Last updated: March 16. 2013 6:49PM - 1489 Views
By Rich Howells, Weekender Editor

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Apache Prinze has one of those faces you just know you‚??ve seen before.

Maybe you‚??ve seen him around town. Or was it in a movie? A television show?

Perhaps it was all three.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was known then as Rafael Apache Gonzalez, though he usually went by Apache, a name his grandmother had given him because of his great grandmother‚??s Native American heritage. He lived with his parents in a one-room apartment with a mattress on the floor and a crate with a TV on it; he dreamed of being a singer like his father.

‚??He got me piano lessons when I was 12, and I started learning the business. I‚??ve been on stage since I was a kid. There was a Spanish group back in the day that he used to manage. I would go on stage with them,‚?Ě Prinze explained.

‚??I still have the 45 (rpm record) that my father released back in the ‚??80s. I had that pinned to my wall. I knew all my life that this is where I wanted to be. I still have it to this day.‚?Ě

He attended the overcrowded Franklin K. Lane High School, a building that ‚??looked like a prison‚?Ě and employed educators who were ‚??scared of‚?Ě the students, he felt. It was later closed due to its consistently poor academic performance.

‚??They didn‚??t know what you would do,‚?Ě he said of his teachers. ‚??Everybody expected us to do wrong, so we did.

‚??A lot of the friends I grew up with in Brooklyn aren‚??t around. I went back to the reunion and half the class was either dead or in prison.‚?Ě

Prinze performed in a talent show as a teenager, however, that spared him the fate of many of his classmates.

‚??They were playing the CD and it scratched. It got messed up and jumped. It was embarrassing because I was trying to sing with it, so they started booing me. I was like, ‚??Take it off! Take it off!‚?? So I sang a cappella, and when I sang without the music, they actually started clapping to give me a beat, and that turned out even better,‚?Ě he described.

‚??That rush was better than anything. I‚??m always chasing it.‚?Ě

And chase it he did, though that too led him into trouble. He quickly found that the underground music industry was full of shady deals and sudden shootouts, but he had Craig Hedrington, his best friend, manager, and bodyguard, to help him fight off stalking groupies and duck gunfire.

‚??(Craig) would say, ‚??Apache, drop the mic! The show‚??s over! That‚??s not music we‚??re hearing!‚??‚?Ě Prinze recalled with a laugh. ‚??I‚??ve known Craig for years. I trust this man with my life.‚?Ě

Hedrington is still with him today as they sit on a leather couch in the back corner of Shakers Bar & Grille (703 W. Broad St., Hazleton) for an interview with The Weekender. Prinze moved to Hazleton in 2010 to escape the aforementioned madness of New York City, though the 32-year-old travels back and forth often to expand his burgeoning movie career.

Carving a niche

Apache spent years playing small background roles and modeling for The Gap, which paid off when his first big break came along in the form of a TV movie called ‚??POWER: The Eddie Matos Story,‚?Ě directed by Jes√ļs Salvador Trevi√Īo (‚??Star Trek: Voyager‚?Ě) and starring Alexis Cruz (‚??Stargate‚?Ě) and Isaiah Washington (‚??Grey‚??s Anatomy‚?Ě). He was cast in the part of a drug dealer, paying only $35 for 12 hours of background work.

‚??I met Alex. They gave us a scene, and the director‚?Ľgoes, ‚??Look, Apache, you need to grab him forcefully and act like he stole your money,‚??‚?Ě Prinze said.

‚??I‚??m shaking him and I‚??m talking to him and me and Alex are going back and forth‚?Ľ Luckily, the (Screen Actors Guild) representative was there and she goes, ‚??I heard you give him lines. You told him what to do.‚?? $35 became $800 for one day‚??s work. She said, ‚??Guess what? Welcome to SAG.‚?? If I wouldn‚??t have gone for that $35, I would never have been in SAG today. Who knows what might have happened?‚?Ě

Living by the adage that ‚??there are no small parts, only small actors,‚?Ě he said he earned small roles in movies like ‚??Shaft,‚?Ě ‚??Maid in Manhattan,‚?Ě ‚??Fantastic Four,‚?Ě and ‚??Spider-Man 2‚?Ě and TV shows like ‚??Sex and the City‚?Ě and ‚??The Sopranos.‚?Ě

This also earned him plenty of stories.

‚??Samuel L. Jackson ‚?? great guy. I worked on ‚??Freedomland‚?? with him; I had a little bit part. I was nothing. He was in there, too, and he was like, ‚??Apache, didn‚??t I kill you?‚?? because in ‚??Shaft,‚?? me and him get into a shootout in the street. We‚??re shooting at each other and I‚??m blasting at him and he‚??s blasting back. He shoots me twice in the chest and I collapse,‚?Ě Prinze explained.

