After landing the title role in the 2008 critically acclaimed indie sports drama Sugar, the story of a Dominican baseball star who is recruited to play in the U.S., first-time actor Algenis Pérez Soto knew in his heart that his acting career would not end with just one movie.
When he was cast in Sugar, Soto, who now stars in Marvel’s newest superhero movie Captain Marvel, was living in the Dominican Republic when directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck discovered him playing baseball with his friends and invited him to audition for the role.
“When I did Sugar, I didn’t know much English,” Soto told Remezcla during an interview last month. “I thought, ‘How am I going to crossover to work in Hollywood and the English market if I don’t know the language?’”
Instead of returning to the Dominican Republic after Sugar, Soto decided to stay in the U.S. “I just had this feeling that [Sugar] wasn’t the end of me as an actor,” Soto said. “I said, ‘Let me prepare myself and study English and put myself on a good path.’”
During this time, Soto worked on his English skills by taking online courses and watching lots of movies. He made a living working different jobs – from food service work to driving for Uber. The path eventually led back to Boden and Fleck. This time, they cast Soto as a superhero in their latest film Captain Marvel.
“Who knew that 10 years later, we were going to work together again in a superhero movie like this,” Soto said. “I never thought we would get to this point.”
Captain Marvel follows ex-U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), AKA Captain Marvel, who leads a military unit known as Starforce on a mission to save the world from an intergalactic war. In the film, Soto plays Att-Lass, one of the members of Starforce and the team’s leading marksman.
“Att-Lass is very skillful,” Soto said. “He’s good on secret missions. I love the character. He’s badass.”
Although Soto recognizes how much learning English has helped his career, he doesn’t agree with some people when they say immigrants coming to the U.S. should be required to learn it. He would, however, urge immigrants to learn a second language for their benefit.
“I don’t think it should be mandatory because this is a free country,” Soto said. “I think [immigrants] should learn English if they would like to. English is going to make you more attractive to get jobs. It’s not going to harm you. It’s going to help you.”
As for his own career, Soto hopes to continue to keep working in the industry for as long as it wants him. He looks at a film like last year’s Black Panther as a sign that Hollywood is finally treating diversity in movies as a serious issue, including with Latino and Latin American talent.
“If the black community was given a chance to make a movie like Black Panther, [Latinos] can do it, too,” he said. “We just need the opportunity. If you don’t give us that opportunity, how do you know if we can or can’t do it?”
Captain Marvel is now playing in theaters.