After 53 years of acting, he still loves being recognized. His most famous role: Alien head on stick

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Sergio Calderón is an actor in “Men in Black” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
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For Sergio Calderón, success as an actor is about mastering his craft. In his 53-year career, Calderón has played many villains, most recently booking a role as a corrupt police officer in the 2022 Peacock dark comedy and mystery series “The Resort.”

“I love to play those types of characters, because people really hate me,” he said, laughing. “They tell me in the streets how much they hate me. But to me, that is my success. Because that means I was able to convince people with what I performed.”

A close up of a man's face holding a flower.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Calderón recalls running off the set one day after shooting an intense scene opposite Albert Finney in John Huston’s 1984 film “Under the Volcano.”

They were filming in Yautepec de Zaragoza, Mexico. Finney was playing a former British consul to Mexico in the 1930s, and Calderón was playing the Mexican chief of police.

Calderón was shaken by the violence of the scene. When he stormed off the set, Finney came running after him, Calderón recalled, and asked if he could join Calderón.

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“We were like little dogs running toward a tree,” he said. “We just had to get rid of that ugly emotion. Because sometimes as actors, when you really give yourself to the character, you react not like Sergio Calderón, but like the killer you’re playing.”


He remembers Finney asking him, “Sergio, did you feel what I felt?”

“I said, ‘Yes, I was about to kill you.’ And he said, ‘Me too.’ ”

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Hollywood careers

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This profile is part of a series about what success looks like to working actors in Hollywood.

Calderón was born in a small tropical village in Mexico. His parents told him that when he was 3 years old, he wandered off and disappeared for several hours. They finally found him outside, watching a movie being projected on a wall.

At 10, he moved to Mexico City, and he caught the performance bug after a teacher encouraged him to participate in a poetry reading.

A man stands next to a director's chair with his name Sergio Calderon on the back of it.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Calderón likes to joke that people told him he shouldn’t be an actor because he wasn’t handsome enough.

I thought I was handsome,” he said. “So I stubbornly decided I wanted to become an actor.”

His first acting role was 1970’s “The Bridge in the Jungle,” a Hollywood movie that was being filmed in the rainforests of Chiapas, Mexico. It was the first time he worked with Huston, the Hollywood legend who later became his friend. Calderón had been supporting himself by working as an English teacher, so he had the language skills to act in English.

After getting his Screen Actors Guild card for his role the 1979 Hollywood comedy “The In-Laws,” he moved to Los Angeles and started building his career in the U.S.


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He might look familiar to “Men in Black” fans for his role as the first alien, Head on a Stick. And “Pirates of the Caribbean” fans might recognize him as the Pirate Lord Eduardo Villanueva in the third film of the series.

But he’s also been stopped on the streets of Brentwood in recent years by “a very fancy guy” who said, “Excuse me, are you the guy from ‘The A-Team’?” Calderón played a couple characters, including a river boat pirate in the ‘80s action series starring Mr. T.

Another time he was at the hospital for an X-ray the day after the ‘90s TV movie, “Have You Seen My Son?” played on ABC. A fellow patient recognized him as the cab driver whom a mother begs for help finding her missing son.

His character in the movie speaks only Spanish, and the mother speaks only English, so he had to figure out how to perform it so that the audience understands what’s going on even though they might not understand the language, he said.

He remembered the woman telling him, “I saw you last night on TV, and you made me cry during the whole sequence, even though I couldn’t understand one word you were saying.”

As an actor, you have to have that magnetism to transfer onto the screen, he said.

Calderón is thrilled whenever anyone recognizes him for any role.

“If I can make them cry and I can make them laugh, then maybe I’m a good actor,” he said.

Photo editing and design by Calvin Alagot.