It’s always exciting to speak with a dynamic talent that is on the bubble and just one or two steps away from seriously major stardom. There’s a true crackle of energy as you witness said talent exploring and pushing the boundaries of their respective craft. Such is the case with brilliant actor Cheyenne Rae Hernandez (known affectionately as Cheyenne ‘Danger’ Hernandez).
Born in El Paso, Texas, this force to be reckoned with walked and lived a whole lot of life before tossing her hat into the acting ring: At the age of 16 she enlisted in the United States Army where she served proudly for nearly four years. During those years, tragedy struck her profoundly when she lost both of her brothers on a Christmas Eve in a senseless accident caused by a drunk driver. “My whole world was shattered,” she acknowledges now, looking back on a calamity that might break almost anyone else. Instead, this proud Latina/Native American picked herself up from her tragedy only to be struck by yet another one: She suffered a traumatic brain injury and a loss of sensation on her right hand while in a military vehicle accident in the Mojave Dessert.
“I moved to Washington State until it hit me,” Hernandez recalls of that difficult time after the deaths of her brothers and her own near-fatal accident. “I had put my hand on my brother’s casket, and promised I would live out our dreams for the both of us. I wound up packing up and moving to Hollywood by myself and living in a car for a few months and showered at the gym.”
Meeting an acting coach, this thespian on the rise quickly garnered real and serious attention with her casting in the A-list film, The Tax Collector which starred – among other talent heavyweights such as Bobby Soto and Cinthya Carmona – Shia LaBeouf. No mere career/life summary however does Cheyenne’s story true justice, so Vents feels fortunate indeed to have been allowed to speak with this incredible talent in the following interview.
Vents: Hi Cheyenne, welcome to Vents Magazine! Getting the ball rolling, how have you ben during these Twilight Zone-like times?
Cheyenne Danger Hernandez: I’m definitely a “glass half full” type of person. I’m actually loving getting to stay home and just “be” for a bit. I’ve done a lot of writing and painting and the slower pace has given me time to focus on being a better me. It’s made auditioning more difficult for sure, but I have a feeling things will adapt and move forward very soon!
Vents: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your film The Tax Collector! Can you walk Vents readers through what the story is about and who your character is?
CDH: The story is about David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LaBeouf) collecting taxes from the gangs of LA. It shows them trying to balance a dangerous job with a loving family that they must protect. Things take a turn for the worst when Conejo and I come to town and challenge them for the throne!
Vents: The director of The Tax Collector is the uber-talented David Ayer. What was it like working with such a talented wordsmith and director?
CDH: David is the best! He taught me so much throughout rehearsals and filming and I feel like I’m a better person after working with him. He expects a lot out of you and it was definitely challenging to live up to his expectations, but it’s that much more rewarding when he says he’s proud of you. I can’t wait to hopefully work with him again one day.
Vents: The cast for The Tax Collector reads like a star-studded telephone book of major acting chops. Among some mighty big names in the cast is one of the best actors of his generation, Shia LaBeouf. What was it like for you as an actor to work alongside such an exciting voice in cinema?
CDH: I absolutely adore Shia. Even though our characters hated each other in the movie, it was so the opposite in real life. He is an incredibly sweet person and he’s always bending over backwards to make people he cares about smile. I was nervous at first to ask him questions about the industry because I felt like he gets questions all of the time and might find it annoying. He quickly told me to quit being silly and ask him anything as I was now dubbed family. His sound and rather blunt advice helped me so much on set and I felt like between him and David I had a complete crash course on Hollywood!Vents: Let’s not ignore your other cast mates such as Bobby Soto, Cinthya Carmona and George Lopez, among many others. How was it to go to work every day and be able to play alongside such talent?
CDH: It was an absolute dream. I love learning and to have that many talented actors around me was such a blessing. Each person had so much knowledge to give and I felt like I was constantly learning new things. On top of everything, everyone on set really was just an absolutely incredible person and I am very lucky to call them my friends.
