Taylor Zakhar Perez "From Start to Stardom"

Taylor Zakhar Perez "From Start to Stardom"

Taylor Zakhar Perez has come a long way since being born in South Chicago with a whole house full of siblings. His latest film, The Kissing Booth 2, features him alongside Emmy-nominated actress Joey King and just so happens to be the sequel to Netflix’s most re-watched film of 2018. 

The acting bug bit Taylor early in life and he began performing in musical theater shows at a young age, ultimately leading him to pursue a career in film and television. After moving to Los Angeles a few years ago, he began appearing in guest-starring roles on shows like Young & Hungry, Embeds, Code Black, and Scandal. With credits like that, it’s clear he’s got the talent, but Taylor believes that the drive and the work ethic he learned from his parents are the true keys to his success. No matter what he does, Taylor gives 110%. He jokes that some of his friends might even find him exhausting because he’s always moving, always curious, always excited for a new adventure. 

One hobby Taylor’s been enjoying lately has been music, thanks to his upcoming role in The Kissing Booth 2. In the film, his character Marco is the new kid at school—a hunky guitar-playing temptation for the lovable lead Elle, whose boyfriend is conveniently away at college. Taylor grew up singing with his family, but his own musical talents were nowhere near his character’s skills. But like everything in Taylor’s life, he jumped into it with great enthusiasm. Now he sings every day.

Taylor also cares deeply about his community and the world, something else he credits to his parents. His Instagram feed reveals a thoughtful soul who is passionate about animals and social justice. It also reveals a future heartthrob on the verge of becoming a superstar. 

We were excited to meet with Taylor once again and get an update on his life and also learn about his journey to Hollywood. 

SANDRO top & bottoms

SANDRO top & bottoms

As someone who has had so many different roles in acting, what was your role as the 6th child in your family? 

Cats out of the bag…there are 8 of us in my family, it’s nutty but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Honestly, I would say my role as the 6th child was tech support. Any computer, printer, phone, or VCR needs, I knew how to do it. The boys were ALWAYS helping the girls.

Who are you closest to in your family?

Now that is a polarizing question…kidding. We all do a great job at keeping in touch with each other, the only reason I would say my sister, Maria, is because of proximity and we work together a lot (she’s my stylist). 

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You seem to be a go-getter. Whether it was pursuing modeling or other opportunities, you went and put yourself out there. What drives you to be that way? What’s the motivation behind it?

Thanks, I am a go getter, you have to be, I was kind of conditioned to be. My dad has always pushed me to be the best and want to make something more of myself. He was a street kid and self-made, both of my parents are, so he knows the hustle firsthand. He taught me goal setting and looking 5 years ahead, planning for the future but also enjoying the present and sharing what you have with others.  

What are some of the things you do to keep yourself active between projects? Any hobbies? Side passions?

I do A LOT. Certain friends kind of stop asking me to hang out because I am usually on an adventure with other friends that want to do some exploring instead of sitting at home or going to a club. On the business side, I have been doing a bunch of reading and writing, practicing piano, but on the more fun side of things I’ve been taking road trips, going to hidden hot springs or freezing cold glacier pools, motorcycle riding, surfing. I know how to have fun.

MIZZEN + MAIN top

MIZZEN + MAIN top

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For you, what might be the biggest challenge as an actor?

The biggest challenge is definitely the being between projects…there’s always that tiny thought that you’ll never work again, but I just tag those thoughts as dramatic and laugh. I’ve been studying this Hindu philosophy called Vedanta and it has helped me build a strong intellect so my mind doesn’t spiral with bad thoughts… it’s kind of like having a bodyguard at the door of the club so riffraff doesn’t get in.

Let’s talk about The Kissing Booth 2: How was the process like in landing this role?

