Tenoch Huerta's Journey From Childhood To Movie Star

Born and raised in Ecatepec de Morelos, Tenoch Huerta rose to fame in Mexico before later making a name for himself in Hollywood. He is very proud of his roots. While visiting his hometown with Vice in 2022, Huerta shared that he lived in his childhood home until he was 25, around the time his career began to pick up steam. He also noted that his parents were no longer secure living in his childhood home, so they relocated, too. "I stopped feeling safe when I became an actor," the star divulged.

Huerta is successful enough to experience the downsides of fame, but he's also become familiar with the many perks. The star's impressive background in Latin American film and TV earned him a role in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." According to Cabo News Today, Huerta also has a number of awards under his belt, including the Without Borders award from the Los Cabos International Film Festival, and an Ariel Award for Best Male Performance in the 2011 film "Days of Grace."

While Huerta is an incredibly talented actor, he's also known as an activist and often speaks out against racism in Mexico. Fans might say that the star's many sides are equally admirable. This is Tenoch Huerta's journey from childhood to movie star.

Tenoch Huerta was teased about his name as a child

In a 2022 interview for Rolling Stone Mexico, Tenoch Huerta opened up about his childhood. As it turns out, he wasn't always as proud of his roots as he is today. Bullies made fun of his name when he was a kid, which made him feel at odds with his own name. But when he was older, Huerta decided to look into the origins of his name, and he is no longer ashamed of it. He told the magazine that he learned that his moniker stems from the Nahuatl language. This is the Uto-Aztecan language of the Nahuatl people, who were native to southern Mexico and Central America.

"When researching about the origin of my name, I discovered that Tenoch is the name given to the stone prickly pear, the fruit of the prickly pear that grows on stones, and that represents the human heart," Huerta explained to Rolling Stone Mexico, noting that he now cherishes the name that was once ridiculed. "It took me almost my whole life to conquer my name, but there it is," he said. "The truth is, now I really like it."

His journey to fame wasn't easy

As previously mentioned, Tenoch Huerta is a well-known actor in Mexico, and this is where he got his start. And that start began thanks to a supportive and perceptive parent. In an interview for the Golden Globe Awards website, Huerta shared that his father recognized his natural talent early on and suggested he give acting a try. Understandably, he is grateful for that support. Huerta said, "I was okay with that because, independently of whatever this 'it' was, what's wonderful and marvelous, on a personal level, even psychologically, therapeutically — as I've told my analyst — is to know that my father saw me at that moment, and that he continues to do so today. And that gave me a great relationship with my parents!"

Huerta's father's encouragement eventually led him to stardom, but it wasn't an easy journey. One of the actor's early roles was in the 2007 film, "Déficit," and he had a difficult time behind the scenes. "I remember the lunch break," he told Vice. "Most of [the actors] were white. And they were talking about LA, parties, London, their favorite restaurant, their favorite store, their favorite places, and they asked me, 'And you?' And I was like, I have never flown in my life." Some of Huerta's other early projects include 2009 film "Sin Nombre," and the natural disaster film "The 33" in 2015, per IMDb.

The roles that introduced the actor to a wider audience

After making a name for himself in Latin American TV and films, Tenoch Huerta went on to land roles that introduced him to an even wider audience. In 2018, the actor earned a role as real-life drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero in Netflix's "Narcos: Mexico," per IMDb. This show focuses on the history of Mexico's drug trade. As for Quintero, he supplied drugs to the United States in the '70s and was involved in the killing of a U.S. DEA agent in 1985.

Huerta revealed to Vice that he was so passionate about playing Quintero that he rejected an offer for a different role in "Narcos: Mexico." At this point, he had already been rejected three times for other roles in the show. Huerta's persistence paid off in the end and "Narcos: Mexico" helped him transition into Hollywood. According to Vice, he tried to break into acting in the U.S. in the past but it didn't work out. This time, the actor was better prepared. "I said, 'yeah, I am ready now,'" he told the outlet. "It was lucky because at the same time I was ready, the world was ready for Latin actors." "The Forever Purge" was another important project that introduced Huerta to U.S. audiences.

