Meet Billy! Sounds like a strange name for a devilishly handsome Cuban American like Laz Alonso. But it’s the name of the newest TV character he’s added to his wheelhouse. Currently, the superstar actor is co-starring alongside Debra Messing in NBC’s drama pilot “The Mysteries of Laura,” written by Jeff Rake and directed by McG, as Laura’s (Messing) no-nonsense partner in crime solving.
It’s a departure for Alonso, who’s played dramatic roles in the feature films Avatar and Fast & Furious. Alonso has also been cast in other notable films such as Stomp the Yard, This Christmas and Just Wright. But after countless roles on the big screen Alonso has decided to put the box office on hold and focus more on his career in television.
No more drama this time around for Alonso! His new character (Billy) has brought out a much lighter side than we have seen him play before with a comedic role he tells us was quite a challenge for him to perform. Having to play a role outside of his norm has been a tough experience for Alonso but it has given him the opportunity to gain experience in an area he wasn’t too familiar with. But working with Messing has made the process a lot less stressful, according to Alonso. “Deborah is so easy to work with. I am learning a lot from her. For me to be learning again at this stage in my career is great,” he says.
Alonso has certainly made a name for himself in Hollywood, but his career in film didn’t begin with acting classes. Years ago, in his hometown of Washington, D.C., Alonso enrolled in the prestigious Howard University where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. Although he had dreams of becoming an actor, in his mind, business always comes first. For Alonso, being in an industry that is ever-changing made him realize that having skill sets to fall back on is vitally important.
When Alonso is not juggling his businesses, he definitely knows how to have fun. He tries to get out as much as possible and attend charitable events where he can connect with his fan base and travel during his vacation time. Acting is Alonso’s passion, so work for him is exciting and fulfilling. Next on his agenda is to star in a feature film or create a few projects of his own. This guy sure knows what it takes to make it in a competitive industry.
Read what he has to say.
How is it working with “Will & Grace” icon Debra Messing?
I like working with Debra Messing. For me, it was challenge stepping into a role and working with someone who is well-known in comedy. The majority of the body of work that I have under my belt has been more dramatic. I look at it as a challenge and an opportunity to really work on building my comedic acting skills and lightening up my body of work, adding some levity and comedy to it.
I approached this role as an opportunity to get better in this area, and the experience has been great. I am actually learning from Debra. It feels good at this stage in my career to be learning again. That’s been awesome.
How does TV work differ for you compared to film?
I like them both. With film, it feels like you live within the character … while you are doing the film, you are completely immersed in the character. In TV, because it is a longer stretch, it feels like you can turn the character on and off a lot easier. Because you are taping television for nine months, you are running a marathon as opposed to a sprint.
Describe Billy Soto.
My character Billy Soto on “Mysteries of Laura” … I am the guy who is going to chase the bad guys down. I am the guy who is going to get to the root of the problem. I am going to get in their face in the interrogation room. I am the muscle behind our team. Billy has a tremendous amount of brains and investigative skills too. He is not just knocking people out; he’s also outsmarting people.
It’s important to play this character, this role with a certain level of respectability. Over the last few months, we’ve seen how serious the situations have become between law enforcement and our people. I feel that being an artist gives us a chance to be a voice and artistically show a balance of imagery. I think this character gives me an opportunity to play not just a cop, but also a good Black cop contrary to a lot of the images that we’ve seen in the last few months.
How do you balance your work life, taping for nine months, and making appearances at events, etc.?
It’s tough. It’s not easy because television production schedules are very demanding. You are working long hours and trying to do more per day than you do on a film. On a film, you have three months to shoot 90 pages. In TV, you have eight days to shoot 60 pages. When you do the math, that’s a lot of work that you have to cram into eight days. Television hours tend to be extremely long and grueling. Whenever I can get out [laughs], I’m out!
If I can get out and enjoy some events, especially some events that are meaningful, something that gives back and I get to connect with fans, then I am going to do it.
Do you like filming in New York?
I like filming in New York. New York has a humongous TV and film industry here. And, they have some of the best professionals that work in the business here, next to L.A. So, it’s great to work here. The city embraces you. You’re out and about; people show love. Everywhere you go, people are happy you’re here.
I lived here before I got started in the business and moved to L.A. It’s great to come back to what I consider the birthplace of my acting career.
What are your plans when you go on hiatus this April?
The train never stops. If there’s an opportunity to do an amazing film, I am going to take it and do it. I would like to travel to somewhere with a beach, some sand and salt water. When you are filming in 18-degree weather, and you look at the weather on your phone and [it] says [it] feels like 2 degrees … the thought of a vacation is what keeps you going. I will definitely find a way to fit in a little R and R before I jump on my next project.
“The Mysteries of Laura” airs Wednesday nights on NBC at 8 p.m.
Story by Lauren Martinez
Interview by Yvette Caslin
Photos by DeWayne Rogers