Modelos & Cueros PRESS

April 25, 2008


Ana Bustillos auditions for a panel of judges who are actors on the WB show. They are Rocky Blackburn, left, Lizzeth Alvarez and Marbella Valenzuela.
Photos by Dean Knuth / Staff

Tucson actors shine

Local talent drives WB’s ‘Modelos & Cueros’
By Gerald M. Gay
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.18.2004

Sebastian Tonazzi and Donny Tran firmly believe in Tucson’s talent pool. They are the driving force behind the television program “Modelos & Cueros” – an all-Spanish novela filmed and aired locally on the WB network Sunday nights. But they say they aren’t in it for their own fame and fortune. The two are more interested in helping others reach for the stars. “We see there is a huge demand for people here and in Mexico to be on TV and feature their talent, whether it be acting, modeling, singing or whatever,” said Tonazzi, 24. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to help people get a break and get noticed.” Friends since their days at Amphitheater High School, the duo first found their creative juices in senior English – making film adaptations for assigned books such as “Hamlet” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” Both attended the University of Arizona and eventually stepped into the Tucson media scene – Tran interning for WB and Tonazzi working for Telemundo as promotions coordinator. “I think that when I graduated from the U of A I needed people to give me a break,” Tonazzi said. “I was lucky to work at Telemundo and meet so many cool people there and get their support.” He added, “That’s what I want to do with people on the show – help them out with a network of people to start their careers.” The novela focuses on the trials and tribulations of Laura Soledad – a young Mexican girl who follows her dreams from Hermosillo, Sonora, to Arizona. She eventually finds herself working for a Tucson modeling agency. Several nights a week, the fluctuating cast of about 16 films scenes into the wee morning hours – night shooting is the only option for those who have day jobs. When he is not working as an appliance technician for Sears, Andrew “Rocky” Blackburn plays the role of Don Matterazi, Laura’s father. “I’m the older one in the group,” said Blackburn, 53, a Tucson resident since childhood. “This is the first local thing I’ve seen in years. It’s cool to see the kids here trying to do something.” Blackburn, who has no formal acting experience, was originally slated to play a hitman on the show. His son – a friend of Tran and Tonazzi – set it up. “I got a call from Sebastian saying they needed one, so I dressed up in black and went on down,” he said. “The reaction I am getting from the public is killer,” Blackburn said. “They recognize me and think I got this tough-guy thing down perfect.” Sure the show is paid programming, has the occasional piece of film equipment in the shot and, in episode two, had a blooper reel that lasted almost as long as the show itself, but the novela is not without its fan base. Tran, 24, says he has been recognized all over town for the character he plays on the show, modeling agent Yoshi Nakata. The biggest example of program interest may have come this past Thursday, as a crowd of aspiring actors and actresses filled the front dining area of Las Cazuelitas restaurant, 2615 S. Sixth Ave., where “Modelos” was holding a casting call. Among the hopefuls were Estee Rivera, 19, and her roommate, Ashley Richie. “I think it would be a good experience,” said Rivera, who found out about the tryouts from a UA listserv. “I did some acting and modeling when I was a lot younger. I have no idea what to expect now, though.” A few tables away, neighborhood resident Ubi Soto, 16, sat in anticipation. He heard about the auditions from his cousin. “I just want to see what I can do,” he said. “It would be nice to have some exposure, to see how it is and stuff.” Tonazzi was pleased at the diverse turnout. “I think it’s the universal desire to do something creative,” he said. “We open the doors to anybody. We don’t discriminate.” “We like people who have the guts to go out and try something new. Some of these people don’t even speak Spanish. It’s great,” Tran added. Tonazzi believes that the show will not only provide a stepping stone for local performers but also will encourage others to produce media projects in Southern Arizona. “I think creative people in Arizona should stay here and not flee to New York City or L.A.,” he said. “This is actually one of the shows that will really make a change about how people feel about staying in Tucson.” ° Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at 573-4137 or


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