Be the One
“I have had the privilege of meeting fans all over the world who have told me, ‘This show changed my life,’ ‘This show made me talk to my parents about what’s happening to me,’ ‘This show made the kids in my class stop bullying me,’” Christian Navarro, 27, shares as teen drama 13 Reasons Why touches on topics such as youth suicide, depression, and substance abuse. “So many young actors don’t really know who they are – that is why they get into these mental health issues. The pressures of Hollywood are a lot, but if you grew up in the South Bronx and you know what it’s like to struggle, then there’s nothing that can break me in this business.”
Raised by two police-officer parents, Navarro spent most of his childhood in catholic school, and partook in martial arts starting at around two years old. Saturdays were spent watching movies with his uncle, and one particular presentation caught Navarro’s attention; Serpico, the 1973 cop thriller starring Al Pacino, changed his life. “Whatever that man was doing on the screen wasn’t acting. It was transcendent,” he recalls, adding that Pacino’s performance along with the relatable plot of an NYPD officer left him “touched” in a different way from other films he had seen – he was so inspired that he performed in school plays and started asking his dad to take him to auditions. “Whatever he (Al Pacino) was doing on screen, I thought I could do that. I don’t know why I believed I could do that, but I thought I could,” he describes. (Now, he has made it his mission to do just that to the younger generation: “Being able to see someone on screen that looks like them and go, ‘Oh, if he did it, I can do it’ – [I want to] give these young blacks and Latinos another way out. Often, their idea of success is to become a rapper or basketball player. There are many options, they just don’t see them,” he adds.)
His parents were supportive, yet apprehensive about the possibility of their son pursuing a career that may not be financially sustaining. Eventually, though, Navarro left his catholic high school and enrolled in a performing-arts school in Manhattan (“It was a snowball effect”). He then moved to England in his junior year and worked at Shakespeare’s Globe, an Elizabethan playhouse, where he was classically trained. It was around this time that he booked his first job, a one-episode guest spot on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. “It went a long way into making my dad a little more comfortable that I could do this for a living,” says Navarro, who decided to hone his craft further in college – instead of trying to catch “lightning in a bottle” – as he attended Rutgers University. “Talent is a given in this field, everybody’s talented, but what matters is how you cultivate that talent,” he explains of his decision to continue his theater education.
Afterward, he landed a recurring role on Vinyl – created by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen, and Terence Winter. Through his creative and personal interaction with Scorsese, Navarro felt reassured that he was going in the right direction, but the drama’s unexpected cancellation after just one season left him in state of uncertainty (“This thing that I had worked for was taken away from me, and I entered a bit of a depression”). Despite a growing portfolio, he kept being told “no,” and he struggled with self-doubt (“That’s a lot of what this business is”). However, while helping an ex-girlfriend prepare to audition for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, he took an interest in the character of Tony Padilla (who’s a high school student while Navarro was 24 at the time). He “begged” for an opportunity to audition for the role but was consistently denied. When he was finally granted an audition 3 or 4 months later, show-runner Brian Yorkey told him that as soon as he started reading, he immediately knew Navarro would be the one.
Writer: Alain Clerine
Photographer: Paul Brickman
Photographer Assistant: Tom Lucein
Stylist: Christina Pacelli (for TheOnly.Agency)
Stylist Assistant: Kelsey Triesch
Men’s Grooming: Michelle Harvey (for Opus Beauty – using R+Co & Marc Jacobs Beauty)
Videographer: Mark Arroyo
Editors: Mike Varius & Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor (@shakeysusa - www.shakeys.com)