15 Minutes with Danny Trejo

The iconic ”Machete” and ”Spy Kids” actor and Trejo’s Tacos namesake talks with LAMag about his famous roles and newest venture

Actor Danny Trejo has been lighting up film and TV screens for nearly 40 years. With roles in projects such as Desperado, Heat, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids and Machete, the iconic actor often plays the bad guy.

For someone who once was a real-life bad guy, the L.A. native talks to LAMag, taking a look back on his career and his transformation into an entrepreneur.

LAMag: You have more than 400 film and TV credits from all of your movie and TV roles. Which are you most proud of and which do you get most recognized for?

Trejo: Spy Kids, because I did that movie 21 years ago and 5-year-old kids and their parents are still coming up to me saying that they loved me in that film. So I am most recognized for that. Most of them don’t even know who else was in Spy Kids if you were to ask them who else is in that film.

You are an icon of Los Angeles. What are the biggest changes in the city you’ve seen since you were growing up compared with today?

HOMELESSNESS! It is the worst it’s ever been. I have to say thank you to Karen Bass who is trying to clean up our city. Eric Garcetti did the best he could with what he had, and now Karen Bass is taking the torch to make a difference in this city.

What are your favorite places and things to do in Los Angeles?

I love the car culture in L.A. and I love to eat at Trejo’s Tacos or Musso and Frank! Friday night chicken pot pie! It’s a tradition. And I also love the recovery community in Los Angeles! The city of Los Angeles is a beautiful place and also a city I am proud to be from.

Trejo’s Tacos/Cantina and Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts; did you think they would be this successful? 

I had no idea what I was in for when Ash Shah approached me about starting this, we didn’t know how big this would become, and they are all doing great! DTLA is opening soon at the HALO. And there’s one in Detroit and one in London coming soon.

Tell us about your upcoming book, Trejo’s Cantina: Cocktails, Snacks & Amazing Non-Alcoholic Drinks from the Heart of Hollywood. . . Will we learn all of your secret recipes?

In the book, we have mocktails which, of course, are non-alcoholic drinks. The fact that we can service people that feel like they don’t want to be asked why they’re not drinking. And there are also some other appetizers. And rule number one: we can’t give away secret recipes!

You also have Trejo’s Music. Why did you want to start a record label? Which artists are you working with right now? 

Everything good that has happened to me has happened as a direct result of someone else. I started a record label to help a girl; her and her mom were living in a battered women’s shelter, and the rest was history. We are getting ready for an upcoming tour as well as dropping an album with Tarah New, Amoraa and Cota The Barber. New Album called Souldiez are Forever coming soon!

You have a big event coming up at the Fillmore Theater in Ventura, Soldiez Are Forever, on March 25. What is going down that night? Who will we see?

Tarah New, Amoraa, Pepe Marquez, Raquel, Cota and The Vibes will be performing! It’s a prelim for our upcoming shows in Texas and New Mexico. You are in for a real treat.

At the SXSW festival, Robert Rodriguez finally indicated there may be a Machete III. Has he talked to you about it yet? How badly do you want this to happen?

It’s going to be a great movie. Robert is brilliant! This is something that the world needs. I’ve been asked all over the world in many different languages for this; a Latino superhero!

You really are a Mexican superhero in life and with that character, what does Machete mean to you and the community?

Machete has given me a voice! I go to schools and kids listen, I go to prisons and men listen. It’s not so much Danny Trejo, but they know I’ve climbed from the bottom up. Right where they were. And [they see] where they can go. The sky’s the limit.

Do you feel like you’re in a career resurgence right now? What accounts for the resurgence?

I don’t think it ever ended. It’s still going great! And we are just getting started.

You have a milestone birthday next year (80). What keeps you going? What do you want your legacy to be?

When I put together the energy drink I’ve been creating, I think you will all know. Stay tuned for that. And my legacy is something I hope will be remembered for years to come.

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