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Actor relishes his fortune in film, TV

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Raoul Trujillo feels like he is running on empty.

Having just returned from Budapest, Hungary, he’s in Los Angeles doing press for his latest project.

Yet, in the back of his mind, he longs to get back to his ranch in Taos and “sleep for a week.”

“This has been a really good year for me,” he says. “I’ve been very lucky in everything I’ve been able to do.”

There have been many chapters in Trujillo’s life – many of them have been in front of the camera or on stage.

The native New Mexican embarks on his latest endeavor when the FX series “Mayans M.C.” premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The drama is one of the most anticipated of the year, according to the Internet Movie Database.

“Mayans M.C.” is the next chapter in Kurt Sutter’s award-winning “Sons of Anarchy” saga.

It is set in a post-Jax Teller world and follows Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, played by JD Pardo, who is fresh out of prison and a prospect in the Mayans Motorcycle Club charter on the California-Mexican border.

Reyes must carve out his new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with the American dream in his grasp.

Trujillo is Che “Taza” Romero, who is vice president of Mayans MC, Santa Padre Charter.

“Che is a mixed-race Native American/Hispanic man just like me,” he says. “He lives near the border just like me. He has a sage wisdom that he offers the president of the club. He represents the stability in making the right decisions. He’s the most grounded character, and is able to see everything clearly. He sees the big picture the whole time.”

Breaking ground

Getting the role on “Mayans M.C.” was a yearslong journey.

Trujillo had his first connection with “Sons of Anarchy” in 2008. It didn’t pan out.

“Then this pilot came around and I realized here’s another opportunity,” he says. “This one is special because they reached out and came my way.”

The series is also breaking ground with its cast, which is heavily Latino.

The series also stars Clayton Cardenas, Edward James Olmos, Sarah Bolger, Michael Irby, Carla Baratta, Antonio Jaramillo, Richard Cabral and Danny Pino.

Trujillo says the show is important not only because of the story, but the diverse cast.

“It’s very important for me as a human being and as a New Mexican to be involved,” he says. “I get the opportunity to be a voice in this narrative. I get to help create this character, which doesn’t stick to the stereotypes. These modern-day humans represent our stories. Each one of them comes from a different place and are mixed race. I’ve always wanted to see people like me on TV and this cast fills that void.”

Over the course of his career in TV and film, Trujillo has been on many projects.

He’s appeared in films such as “Sicario,” “Blood Father,” “Riddick,” “Apocalypto,” “Cowboys & Aliens” and “The New World.”

In TV, he’s had roles in “Get Shorty,” “Frontier,” “Salem,” “Da Vinci’s Demons” and “True Blood.”

“Not too bad for a boy from northern New Mexico,” he says with a laugh.

Getting started

Trujillo is a mixed-blood descendant of Ute, Apache, Comanche, Pueblo, Tlascalan, French, Sephardic Jew and Andalusian Moor.

After high school, he spent three years serving in the military in Germany. After his discharge, he worked as an alpine ski instructor in Taos.

He left the world of professional skiing after traveling extensively through Mexico, Central and South America on his way to teach in San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina.

The 63-year-old actor says this was a wake-up call to exploring Native America and beginning his journey in creating art based on his cultural roots.

“I want to inspire younger generations to tell our stories,” he says. “I want them to see me on TV and know that they can also make it happen.”

Trujillo started work in the theater as a scenic painter and landed his first job in 1977 as an actor-dancer in a production of “Equus,” in Santa Fe.

It was his first paid professional work as well as his debut in the theater with no training at all albeit high school drama.

He then had the bug to study formally and began dancing in Los Angeles in 1978 at the University of Southern California.

Trujillo hasn’t slowed down.

He has four films scheduled for release this year, and he wrapped on the third season of the British TV drama “Jamestown,” which is written and produced by the makers of “Downton Abbey.”

“With each role, my goal is to represent all my ancestors through the character,” he says. “There’s been a lot of hard work to bring our stories to the forefront. We still have a long way to go. I’m only but one piece in this puzzle. And we are all needed.”

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