Exclusive Interview W/ Rene Moran & His New Film ‘Tax Collector’

Rene Moran discuss his upcoming film, ‘Tax Collector,’ with Shia LaBeouf, his guest role on ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ and working with Viola Davis. Plus, his journey on moving to LA and pursuing a career as an actor. 

Chelsie Overocker

AfterBuzz TV Host & Writer
Posted On: August 17th, 2020 2:48 pm pst

Maria Menounos
Keven Undergaro
AfterBuzz TV Founders

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.

Rene Moran is a breakout star starring in the highly anticipated film Tax Collector with Shia LaBeouf. He also guest starred on popular TV-Shows including; Shameless, ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, and How To Get Away With Murder

Chelsie Overocker from AfterBuzz TV sat down with Rene to discuss his upcoming film and his interesting story of how he pursued a career in the entertainment industry. 

As soon as we connected with Rene through the phone we wanted to know how the last few months have been for him during Covid-19.

“We are in the year 2020.” [laughs]

Rene continued. 

“I’ll say this, when quarantine first hit I was spooked and we had no answers.I freaked out in the beginning but once those feelings settled I realized I had all of this spare time; writing, reading, and speaking to people. Sometimes we  can’t find the time to get to those things. At this point I’m tired of all suffering and it’s hard to witness. It’s tough but I’m trying to stay optimistic and do my best.”

Rene has a very interesting background on how he moved to LA. First his family fled to the US from El Selvador and  he spent most of his life in Florida with two immigrant parents. Rene’s big goal at the time was aiming to become a manager at a fast food restaurant. It wasn’t until he was in his 20’s when he had a heartfelt conversation with his mom where she convinced him to start a new chapter and move to LA.

“Typically it would be a difficult conversation but it was a no brainer. When I came to the US my mother handed me over to my aunt and my mother wasn’t able to cross the border. My aunt always lived in LA when and when the time came around that I needed a change of scenery, my mom had the idea for me to live in LA. If she lived anywhere else in the country that’s where I would have gone. My aunt is a second mom and I have so much respect for her. She discussed ideas to better myself and I turned it down at first. I wanted nothing to do with LA. Nothing appealed to me here besides my aunt and uncle. I love Florida but my mother said the magic words, “go for six moths and see if it works. Son you don’t have a job, you don’t have education or kids; if it’s time to make a change it’s now. Suddenly I was excited for that change. A week later I boarded a flight and I was in LA.”

After arriving in LA is that when you took an interest in acting? 

“No acting seemed impossible or it was just an idea. I was always curious how it was made and what was on the other side of the camera. It didn’t seem like something that was meant for me to do. I loved entertaining my friends but never thought of it as a career. I just followed the signs. The first few years I did commercials and I didn’t feel like I was worthy of the title (as an actor). I never wanted to offend anyone. After I got signed, I studied acting, improv, and did everything I could to prepare myself. It wasn’t until a few years ago where I considered myself as an actor. People work hard to be able to do this and I didn’t feel right to say I was an actor with zero experience. You need to earn it and put in your time and then maybe you might be considered for the title.”

Can you tell me more about the job that you took in Sherman Oaks that opened the doors for you in the entertainment industry.

“I was ready to go home and leave LA. I was working at a gym and I met a lot of people and clients there. People would offer me opportunities for great companies in real estate. I decided to go for the interview and when I walked in I felt like something was off. With my background, my parents worked in restaurants and the only time I went into an office was for an appointment. I didn’t own any button downs and I wore my Timberland boots and cardio pants..I thought I looked fly and ready to get these jobs.” [laughs]. But throughout the interview I realized these people do want me to win. I was embarrassed and ready to go home back to Florida. 

Even though Rene didn’t take the real estate job and was ready to close his chapter in LA. His life steered him in a different direction. He learned when something is truly meant to be yours things will come together for you. 

