ parties, and that kind of thing, and when I came out here in LA, I joined the Magic Castle, which is a lot different, more manipulation. A lot of my shows right now are just trying to hit some of the hottest clubs in LA because for me, ‘club magic,’ I can expand into more of my edgier work. You know, the castle, you have to keep it more classy, but in the clubs you can go a little more edgy. I was just at the Playboy Mansion for Hollywood, which was such a blast and more close-up, edgy magic. So it was just really cool to experience the Playboy Mansion, meet the guests, and do the magic there. I’m probably gonna be back in Vegas pretty soon at a bar on Fremont, which is kind of this cool, hip place. And you can check out my website, RJCantu.com, which will show when I’m having upcoming shows. But yeah I’ve been to places like Boulevard3, Hollywood & Highlands, The Viper Room, and I’m definitely hoping to do more pretty soon.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: What’s your favorite magic trick you do and why?

RJ Cantu: There’s this one I do in my act…it’s this really funny, comical trick that I do on stage. It’s where I take two handkerchiefs and I tie them in a knot together and I put it down a girl’s collar and when I pull it out, a bra comes out with it. It’s really funny, but it’s not really her bra, but to the audience it makes it seem like it. But I love that so much because you never know how A) the audience is going to react, and B) how the person on stage is going to react and it adds a lot of improv, you know, lines just being thrown out, and I love that because it’s different every night. It’s not the same, so it’s one of my favorite tricks.

And then, probably on stage at a club, one of my favorite ones is when I make a dove appear. I take off its head, put it in my mouth, chew on it a little bit, and then I put it back on and the dove’s completely fine. And that’s the thing, a lot of people are like, ‘Oh no! Do you harm animals?’ but it’s actually the opposite. For a dove to be comfortable on stage and be comfortable being held, and for you to throw the dove in the air and have it be comfortable coming back, those are all things we have to work with as magicians – to get the dove comfortable. And we actually have to connect…I know this is gonna sound kinda cheesy, but you almost gotta connect with the animal on a different level, because you have to have that trust with it. For it to come back to you, it actually really has to be comfortable with you. And then on stage, when people are around and clapping and cheering and whatnot, it has to be even more comfortable. So for the people asking if any animals are harmed, it’s actually the opposite. We have to work with them so much so that it gets comfortable with us and on stage. But that’s definitely one of my favorite tricks with the dove. It gets the reactions of the audience and it’s really edgy and out there. It’s kinda crazy, the reactions are like ‘Whaaat?!’ Especially the club environment, everyone’s having a good time, everyone’s drinking, and then all of a sudden the announcer goes, ‘Oh this magician’s going to step on stage,’ and everyone’s thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, magic,’ and they think of a top hat and a bunny coming out…’ but then you see more of this edgy act with doves coming out and different manipulations. And people are not expecting it, so it catches them off guard. And I love that. That’s why I love doing the club scene, because they’re not expecting that. Like with the Castle, everyone’s expecting to see magic, but in the club scene, it’s just more random and I love seeing their reactions after being caught off guard.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Are there any actors and/or magicians that you get inspiration from?

RJ Cantu: Absolutely. Johnny Depp is one of my biggest ones, because he’s such a chameleon, you know? He does edgy, he does soft…just transforms himself, and that’s the kind of roles and acting that turns me on. If you look at Secret Life with Mac, to Rico on Death Valley, it looks like two different people and characters, because that’s what turns me on, so I’m getting into the skin of different characters. As for magic, inspiration for me is definitely David Copperfield because he had the whole stories with his magic and it was so elaborate and extreme. I definitely want to get to that level with my magic, but it’s all a building block from where I’m at now, but I can see where it’s going to go in the future. Like I do want to put on big elaborate shows in the future, but I want it to be more modernized…more digital with lasers and cool dances and special effects. So that’s why I can definitely draw some inspiration from Copperfield. Also, Jeff McBride. He has so much edginess to his magic, it’s so cool and hip. It’s kind of how I want to take magic to a whole new level. Same thing with my acting. I want to push different boundaries because audiences nowadays are so ADD! And you have to give them so much on the magic and acting side. And with the acting side, you can’t just do one act because they’re gonna get tired of it. The audience wants to see something different. That’s why actors like Johnny Depp continue to work so much because they don’t give just that one tone. It’s like they give all these different levels and layers that’s so cool to see and watch. That’s what entertainment is about, you know?

TheCelebrityCafe.com: What does the future hold for you? What do you wish to still accomplish in your career?

RJ Cantu: So much. I’m just at the very beginning of my career. Like for me, with acting, I definitely want to create a library of different works, like I was saying with Johnny Depp…he changes himself so much, which is kind of what I want to do with my acting. And I definitely want to get into roles that are going to expand mine and other people’s minds, and just get into different content that’s not really seen or talked about. As for magic, I want to take magic to that next level. We’ve seen the same old mundane tricks, I really want to make it more edgy and make it almost cool again. Magic is cool, but it’s never been seen in that light. I think it’s definitely getting there, both the entertainment side live and movies. There are a couple of scripts I’ve read out there that are floating around that are really great baggage scripts. That excites me to see that magic is actually going to that next level, and I definitely want to be a part of that.



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