Exclusive Feature

Blockbuster Movie Star, Renoly Santiago: Where is He Now?

Renoly Santiago is an accomplished entertainer known for his impressive acting career. In the 90s, Renoly quickly became a cult classic fan favorite for his notable work in Blockbuster Hollywood films like Dangerous Minds, Hackers, Daylight, and Con Air, so what is he doing now? Well, between creating and acting, Renoly has a busy schedule. I sat down with him last week to discuss his films, career, music, and more.

In our interview, Renoly recalled how he was always drawn to the arts. From a young age, he was always acting, singing, and dancing. He attributes his love for music to his time in church where he often enjoyed singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Despite no one else in Renoly’s family being a musician, singing came naturally to him and quickly became a passion he would pursue later in life.

He said, “When I was four or five years old, we would go to church, and I used to love the song ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ I would always raise my hand during church and request to sing the song, and then we would sing it. I feel that gave me a gift for music. That’s the earliest I remember singing, and nobody sings in my family. I’m a full-fledged singer though, so it’s very interesting how that happened.”

Renoly found his voice and love for the stage when he first performed a choir special in his first-grade assembly. He remembered falling in love with the experience and was able to sing in school assemblies throughout elementary school. He said, “I had music in me, and it gave me a joy to sing in front of people. That really sparked my love for the stage and the high you get from performing because still to this day actors go through stage fright before a performance, hoping that everything falls into place and that we remember everything.

“Then when you’re in front of an audience,” Renoly continued, “the moment takes over, and it becomes very special. That’s really what’s kept me doing it, because actors still go through that anxiety, and it’s not an easy part of the job.”

Renoly also enjoyed dancing, and as a kid, he was inspired by the neighborhoods in New Jersey that he grew up in. He recalled how growing up in the eighties and nineties, he was often surrounded by dance and house music and participated in neighborhood dance circles. “My love for dancing was an early sign for me that I wanted to perform. I loved it, and it came so easily to me. I felt like I could fly. I just felt so free,” Renoly explained.

By the time Renoly was in seventh grade, he knew performing was his calling. Some actors that inspired Renoly in his acting journey were Carol Burnett and David Carradine. He said, “I feel like one of my earliest influences was Carol Burnett. She had her comedy show, and it was one of my favorite things in the world. She would do these sketch comedy skits that were hysterical. I was the typical class clown and was also known for being very comedic, so when I saw Carol Burnett, it just made me find a hero, you know? She was someone I loved very much.

“Later on,” Renoly continued, “there were people like David Carradine, from the show Kung Fu, that also caught my eye. I was influenced by him, and watching him act gave me a sense of drama and a sense of storytelling.”

When Renoly was in high school, he connected with actor Gina Lopez who then connected him with actress and manager, Susan Rybin. Because of this connection, he was able to change schools and start learning more about his passion while attending The Professional Children’s School in New York.

Renoly recalled how Susan Rybin was very passionate about giving more opportunities and seeking more representation for Latinos and Latinas in film and theatre. He’s thankful for her part in helping him in his acting career and giving him opportunities to pursue his calling at a young age. She helped him break into his first professional acting experience where he performed in an off-Broadway Spanish musical called Sueños, produced by Mabou Mines and Intar Theatre.

Since then, Renoly has performed in film, television, and Broadway productions. When asked about what his favorite role has been, Renoly Santiago said this: “It’s really hard to pick because they’re all pieces of my soul that I created with such sincerity. I’m just grateful for all of them. I mean, my first film was Dangerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer. If anything, that was like my big break, so that role was very important to me.

“All of my roles have been just big blessings, and I’m glad that they’re still remembered, and the characters can still live on their own.”

Since his debut film, Dangerous Minds (1995), Renoly has acted in several different film titles including Hackers (1995), Daylight (1996), Con Air (1997), Punks (2000), King Riki (2002), Just Another Romantic Wrestling Comedy (2006), Lavoe (2011), Grand Street (2014), and The Networker (2015).

Renoly’s TV credits include CityKids (1993), CBS Schoolbreak Special (1995), Touched by an Angel (2001), Big Apple (2001), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001), The Night Of (2016), Difficult People (2016), The Get Down (2017), Amoral (2017), and Croix: The Prequel (2022).

In 1998, Renoly landed his first Broadway production as Tony Hernandez, leader of the Vampires gang, in Paul Simmon’s Latin rock opera The Capeman. Because of his incredible performance, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award by the press as Outstanding Featured Performer. Some of the other titles he’s performed in are Blood Wedding, Skin of Our Teeth, and Ominous Men.