Playing Namor in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Tenoch Huerta added yet another notable role to his resume with his character in the 2022 "Black Panther" sequel, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Huerta plays anti-hero Namor, the king of Talokan in the film. According to the Los Angeles Times, the comic book version of the character has a history of protecting his people — even if that leads to fighting teams of superheroes. "He's a guy who's trying to protect his family," Huerta said of Namor during the November 2022 interview with Los Angeles Times. "He's protecting his culture. He's protecting his city and the things that he loves the most: his memory, his legacy and his heritage. I think everybody, all around the world, can understand his motivations."

It may be safe to say that Huerta is passionate about his character because he was willing to endure intense training to take on the role. In a feature for Men's Health, the actor revealed he went through a complete transformation with the help of a personal trainer. He worked out six days a week and even learned how to swim while preparing to play Namor. "The director asked me, 'Do you know how to swim?' And I was like, 'I've never drowned before!'" Huerta told Men's Health. After making "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," the actor is quite the swimmer; he told the magazine he can even hold his breath underwater for five minutes.

The personal reason why he was drawn to Black Panther

Tenoch Huerta's character in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," Namor, is Indigenous, and this is a big reason why Huerta was so drawn to this MCU role. "This is the first superhero with an Indigenous background, a Mesoamerican background," he told Los Angeles Times. "It's a brown-skinned guy. This ancient culture is in his roots. And he speaks like me. We are making history. I told them, 'Let's do something to be proud of.'" Huerta has shared on Twitter that he is of Purépecha and Nahua descent, though he does not identify as Indigenous

'Black Panther" director Ryan Coogler shared that on top of being an immensely talented actor, Huerta's pride for his own heritage and his dedication to advocating for greater representation made him the perfect choice for the role. "The depth this dude has and his passion when he speaks about his Indigenous, Mesoamerican identity, I thought it was just brilliant," Coogler told Los Angeles Times. "I thought he would fit in with my cast because I got a cast that's filled with actors that are passionate about human issues and causes. He feels like he's one of us."

While speaking with Men's Health, Huerta shared that he's also observed a lack of representation in Mexican TV and film, which surely makes playing a character of in such a massive movie that much more important to him. "You'd go to a movie theater in Mexico and be like, 'Is this a Danish movie?'" he said.

Tenoch Huerta wrote an impactful book

Like many stars, Tenoch Huerta wrote a book influenced by his own lived experiences. Instead of the typical autobiography, Huerta's book, titled "Orgullo Prieto," explores the topic of racism in Mexico. The actor shared a few details about the book in an Instagram post in September 2022. "My first book is almost here, Orgullo Prieto, a reflection of racism and classism in Mexico. (Ahhh! Now anyone can write books)," Huerta wrote in the caption of the post, as translated by Remezcla. The actor's caption continued, "Mexico is a racist country? Of course it is! I hope that this book helps brown people feel proud of their black and brownness."

In a synopsis of the book shared by Penguin Random House, Huerta discusses the impact he'd like to have as a writer. "I hope that this book contributes to enhancing the pride of being what we are, so that there is no 'brown arrogant', as they call me, but that there are millions of proud browns in this country." he shared.

Huerta spoke of some of the discrimination he faced in Mexico's entertainment industry and Hollywood in a 2022 interview with Vice, noting that his identity has not always been embraced. "I had to erase my linguistic identity to fit in the new world that I now [live]," Huerta shared. "If they don't perceive you as part of them, they don't accept you." These may be the kind of experiences that led him to write his book.

Where would Tenoch Huerta be if he weren't an actor?

It may be hard to imagine, but let's pretend that Tenoch Huerta's acting career had never taken off. Where would the actor be if he never became the award-winning movie star he is today? Let's see if you guessed correctly. "One of my plan Bs was becoming a nature photographer and shoot documentaries, go to faraway and wild places and do portraits of nature, for instance, or to be a director," Huerta said in an interview for the Golden Globe Awards website. Even though the star's career seems to be working out just fine, he has been ambitious enough to turn his plan B into a hobby anyway. "In fact I'm now beginning to set up a few projects for real, one to co-direct and another one to direct on my own," he shared.

Huerta went on to joke that maybe he won't be able to fall back on his plan B after all, but that he may one day become an actor who ends up in a normal job. "For now, plan A keeps working great but when that goes under, I'll spruce up my plan B, but I probably won't do any of that and instead I will end up working in a bank or somewhere incredibly boring," the actor said. It seems that Huerta has another plan to fall back on: He revealed to the Los Angeles Times that he went to college while still living in Mexico — and his journalism degree only cost him a dollar.