“The pilates instructor at the gym got me an interview to become a receptionist and told me I should reconsider leaving. He said It’s a cool place and you should check it out. Long story short, I still had no button down shirt [laughs] I’m walking into the building and an art of 2Pac is on the wall and I felt a connection to the place. 2pac’s music had gotten me through some hard times.. during the interview I was hired within 5 minutes. Two weeks later I started training and the first thing I noticed was I was surrounded by very successful businessmen that were mangers and casting directors.

While Rene was working as a receptionist he started to learn more about the entertainment industry and met Nick Vallelonga who helped him further his career as an actor. 

“I became very observant and asked questions. I made friends and opportunities started to come up. I was fascinated by the actors that came in. One day a guy named Nick Vallelonga was casting for his film. He said to me, “hey kid why don’t you come in and audition for my movie.” I said Nick I’m not an actor. He asked me if I could speak Spanish and be mad. I was like hell yeah I got this. [laughs] They brought me into the room and I’m nervous. I do the audition, jump around, and shoot a gun. Soon after they offer me the role. They give me some information and say it’s at Universal Studios. When I arrived at the studio I asked the receptionist that I’m here for Taft Hartley and that I’m shooting a movie. The lady looked at me and said hold on when she gets back to me she said she has good news and bad news. The bad news is there is no Mr. Taft Hartley but the good news is you’re officially in the union and my response was what’s that.” [laughs]

After being eligible for union Rene noticed that more opportunities were coming but still didn’t feel worthy enough to pursue acting as a full time career. 

“After that an agent named Danny Wolf found out that I was union eligible and she said, “hey Rene why don’t you give me your pic. I’m a commercial agent for actors.” I was shocked I was like you want me to be an actor? I’m not worthy. I politely turned her down and a few months passed away. I bought a couple of button ups and started cleaning up my act. I learned that I can do anything. I don’t want to limit myself.”

Rene decided to take a chance on himself and reached back out to Danny. After that he started booking auditions. 

“My first audition they told me to stand over there. I’m like okay I can do that [laughs] I landed a Ford focus commercial. I told Danny that the commercial was incredible and I wanted to do more. She said if I was serious about pursuing acting that I needed to start an improv class and I told her okay say no more.”

Between taking improv classes and booking commercials, Rene wanted to better himself even more. He went back to College and studied journalism.

“I decided to go back to College and I studied journalism which made me approach this acting career differently. It made me realize how powerful the media is. I’m the only one with this dream but if I start creating things then people will start believing what I believe and my dream is real.. my friends and I would make YouTube videos for fun and I started showing them around work. Someone from the management office came up to me and said they were  going to reach out to some agent friends. They responded and noticed the commercial work I did. I had a business card and my dad printed them out for me. When I walked into the interview this time I had a button down and fresh photos.”

Rene was taught in one of his classes that you have to market yourself and come prepared. When walking into the interview with the agency he gave them an elevator pitch. 

“I remember telling them I wanted to create a brand, I’m urban and hip. [laughs] They just looked at me and didn’t make too much noise. But they called me and wanted to work with me.They started submitting me for auditions and that’s when I got Shameless and Switched at Birth. They started calling me back for more and I’ve been on the ride ever since. I try to learn more. I never came out here to do acting but it was my calling.”

One of Rene’s most iconic roles was playing Ben Carter from How To Get Away With Murder. His character had tattooed his entire body and was wrongfully convicted of murdering his fiancé. It was later discovered that she jumped out of a 10 story apartment and was suffering from postpartum depression.The only reason Ben was convicted was because of his appearance. 

Credit: ABC

“The role of Ben Carter is something that I naturally connected with.. I made sure to study postpartum depression. I have a cousin who I consulted with prior to playing that role. What do women go through after having a baby? I was very intrigued and something to seek my teeth too. The specific look with the tattoos made it so easy to become submerged in him and made it easy to connect. I met the actress who played my finance and committed suicide. I took sometime to take her in and really have those feelings. I spent some time at a cemetery and read different grave sights. I was alone and wanted to feel his pain. My heart became full. It was a little challenging at times to stay focused because I was working with Viola Davis. I’m a huge fan of her work.”  