Oh man, the audition process started January and ended around April of 2019…it was a long one. Vince (director), Gary & Kamala (casting) had me bring in scenes, dance choreo, and 16 bars of songs to the sessions. I think I read with them four to five times before having a chem read with Joey. It was a Sunday morning when I got the call, I was in bed, and was just stoked.  Things went into hyper speed after that.

SANDRO jacket, REISS pants, PACIFICO glasses, DR MARTENS shoes

SANDRO jacket, REISS pants, PACIFICO glasses, DR MARTENS shoes

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As Marco, you form part of Latinx representation in films. How important is this to you? 

It’s exciting to represent my mother’s ethnicity in film, Mexican culture was a huge part of my upbringing and still is to this day. It’s intriguing to see all of the new Latinx stories getting greenlit, I’m looking forward to the world having a better glimpse into the community. If I can help tell those stories that’d be amazing. 

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Marco seems to be quite the musician, is Taylor also into music? How much of a role does music play in your life?

Marco is a major musician…I am not on his level though. I grew up playing piano and singing with my siblings, but learning the guitar for this project was very challenging. I am grateful for the support throughout the filming process though. Music became a larger part of my life after booking the film, which I am happy about, it kind of reinvigorated that part of my soul that was quiet for a period of time. I try to sing everyday, it puts me at a good vibration.

Similarly, Marco is a champ on the dance machine, is Taylor a dancer?

Marco is a crazy guy on the DDM, right? I definitely had to rise to the occasion for this, I’d never been on a dance machine before, it was intimidating since step accuracy on the arrows was so important and everything was extremely technical. I love dancing though, I am one of those people that like to rehearse for hours and hours until it’s perfect, like until exhaustion, my choreographers probably wanted to kill me. I’m expressive and goofy with it all, especially when I’m with friends…or most recently inside with my quarantine crew lighting candles and getting down to Duke Dumont. 

ACNE STUDIOS jacket

ACNE STUDIOS jacket

Marco seems to be a charming and overall nice guy, can you tell us the biggest differences and similarities between you and this character?

Marco is the most charming and genuine guy out there! I’d say we both are charismatic, dedicated, and loyal. However, Marco is a little less confident than I am…If I fail, it’s OK and I can admit defeat and see the silver lining in it, but he’s a high schooler, figuring himself out, falling in love, and trying to be as confident as he can be without making it look like he’s trying too hard. High school is such a beast.

How was it working with your co-stars? Any particular moment that you will remember for a long time? 

The first film was the most watched and rewatched film on Netflix in 2018, so meeting the cast I was a little nervous and intimidated. I didn’t know if they’d be chill with me joining their squad, but the minute we started dance rehearsals in Los Angeles we hit it off and had each other’s backs in an instant. For that I am very grateful. 

My chemistry read stands out in my mind the most…I think it was my 5th time with everyone. Vince and Michele were already in South Africa so they video called in, and it was one of our casting directors Gary Zuckerbrod, Joey, and I in the room. The room was filled with support, openness, and sort of an excitement. It kind of felt like that last leg of the relay at the championship where the other three teammates are just like “TAKE IT HOME BABY!” and you just GO.

With Kissing Both 2 having the potential to be the top viewed movie on Netflix for 2020, are you ready to be recognized more often on the streets?

That would be fantastic. As for the recognition…that kind of freaks me out, having to sort of be on guard at all times, but if it can bring joy to a fan, bring it on. I remember when I met actors out and about, they were nothing but gracious and as a kid that is huge.

COS full look

COS full look

For an actor and model on the brink of stardom, Taylor Zakhar Perez is surprisingly down-to-earth. The high-school girls in The Kissing Booth 2 might call his character “a snack,” but Taylor is making a full meal out of his life. His hobbies, passions, and giving back to his community are always on his mind.

Taylor’s career is set to skyrocket and we can’t wait to see what heights this talented young actor is about to reach.

Words by Kate Lyndon

Photography by Walid Azami

Styling by Eff Ulloa

Grooming by Brandy Moreno 

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