Though Renoly loves acting in all capacities, he explained how there’s nothing like the rush you get acting live. He said, “I really love being a theater actor, and it’s something I will never leave. Theater is more personal and more sentient because when you go to see true theater and a real acting performance in a great play, it’s a transforming life experience; you walk out of there and have so much to think about and talk about and to appreciate.

“When you act live,” Renoly said, “you actually feel charged by the audience. There’s a feeling that you get as an actor with every performance. There’s a saying that says— and I believe it’s supposed to be true— that in a theater, after a while, everybody’s heartbeat is the same. It’s a magical experience, and you feel that when you take your bow and go home. It’s like a charge that goes through you, and it’s really special. That’s what I love about theater.”

One of his favorite live-acting roles was starring in Ominous Men, writtenby the talented Puerto Rican playwright Desi Moreno-Penson and directed by Lorca Peress. He hopes to be able to work with Moreno-Penson again and truly enjoyed the role and the experience.

In our interview, Renoly discussed his upcoming plans and different projects for the new year. With new representation, including literary representation, Renoly is excited to be sharing his own written films and plays with the world soon.

Inspired by decades of experience and a love of theatre, Renoly’s biggest project is probably the musical he’s writing with Joseph Krawczyk, The Mystic. Though they are still in the early stages of this upcoming production’s inception, Renoly confirmed that the entire script of lyrics was completed and that they are currently working with the brilliant composer William “Spaceman” Patterson.  

As a singer, Renoly has partnered with several artists including India, Danny Rivera, and Marc Anthony. He also loves making his own music, creating and recording in the studio to one day partner with a label and release an album. Renoly is in a very creative season and is currently in the studio working with producer, Leung Woo. Though he loves all music, pop is his favorite.

He said, “I love all music, so it’s hard for me. I would have to say when I incorporate it all, pop. I’m a sucker for pop. I love good melodies, great tracks, and innovative production, and I think the pop genre does that. It’s always looking for the next sound, always introducing such great artists, and embracing different walks of life.”

When Renoly isn’t acting or creating, he’s giving back to the community. “I work with a Puerto Rican organization here in New York called Loisaida, Inc.,” Renoly said. “They do a lot of wonderful arts-driven community work. I was just introduced to them through a mutual friend that’s an artist and have been doing work with them since last year. They just happened to have this situation where they needed an acting teacher for children in homeless shelters.”

As an acting coach, he goes to different shelters, connecting with kids and helping them pursue their artistic passions. He talked about how rewarding it’s been working with his community: “It’s been a very beautiful and intense experience. I have a bond with these children, and they create this bond with me. Then I go to different places, and it keeps happening. Right now, I’m actually working with Loisaida, Inc. to help Venezuelan children and the immigrant population that’s come to New York. I was immediately struck by the children’s intelligence, maturity, willingness to learn, and outgoing personalities. They just shine and really go for it.

“I want the best for these children. I think these children need support and embracement; it reminds me of when my mother came here from Puerto Rico with me and my sister, and we only had $35,” Renoly explained. “I see myself in those kids. We should not reject these people coming here with the American Dream. They want to work; they want to be a part of this. They want to build our country. I’m seeing it firsthand, and I just want people to know that these are not people that are less than us. They are people with the same dreams and goals. They deserve a chance, and they will give back. They will contribute and they will rise to the occasion and make this country better. I’m just so grateful that I got to see that firsthand and that I can honestly say it.”

When I asked Renoly what his greatest accomplishments have been throughout his career this is what he said: “I’m very proud of my film work, my theater work, and my community work; I just want to continue to do it all. I have always had the intention of making the world a better place, so when I got Dangerous Minds and the message of the film, I really felt that it was a manifestation that I was blessed to have. I knew that I always wanted to say things about the world and equality and love because really that’s what it’s all about. We need to allow love to rule and to be the first thing that we give and are concerned with in our society.

“We’ve been blinded to think that love is a frivolous thing, but we can’t function without it. A lack of love is allowing hostility, poverty, and all of these things. When we put love first, it’s going to completely change everything. I see myself as a person that’s carrying that message.”

Renoly Santiago has proven his extensive expertise and acting skills by mastering multiple facets of the acting industry as a film, television, and theatre performer. As a true artist, this upcoming year is sure to be a big one for Renoly. He is excited to share his written films and plays with the world soon. Follow Renoly on Instagram and IMDb to keep up with his upcoming titles, music, and more.


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