By Jane Fernandez
Acting major Peter Mendoza will be playing the leading character, Algernon Moncrief, in the ELAC production, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which opens Nov. 30 on campus.
He dedicated the last seven years of his life to pursue his childhood dream of being a professional actor.
With plans of transferring to California State University, Fullerton for a bachelor’s degree, and later to University of California, Irvine for a master’s degree, Mendoza started at East Los Angeles College to pursue acting.
As an acting major, Mendoza has been in more than 20 plays and has played 10 major characters. Mendoza got his first taste of acting at Montebello Intermediate, where he was taking art classes.
When he found out they offered drama classes, he was faced with choosing between drawing, which was something he really enjoyed, and acting.
“At the time it seemed like a tough decision, but now I know it was the right one,” said Mendoza.
Mendoza was not always an actor. During his years at Montebello High School, he participated in activities such as track and field, football and choir.
“It’s because of choir that I became more comfortable performing. I loved singing, and if it wasn’t for choir, I wouldn’t be a stronger performer,” Mendoza said.
Juan Tenorio, a smooth, charming, ladies man, from the ELAC featured play “Man of Flesh,” where he played the main role, was of Mendoza’s favorite characters to play.
“This play changed something inside of me,” Mendoza said. He said that he never worked harder for a play in his life. “I needed my acting to speak louder than my voice. Show, don’t tell,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza has also been in the ELAC productions, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” both in which he played the leading role.
In his latest play, “Geeks vs. Zombies,” Mendoza’s character is Wallance, a video game fanatic who, along with his other geek friends, use their knowledge of zombie survival to fight off zombies.
Mendoza said that he always gets stage fright, but not as much as he used to when he was first starting to act. He also said that sometimes nerves are good to have, because the results may be good.
Mendoza knew he wanted to be an actor while watching his favorite action actor Jean Claude Van Damme jump over a burning trash can in “Hard Target.”
His inspiration for acting did not just come from the movies but from his professors as well.
Mendoza gives most credit to ELAC theater professor and mentor Tom Atha, who recommended him to audition and has pushed him to strive and be the best he can be from day one. “I woudn’t be as far as I am hadn’t been for him” he said.
Mendoza said that as a child everyone has dreams of being something. His dream was to be an actor. “When you grow up, you change your mind. I didn’t,” he said.
When he finally got the chance to act, he wondered if he was good or not. “As it turned out I had the talent, so I pushed myself,” he said.
At first, friends and family were reluctant about him wanting to be an actor. His mother, who was his biggest critic, worried about his career path and was afraid he would be wasting his time.
After seeing him perform, Mendoza got his mother’s full support and now she goes to every one of his plays.
Although he knows he has all the support he can get, Mendoza is still not quite used to hearing so many people telling him that he “will make it.”
One day, as Mendoza was taking his headshots, his friend told him that he knew that he was going to be seeing Mendoza at the Academy Awards.
“That’s the greatest feeling ever. No matter where I go or what I do, I have faith that it will turn out great,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza believes that an actors have to know who they are. They sometimes have to face their demons, and that’s how they can pull off a great performance.
“Acting is my livelihood. It’s like my second home when I’m on stage,” he said.
“What I get (out of acting) is a great satisfaction, knowing that people love watching what I love to do,” said Mendoza.