Photo / Susana Dueñas

Danny Trejo and Tarah New

This is Part 3 in the 3-Part Series on Actor Danny Trejo

So many people come to LA looking for that big Hollywood dream.

For Danny Trejo, who had lived life on a tough road, it was a happy accident when getting a call to go to a set to show an actor how to box. It led to an actual part in the film, which with time he parlayed into a full career.

After all, this opportunity wouldn’t really just be handed to him as a life long career, he had to prove that he could deliver in order to get the chance.

“People think they are going to come to Hollywood and all of a sudden say, ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that’ … but you’re going to pay dues,” Trejo said.

“I paid a lot of dues, some by accident but I paid a lot of dues and I kicked in a lot of doors and I wasn’t going to let myself be discriminated against, I got in front, period.”

SFV Sun/El Sol Editor Diana Martinez talked to  Danny Trejo at his Northeast Valley home.  This video was produced by  Susana Duenas (camera), Marita De La Torre (sound) and Alejandro Chavez (sound)of L.A. Media Group.  This video cannot be duplicated or reproduced without permission.


His father passed away, and never saw Trejo’s film success. Even though he told his Mother some of the big names he was working with, it took her some time before she realized how successful he had become.

“My Mom didn’t think I had a job and then I did an episode of the ‘Young and the Restless,’ and it was a novela — she couldn’t believe it. She had all of her friends there [at the house] and they were rewinding [the show],” Trejo laughs. “It was then, she thought I had made it.”

“Attitude,” plays a large part in bringing success, Trejo said. He recalls the words of his mother, who reminded him that he had choices.

“I went into CVS to get some Maalox because my stomach was upset and about 10 kids got hold of me coming out and I signed autographs. I got into the car, and my Mom said, ‘what’s wrong Mijo?’ I said, ‘I didn’t want to do that Mom but I didn’t know how to say no.’ She said, ‘Mijo be a plumber, no one will ever ask you for an autograph.’ I’ll never forget that,” Trejo smiled.

It was that simple but powerful bit of his Mom’s wisdom years ago that shapes his outlook.

“Now when someone asks why I always do that [sign autographs]. I say because that guy paid my rent,” Trejo said.

“I say simple prayers every day to let God [help me] to sign every autograph and let me take every picture, because what a blessing it is to make someone’s day with an autograph and a picture. A lot of actors don’t do it and I go out of my way to do it.

When asked if he sometimes feels the weight of “representing the community,” Trejo answers with an assured ease.

“I am part of the community,” said Trejo, who enjoys being right here in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. “I’ve gone from being ‘Machete,’ the baddest guy on the planet, to being ‘Marsha Brady’ and I have a lot of fun with everything. I go to Home Depot and (Danny imitates the playful whistles and comments in Spanish) [they say], “Hey Marsha”. . .(I say) Callate el osico carbron! ‘Soy Machete.’, and we all just laugh. I think this whole thing is a blessing.

“Again, attitude is a real big part of acting [but] it’s not attitude when the camera is rolling — it’s when it’s not rolling. It’s an attitude of gratitude and it’s a blessing from God.”

Giving an example, Trejo recalls filming in Florida on a blistering day when the cast and crew were all complaining about their discomfort.

The director asked Trejo what complaint he had.

“Are you kidding? I pointed to a house about half a block away where about five guys were pounding nails. I’m cool, I don’t have any complaints buddy! I can ask for an umbrella and they’ll bring me one. They won’t get me one of those little fans anymore because I get those stuck in my hair,” he laughs.

“Anybody in this business, whether it’s [by working a] camera or sound or performing, it’s a blessing from God.”

With a conviction that all things are possible has served Trejo well as an actor and entrepreneur. Now he’s about to launch Trejo’s Music, a record company, joining his other enterprises Trejo’s Taco’s and Trejo’s Donuts.

About two years ago, he held auditions for singers at the Boys and Girls Club. He gave the singers he met a song to learn the next day but two of girls had something else to do that day.

It was there he first heard Tarah New. She returned ready to perform, and was selected.

“People might complain that they got eliminated, but what I say is you eliminated yourself,” Trejo said.

New describes herself as “half Latina” and the daughter and granddaughter of migrant workers. She sings easily in both English and Spanish. Before she met Trejo, her parents, especially her Mom, supported her dream and moved the family to LA where the singer pounded the pavement. She was working very small gigs for a few dollars until meeting Trejo.

“I was just working, and I was always so close but not quite there. I just kept praying and doing my part, singing for a couple of bucks here and there until I got a call from a friend telling me Danny Trejo was having auditions for singers, she said.

“It’s just changed my whole life. Now I look out and I see a sea of people out there in the audience.”

With the opportunity now given to her, New said she wants to “pay it forward” to help lift up others and give them a chance.

“I picture my Grandma and my Mom. They were in Mexico and dirt poor living in a house with a tin roof. They were going back and forth as migrant workers and they decided to stay and had no plan. My Grandpa went into a gas station asking for work so that they could stay in the United States.” 

Only two generations later, “I’m in L.A. working with Danny Trejo.” New said. “I’m singing songs that are empowering for women and young people. Just like Danny is talking about doing it with films, I want to do it with my songs,” she said.

Under the label “Trejo’s Music,” New has been producing an album with him, Baby Bash and Frankie J. She appeared on stage performing for an audience of 65,000 people recently for an Art Laboe show.

Good food, good films, good music – Danny Trejo believes there are no limits on what he does and doesn’t believe anyone else should either.

“There is no limitation. We have been afraid all of our lives…the fear is gone now.”