A Conversation with Steven Michael Quezada

Santafe.com - January 24, 2012

"Steven Michael Quezada has a burning passion for his home state and its most valuable resource, its children"

The critically acclaimed TV series “Breaking Bad” is produced and filmed right here in New Mexico. With over 2 million “likes” on Facebook and numerous industry awards, this local TV series has become seriously popular. The film industry has again proven to be an enormous boon for the state. Steven Michael Quezada plays DEA Agent Steven Gomez in the series.

Born and raised in Albuquerque, Quezada is the youngest of five children. Proud of his Mexican heritage, Quezada started acting at age 16. Encouraged and supported by a creative family, he has a burning passion for his home state and its most valuable resource, its children. Recently Quezada played host at the Santa Fe Boys and Girls Club Christmas Gala. SantaFe.Com caught up with him after this event to explore this multi-faceted artist.

SFDC: Who would you say was the major influence pushing you creatively?

QUEZADA: I would definitely say it was my great-grandfather. My family has been in New Mexico for 250 years. My great-grandfather was an artist, I remember spending time in his room among his paintings and wanting to be like him. My first love creatively was painting. My great-grandfather
helped me to recognize and accept the creative person I am. I would not be happy if I could not fulfill that part of me.

SFDC: So what is your educational background?

Quezada: I am a product of the Albuquerque Public School system, completing my education at Eastern New Mexico University studying theatre arts. Getting my degree was probably the most important move I made. It is an important foundation and in my work with kids, I always stress that fact.

SFDC: Now you are on a hit TV series. Tell us about the steps you took to get there

Quezada: When I was in college I studied Shakespeare. I felt if I wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, classical study was the way to do it. When I graduated and started out in community theatre, I couldn’t get a part. There was no acceptance of a Chicano Shakespearian actor….just couldn’t convince them I could do Shakespeare. The one thing I am, and would encourage anyone starting out in this business to be, is a “persistent auditioner,”  so after five years doing everything there was to do, from painting sets to getting coffee at “la Compania de Teatro” community theatre, I started writing a play with a dream to produce it.

SFDC: Did you produce that play?

Quezada: Yes, in collaboration with Anthony Wasson of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, I wrote a play, a comedy called “The First Chicano President.” It is a sketch play based on my brother. We rented a theatre and sold it out. I had learned everything I could working with “la Compania,” and I used the knowledge to produce “The First Chicano President.” I did everything for the production, from the graphics and sets to directing and acting. I proved to myself I was the total package and I haven’t looked back. My partner and I didn’t make much money on that project…something like $2.00… in fact we lived on rice and tomato paste for a long time!

SFDC: You are known nationally and particularly throughout the Southwest as a standup comedian. Can you talk about the transition from acting to comedy?

Quezada: Like every other career move, comedy came to me as an opportunity I had to learn and make my own. A club owner saw a performance of “The Last Chicano President” and asked me to do some standup. I had never done standup before, but he said, "the gig pays $400." That is great
incentive when you’re eating tomato paste and rice. I got together with my brother and produced a seven-minute routine. I get to the club, see my name huge on the marquee, and I said to the guy, "hey I thought I was only doing seven minutes." He said to me, ” the headliner gets the $400.” I watched the other guys, did my seven minutes and just started talking about my huge Chicano family and got the laughs. That turned into more bookings doing standup. It wasn’t easy. Comedy is a skill I had to learn. You have to relate to the audience in every new city you go to. I was blessed with specials on HBO and Showtime, and I’ve opened for both Paul Rodriquez and George Lopez.

SFDC: You are back to your acting roots. Why the change?

Quezada: I was on the road doing standup for 18 years, by then I had a family. My wife and girls were never seeing me. I love my family and wanted to spend more time with them. You know, I do all the cooking in my house! So I took a career placement test. Results were I was qualified to be a janitor or join the Navy… not appealing. So I went back to acting to get off the road! “Breaking Bad” has been great for me, I am working on a new project to be filmed and produced here in Albuquerque called “Duke City” and of course, my late night talk show. Everyone needs to stay up for the “After After Party”! We have the best band on the planet, The James Douglas Show, and always a lineup of interesting guests.

SFDC: You are famous for your charitable flavor what can you tell our readers about that?

Quezada: New Mexico’s greatest resource is our youth. For years, I have worked with Youth Development Inc., a great organization focusing on educational and humanitarian aid for kids in central and northern New Mexico. I work with kids, all who would, without YDI, fall through the cracks and get involved with gangs or drug use. I am proud of my work with this organization. I teach acting, writing and lighting techniques. I am not afraid to rescue kids from gang activity and I have helped to employ many of them in the film industry. I am proud to say I have helped kids who have become lawyers and musicians and of course finished their college degrees. We are a cool and diverse community and I will always be here to give a hand to taking care of my own. YDI is an organization close to my heart.

Steven Michael Quezada is one of New Mexico’s most popular personalities. His drive and energy is evident in everything he touches. Look for Santafe.com’s own editor, Todd Eric Lovato, as a guest on the After After Party on Feb 4 on the CW. Tune in and enjoy the music of the eight time Grammy-nominated James Douglas show