Hollywood’s nicest ‘bad guy,’ Danny Trejo, reflects on his rise from prison to stardom

Hispanic Heritage Month

Danny Trejo has played many tough guys on the big and small screens. Sometimes the roles were tiny.

“I played ‘Inmate No. 1.’ I played ‘Bad Guy.’ I played ‘Chicano Dude.’ I played “Guy With Tattoos,'” Trejo told KTLA. “I never had a name.”

Now, Trejo is one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood. In fact, some say he’s known as the nicest “bad guy” in town — always giving back to his community.

“Everything good that has happened to me, has happened as a direct result from helping someone else,” he says. “That’s the way I live.”

But he didn’t always live that way. His road to success was not an easy one, and he spent his youth in and out of prison.

“You have to understand, in 1968, I didn’t know if I was going to live another day,” he recounted.

But he turned his life around, getting clean and becoming a drug counselor. And he said it was helping others try to stay clean that led him to set of the 1985 film “Runaway Train.”

“I walked onto this movie set. A guy says ‘Hey, you want to be in this movie?’ I say, ‘What do I got to do?'” Trejo recalled. “He says ‘Be an extra. Can you act like a convict?’ I almost started laughing. I had been in every institution in the state of California. I’ll give it a shot.”

That one shot led to a career spanning over three decades, with over 300 TV and film credits, including “Machete” and the popular “Spy Kids” films.

Trejo is also now a successful restaurateur, with four locations of Trejo’s Tacos across the Los Angeles area, along with Trejo’s Donuts.

“Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from LA: A Cookbook” and his memoir, “Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood” are available now.

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