“You don’t think it’s unprofessional if I smoke, do you?”
I’m sitting across a small table at the Coffee Bean from Christian Monzon, a model transitioning into acting, who’s already landed roles on CSI: Miami and The Closer. He co-stars opposite James Earl Jones in an upcoming Hallmark movie this November. For now, he’s drinking iced tea, smoking one of my cigarettes, hunched forward so that my recorder picks up his voice over the street noise.
“Not at all, they’re yours, brother,” he replies, surprised at my consideration, “What’s refreshing about people who are just themselves, there’s no barriers being put up. You get to just do you.” As I lit up, I knew I was going to like this interview. To sum up Christian Monzon in a word, it would be: Natural. Not the slightest pretense. No posturing here. When his acting career takes off, it’ll be this naturalness that sells him. Of course his stunning good looks may help him, just a little.
Good looks certainly helped with his modeling career. At 20, while shopping, Christian was discovered by a talent scout. This quickly led to ad campaigns with Sketchers, Perry Ellis, and Ambercrombie & Fitch. He has gone on to become the spokes model of Versace Sports and land a contract with European designers Dolce & Gabbana. Christian has traveled the world and seen and done things that most can only fantasize about, but if a decision had to be made, Christian would choose acting over modeling.
“My only complaint about the business, fashion-wise,” he says, leaning in for effect as I try to find his eyes behind his reflective Ray-Bans, “you have to take your life, put it on hold, and go accommodate someone else’s life and get their job done. For example, in microcosm, this is what I would normally do. I’ve traveled from my house to come to see you so you could do your job. I can’t even vacation anymore, because I travel for work.” On top of that, he hates to fly. If he could, he’d walk wherever he’d have to go, which is strange for me to hear in Southern California.
Christian just doesn’t like to go out much. “I’m kind of in a phase right now, where going out is more of a distraction.” He spends his time making meetings, going to events, or honing his acting skills. “Being an actor is very demanding, from the first rung to the top echelon of A-list actors. It’s nonstop. When you’re starting up, you’re busting your ass. You’re doing everything you gotta’ do to make it.”
Fortunately, his hard work is beginning to pay off. This November, we’ll see Christian co-starring opposite James Earl Jones in a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of The Reading Room. Christian is nothing but positive about it. “I was really lucky to be on that project. Most of those made for TV movies always have a good message to send the public. You tune in, you watch the advertising, you should get something back. And it really does give the audience a good feeling at the end.”
The story revolves around a widower, James Earl Jones, fulfilling a promise to his dying wife to open a reading room in the inner city where people can learn to read. Unfortunately, the widower must overcome the problems of the community to succeed.
“I’m one of the adversities he has to overcome. I’m the leader of the local gang, Omar. And the message that connected with me was that, no matter at what age, no matter what adversity there is in front of you, you can overcome it if you have the right attitude.” On working with James Earl Jones, Christian says, “Being on set with James and seeing his set etiquette and how he approached his work, was worth more than the money I got paid to do the movie.” He pauses and smiles. “Well, a lot more. I didn’t get paid that much,” he laughs.
When he’s not working or studying, Christian spends his time reading Ayn Rand and Joseph Campbell, playing with his British bulldog, Jake Pink Paw, and spending time with his mother.
The future for Christian Monzon looks as bright for acting as his modeling career did in the past. He has his own production company, his own line of clothes (Gemelli-Milano), and if the right people capitalize on his abilities, Christian will have many fans. As we parted with a handshake and a slap on the back, I asked him what advice he had for future actors who will be going through what he’s going through now.
He reeled for a moment, reliving countless rejections in his mind, and then he said, “So long as you keep turning your ‘no’ into an opportunity to make yourself better, you’re gonna be alright. That’s the best advice I could give anybody.”