‚??I go, ‚??Yeah, you remember?‚?? He said, ‚??How could I forget you, man? How could I forget Apache? How many Apaches do I know?‚?? Real nice guy.

‚??He (told me), ‚??Apache, your time will come.‚??‚?Ě

Jennifer Lopez also offered him encouragement during the filming of 2002‚??s ‚??Maid in Manhattan.‚?Ě

‚??I‚??m trying to do my scene, but I‚??m nervous because these guys are huge and I‚??m just a bit part actor, you know? And then Jennifer looks at me and smiles and says, ‚??You‚??re nervous, aren‚??t you?‚?? She smiles at me and I look like an idiot. I didn‚??t say anything!‚?Ě

He even became longtime friends with John Leguizamo while filming ‚??Empire‚?Ě in 2002, playing yet another drug dealer, though he says he doesn‚??t drink, smoke, or take drugs himself.

‚??I get a lot of drug dealer roles. I don‚??t know why. Figure that ‚?? my mother says, ‚??Son, are you going to be a doctor?‚?? ‚??Mom, I‚??m never going to be a doctor or a lawyer, trust me. I look like a drug dealer.‚?? I‚??m not, but I‚??ll always play a drug dealer,‚?Ě he admitted between chuckles.

Just minutes later, Prinze proves once again that looks can be deceiving when his cell phone goes off, chirping the sound of a ‚??Star Trek‚?Ě communicator. The self-described ‚??fanatic‚?Ě and ‚??geek‚?Ě boasts two bedrooms full of merchandise in his Hazleton home, including 17 entire film reels from 2009‚??s ‚??Star Trek.‚?Ě

‚??People look at me and say, ‚??You‚??re a geek?‚?? I‚??m like, ‚??Don‚??t judge a book by its cover,‚??‚?Ě he noted. ‚??I‚??m trying to get into ‚??Star Trek‚?? (as an actor). I could die after that.‚?Ě

Working behind the scenes on movies like ‚??I Am Legend,‚?Ě ‚??American Gangster,‚?Ě ‚??The Bourne Ultimatum,‚?Ě and ‚??What Happens in Vegas,‚?Ě his brother, Anthony, a production assistant, is working on bringing him onto the production of ‚??The Amazing Spider-Man 2,‚?Ě which Prinze hopes will lead to another acting gig.

‚??I‚??ll be anything. I‚??ll be a tree in ‚??Spider-Man 2.‚?? But just being in the circle, just being involved ‚?? you don‚??t know what will happen.‚?Ě

His next film as an actor, set for release in April, is ‚??Disconnect,‚?Ě starring Jason Bateman (‚??Horrible Bosses‚?Ě), Alexander Skarsg√•rd (‚??True Blood‚?Ě), and Paula Patton (‚??Mission: Impossible ‚?? Ghost Protocol‚?Ě), and he is still working on production of The CW‚??s ‚??The Carrie Diaries‚?Ě until March as he writes and records a new album. As if he didn‚??t have enough on his plate, he‚??s also looking to make his new home a better place to live.

Helping Hazleton

After starring in ‚??Cycle,‚?Ě an award-winning short film about domestic violence that he donates to clinics, Prinze started working on a follow-up, highlighting the importance of the issue to him. When he heard that Joe Maddon, manager for the Tampa Bay Rays and Hazleton native, was starting a community center for disadvantaged children in his hometown, Prinze met with Maddon, Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi, Hazleton Integration Project Director Bob Curry, and members of the local Latino community to see how he could help with that project as well as quelling crime in the area.

‚??All this violence that‚??s been going on has become a problem. They‚??re telling me that this town used to be thriving at one point, and all of a sudden, it fell apart. I want to help. If I‚??m in a position that people will listen, great ‚?? then let‚??s do something positive with it,‚?Ě he emphasized.

‚??At the end of the day, if I just end up an old man that people forgot, fine, but in my heart, I know that I helped.‚?Ě

He may have moved to the small Luzerne County city for the peace and privacy, but he said he doesn‚??t mind if his activism, or his rising career in entertainment, start to draw attention to his presence.

‚??I found a nice piece of property. It‚??s pretty quiet here; nobody knows who I am. I like it that way. That works for me,‚?Ě Prinze acknowledged.

‚??But little by little, people are like, ‚??I saw you in something.‚??‚?Ě

Acting roles:


‚??Maid in Manhattan‚??

‚??Fantastic Four‚??

‚??Spider-Man 2‚??

‚??Sex and the City‚??

‚??The Sopranos‚??

Production work:

‚??The Bourne Ultimatum‚??

‚??American Gangster‚??

‚??I Am Legend‚??

‚??What Happens in Vegas‚??

‚??Baby Mama‚??


‚??Julie & Julia‚??

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