Disclosure: Disney Pictures provided me with admission to a pre-screening for Planes: Fire & Rescue, as well as the opportunity to attend the round table press day with Erik Estrada.
I recently had the chance to participate in a round table interview with Erik Estrada, voice of Nick “Loopin’ ‘” Lopez in Planes: Fire & Rescue. As a child born in the 70′s, I remember seeing Erik Estrada on episodes of CHiPs, and in the years that followed in novelas and as a guest star in several other series. I felt so cool meeting this 70′s Icon! He was super buena gente. He walked into the conference room laughing with a soda in his hand, sat beside me (the only empty chair at the table), and opened up about life, his journey from Harlem to Hollywood, voicing Nick “Loopin’ ” Lopez for Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue, and how he taught himself Spanish for a role. Here are my favorite nuggets from our interview.
Erik Estrada on the importance of learning Spanish:
I wrote a book ten years ago called My Road from Harlem to Hollywood. I dedicated the book “To all children: get in touch with your background, it’s the key to your future”. If you know where you came from and where your parents came from, that gives you strength.
Erik Estrada on the character of Nick “Loopin’” Lopez and CHoPs in the film:
It was Disney’s idea. I saw the screening of it, and I was blown away. It was a flashback, and it hit me the impact that show had. When I was doing it [CHiPs], I was just happy to have a job and get my mother out of Harlem. They created that segment for the movie, threw it in, and called to see if I was interested. So I did it, it was cool. It was a lot of fun.
Erik Estrada on how he ended up an actor:
My mother divorced my father when I was 4, and she dated a cop later on, that’s where my love for cops came in. I was going to be a cop, that’s what I wanted, but there was a pretty girl at the age of 17. She never came out school at 3 o’clock, she always came out later, at 3:45. I followed her and she was going to Drama Club so I said, “I grew up in Harlem, I can act!” So I auditioned, got in, got bit by the acting bug, left the idea of becoming a NYC policeman, which freaked my mother out. I made a deal with her that I could chase this until I’m 30. I got my first movie at the age of 19, “The Cross and the Switchblade”, the first Christian based faith movie made in America. I got the New Centurions, then Hawaii 5-0, and after Hawaii 5-0 I told my mother I was going to stay in California. For about six more years, I guested on everything, did some more movies, Then CHiPs came along, I always wanted to be a cop. This was a cop on TV!
Eric Estrada elaborated that no matter what career path he ended up in, his goal was to get his mother out of Harlem. He wanted her to live como una reina, and she is, right here in Miami!
About the movie:
Disney”s Planes: Fire & Rescue continues where last year’s Planes ended. Dusty Crophopper is now a world-renowned racer, and is preparing to star in the annual Corn Festival, but a glitch in his gearbox causes him to crash into the Propwash Junction airport The local firetruck, Mayday, is too old to deal with an emergency, and unless there’s another member of the safety squad, the airport will be shut down. Dusty volunteers to train and is sent to train with the Piston Peak Air Attack Team, which includes a former TV-star turned firefighter Blade Ranger and an eclectic cast of characters. Together, they battle a huge wildfire, and Dusty learns what it means to be a real hero.
The four of us went to watch the pre-screening, and we all had a great time watching this latest Disney animated film. Brandon liked it and says it was better than the first one. Matty liked it too, thought it was funny, loved that it was about firefighters, and wants everyone to know that his favorite character was Blade Ranger.
Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue is in theaters now, go check it out!