By Timithie NORMAN
Award-winning actor, writer and director Andy Garcia paid a visit to St. Francis High School in La Cañada on Tuesday as part of the school’s annual fine arts speaker series. Accompanied by friend and colleague Joe Mantegna, Garcia answered questions posed by students about his career, culture and overcoming stereotypes in Hollywood. Mantegna, last year’s featured guest, played interviewer.
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of judging other people and cultures,” Garcia told a full auditorium of high schoolers, parents and faculty. “Stereotyping is part of the [Hollywood] culture out there, and you have to be ready for it.”
Garcia, a native Cuban who came to the United States in 1961 when he was just 5 years old, described the situations he had faced as an actor in Hollywood.
“I wasn’t Mexican or Cuban enough to play the Hispanic roles, and I wasn’t Anglo enough to play those roles,” he said. Garcia said he moved to Los Angeles after college and spent seven years pursuing his acting career before landing a small role in a feature film in 1983. “Desire kept me going,” he explained.
That role led to another, and another, and in 1989 he was cast in “The Godfather III” in the role of Vincent Mancini. It was a break-through role for Garcia, and it was on-set where he first met Mantegna, who currently stars in the television show “Criminal Minds.” The two became friends and have remained so ever since.
“Andy is a great performer, but he is more than that,” Mantegna said as he introduced Garcia. “He is a great human being as a husband and father, and that sets him apart.”
The men’s mutual admiration was apparent over the course of their 45-minute exchange. Both praised the other for his genuine character, faithful role as husband and father, and successful acting career. When asked about his most important award, Garcia said as unrealistic as it was, he was most proud of the “Father of the Year” designation awarded to him by the National Father’s Day Council.
Garcia and Mantegna said they agreed to visit St. Francis because of a desire to make an impact on young aspiring actors.
“The older I get, the more I realize that when you leave this place behind,” said Mantegna, “you’d like to be able to say maybe you left something behind. That the world might be a better place because you existed.”