||Algenis Perez Soto
|Date of Birth
|Place of Birth
Two years ago, Algenis Perez Soto was just another wannabe Dominican baseball star who'd dreamed of leaving the impoverished island republic with a major-league contract. When his abilities didn't match up with his desires, he ended up working a dead-end job in a local hotel instead.
But that was before Hollywood intervened.
It's been a strange trip for Soto, who recently found himself in a posh Beverly Hills hotel restaurant. He reluctantly removed his sunglasses at the breakfast table, refused coffee and juice, smiled sheepishly when asked about the previous night's activities, and with the easy grace of someone accustomed to close attention, he leaned back in his chair and considered the remarkable detour his life has taken.
On the surface, Soto appeared perfectly at ease in the luxurious surroundings, another self-possessed young actor, albeit one with an athlete's bearing, a bit weary from the publicity machine but otherwise ready with the charm offensive. But talking with him, it becomes clear that Soto is all too aware that he's one quick step from returning to the obscurity of his previous life. Thanks to "Half Nelson" filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who cast this non-actor as the lead in their immigrant baseball drama, "Sugar," Soto has been granted an unlikely shot at the American dream via indie Hollywood.
"Sugar," opening in theaters Friday, is the moving portrait of Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a 19-year-old baseball prodigy struggling with the isolation and culture shock that come after he's drafted into the minor leagues, placed in a small Iowa town without knowing English yet desperate to succeed. He ultimately lands in New York, where life takes him on another path entirely.
The striking parallels between the script and his own experience weren't lost on Soto.
"I never thought I was going to be here as an actor," he said, his hands crossed elegantly on the linen tablecloth.
Like his character, pro baseball was Soto's dream. He grew up in a San Pedro suburb called Quisqueya as the middle son of three children in a family that, by Dominican standards, was affluent. His mother is a high-school secretary, and his father owns a small paycheck-cashing business. Soto had finished high school and even had some computer classes under his belt.