What an amazing opportunity to be working closely with Viola Davis. 

“Her work ethic is so inspiring and since then I try to emulate what she does. Viola set the tone and everyone wanted to do their best work. Thinking back I’m more nervous now than I was then. I still can’t believe I worked with her.”

After playing Ben, Rene did a short film where they shot in Tijuana and similar to his character in How To Get Away With Murder, this character also has issues of people judging him for his appearance. 

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😈 can’t judge a book by its cover. Real talk 😇

A post shared by RENE MORAN (@iamrenemoran) on

“Customer Service was shot in Tijuana and has a similar topic of not judging a book by its cover. I got involved in some gang activities and my character gets deported. He gets involved in a call center with a woman from the United States who is not nice but he handles the call with love and gentleness, and she apologies. You don’t know what the guy looks like until the very end when the camera pulls back and his face is covered with tattoos. 

Rene also learned a lot on that trip and out of all of his projects this one hit close to home.

“It was my first time leaving the United States since I crossed the border to film this project..these teenage girls recognized me from Switched at Birth and walked over to me to say hi. Their cousins who they were talking with were on the other side of the border and wanted me to introduce myself to them. No one is sad here and this was a way for people to communicate with each other who aren’t allowed to cross borders. I was thankful for that experience before we went on set to start shooting.”

Rene admitted that whenever he thinks of the border walls he has negative thoughts from his past experience from having to leave his mom. But in that moment he realized that there are opportunities for people to still stay connected with each other.

“It makes me appreciate my parents so much and what an impact. What I love about acting is you can take these experiences and bring that into your work and embrace those emotions.” Rene shares, “you can never stop learning, the more we step out of our comfort zone and be vulnerable the richer the experience you will have. Embracing those moments makes me feel so good.”

Rene is in a new film called Tax Collector. We wanted more information about his role in the movie. 

“I play Victor who has been promoted to a position and seems to be over his head and needs to be checked. The thing about Victor is that he had to make some hard decisions to do what’s best for his family and that’s what people can relate to. What would you need to do to help your family and encounters?

Rene continues. 

“Especially now people are losing their jobs. My father remarried and can’t stay home during Covid but he needs to provide for his family. He caught Covid while working. But what are you willing to do? Mentally he’s doing better but he had to spend a few days in the ER.” 

Very true. There are a lot of situations where people would sacrifice themselves to make sure their families are safe. But we’re glad that your father is okay and recovered from Covid. Tax Collector is also starring Shia LaBeouf. How was it working with him?  

“Shia was incredible and I admire and respect what he has done. I watched him with his career..I got to see his work ethic and approach and it was inspiring. It made me want to be better at what I do. It was magical watching him perform.”

Rene has had a lot of experience shooting commercials and now he is booking roles for movies. Was it a hard transition from shooting commercials to shooting films? 

“Working in commercials I loved it and it gave me a chance to be on set. I never did any extra work but for me working on these commercials gave me a chance to see everything upfront. It made me comfortable walking onto a television production and I learned very quickly how the TV process works. With film, all that experience, I allowed my confidence to come through my performance. Open me up to learn more. Never come in with a wall and allow everything else to happen…I remember a long time ago I was preparing something and knew this is exactly how it’s going to look. But how it was in the audition room was different when I arrived on set. Never limit yourself on a performance.”

Great advice Rene and thank you for sitting down with AfterBuzz TV to talk about Tax Collector, your journey into the entertainment industry, and playing Ben Carter. 

“It was nice talking with you Chelsie we will stay in touch!” 

About The Author:

Chelsie Overocker is a host for AfterBuzz TV. She grew up in Denver, Colorado and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing.

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence

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