Vents: What did you do in order to prepare for your role in The Tax Collector? Do you fancy yourself a method actor?
CDH: A lot of work went into creating Gata and in order to bring her to life, I did choose to use method acting. It was challenging, especially because I had never done it before but I feel like I had the best people I could have possibly had to guide me. Every single day we had training and rehearsal. We would leave just as exhausted as we were motivated and I don’t think a single one of us held back. I wrote journals as my character and I allowed her to take over most of my life. It sounds scary, but it was beautiful in a way. She had had so many bad things happen to her in her life and I felt like I was giving her a voice to take her power back.
Vents: You’ve taken a different route to the silver screen than many other actors: You served in the Army at a young age and before I get to my question I just want to personally thank you for your service…That said, can you talk a little about your personal journey that led you to Hollywood an into acting?
CDH: I always knew that while I adored my hometown, my destiny would one day call me away from it. As a kid I would tell people that one day I was going to travel the world and be an actress (and a pirate)…
I didn’t have money for college and I wanted to help people so my first step was to enlist in the Army as a combat medic. I learned a lot there and once I was out I was prepared for anything. Making the move to LA was rough, though. I had to leave my cat with my grandma for a while because if I wasn’t sleeping in my car I was staying on friends couches. I was interning at an acting program just trying to learn more about the industry and the closer I got to it the more in love I became. When my manager found me I knew that all of my hard work wasn’t for nothing. I booked Tax Collector soon after and I remember just sitting in my car crying because it felt like the dam had burst. I remembered all of the times I was trying to fall asleep hungry and all of the times I just wanted to feel safe and it all came out. I still have no idea what they saw in me, I just feel incredibly grateful that they gave me a shot.
Vents: Going over my notes, I was struck by how inspiring your trajectory in the business and in life ultimately is. What sort of advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry just based off of your own experiences?
CDH: One thing I always say is to just not listen to those that doubt you. Sometimes people don’t want you to succeed and sometimes people just can’t fathom that you could possibly succeed where they couldn’t. It actually has nothing to do with you and the best thing you can do is smile, thank them for their advice and do whatever you wanted to do anyways.
Vents: Who in the word of acting has inspired your own work?
CDH: It’s funny because I actually got to work with someone that inspires me; Shia LaBeouf. I’ve always admired how much he gives to his roles and to be able to learn how to do that from him was such a blessing. I felt like a sponge. I was just learning so much I thought I’d explode! I really look up to Cate Blanchett as well. I am always blown away by her performances and she seems like a beautiful person to be around.
Vents: Your first on-film work was in a 2017 episode of the smash Hawaii Five-O revival. What was that first experience like for you?
CDH: It was so much fun! The cast was very kind to me and it was a great introduction into what I was getting myself into. After filming I was even more sure that I was on the right path and doing exactly what I was meant to be doing.
Vents: Do you have any desire to write and/or direct?
CDH: I can’t wait to finish my screenplay. I’ve been writing it for a while and I’m looking forward to seeing it on the big screen one day. I’ve always loved writing and it’s something I hope to pursue as well as acting!
Vents: How has the industry changed over the last half year due to the global pandemic? And how has this affected your own work?
CDH: It has made auditioning quite difficult. I like in-person auditions a lot better because through pre-audition conversation l can get a better idea of what they require from the character. I’m adjusting to the new way of life though.
Vents: What’s coming up for you in the future? Can you give Vents readers any hints?
CDH: I have my eye on a couple of projects that I’m excited about, but nothing is set in stone yet! I’m definitely ready for COVID to be gone so that productions can get back to normal!
Vents: Final (Silly) Question: You’re stranded on a deserted island and awaiting rescue. What’s your go-to movie to watch while waiting out rescue?
CDH: Definitely “Willow”. I could watch that movie on replay to this day!
The Tax Collector – Starring Shia LaBeouf, Cheyenne Rae Hernandez, Bobby Soto, George Lopez, Lana Parrilla, Elpidida Carrillo and Chelsea Rendon is available now to watch on Amazon Prime.