By Patrick Ibarra
E! journalist Kristina Guerrero recently confirmed she would be joining the cast of “Cement Suitcase” as “Charlene,” the lead female character in the story.
“I’m just looking to have some fun, to work with like-minded and creative people, and to do it in the place where I grew up,” Guerrero said. “Acting has always been a dream of mine – a dream I get to see come to fruition.”
Guerrero, a Sunnyside, Wash., native, grew up just miles from the film’s director Rick Castaneda, who is a native of Granger, Wash. At one point, the two shared a biology class at Sunnyside High School.
“Rick and I go way back, only neither one of us really knew it,” Guerrero said. “Not only did we have a biology class together at SHS, but we also went to college together (at the University of Southern California) and we work in the same business in Hollywood. But our paths didn’t really cross until just a few weeks ago when he reached out to me.”
Castaneda, eager to cast a local celebrity to fulfill his vision of a character representing the area he grew up around, aimed big and went after Guerrero.
“It’s great because I wanted to cast in L.A. because it has the best concentration of great actors in the world,” Castaneda said. “And then I find out about this person from Sunnyside who’s in front of cameras for a living. It was really the best of both worlds. Being from the area, she looked like the character I had in my head, she talked like her, she knew the same people I did growing up.”
“We met up and he told me about ‘Cement Suitcase’ and that he was going to shoot in the Yakima Valley,” Guerrero said. “I was so impressed by him, his career path and his passion to make story-driven movies.”
Castaneda’s goals for the film included not only showcasing the beautiful scenery of the Yakima Valley, but some of the local acting talent. Guerrero was a perfect fit.
“I love that Rick is shooting this movie in the Yakima Valley,” Guerrero said. “It’s an opportunity to show everyone there’s more to Washington state than just Seattle. I have such great memories of growing up in the Valley. Now having lived in L.A. for 10 years, I have a greater appreciation for its beauty.”
The role will be a challenge, Guerrero admitted. While she has plenty of experience in front of a camera, this will only be her second time in a movie, and the first with more than two lines.
“I’d been wanting to try my hand at acting for a while, so when I heard about Rick’s movie, I jumped at the chance to audition,” Guerrero said.
“She blew me away in the audition,” Castaneda added. “I was scared she was going to be stiff, or have a reporter voice, but all those years in front of the camera let her relax and really be herself, which was exactly what I was looking for.”
While the movie will be an opportunity for Castaneda to achieve one of his lifelong dreams, it’ll now also give Guerrero a chance to continue hers.
“Moving to Hollywood to be a part of the entertainment business has been a dream of mine since I was 5,” she said. “I loved Hollywood and I loved performing and always knew I’d be on TV one day, just ask my childhood friends. I signed all of their yearbooks, ‘I’m gonna be on TV one day!’”