Actor Nicholas Gonzalez, known for his role as Dr. Neil Melendez on ABC’s “The Good Doctor,” has been a working actor for more than 20 years. He says now is the time for Hollywood to embrace Latino storytellers, including actors, producers, writers, and directors.
On “The Good Doctor,” Gonzalez’s character was the supporting role to the white, male lead. He says his character was a great cultural representation of how there’s more work to be done.
“We want to see these characters,” he says. “They’re not just there to highlight the white lead character. We need more leads. We need more stories about not the second guy, not the fourth, fifth character down the line.”
Gonzalez has lighter skin and was once encouraged to use an Anglo sounding last name, such as his middle name Edward. He refused.
While he’s optimistic about the possibilities for Latino creatives in the entertainment industry, he says diversity is often a buzzword that’s not meaningful.
“I’d rather be pushing for representation of our lives and how we live in all the different ways in which you know we’re different,” he said, noting the community needs good content and supportive leadership to make quality art.
Gonzalez got his start in student theater at Stanford and Oxford. He moved to Los Angeles and a few years later got his breakout role as Alex Santiago in “Resurrection Blvd,” which aired on Showtime.
The San Antonio native lives in Los Angeles now. He’s been spending quarantine in Vancouver with his wife and daughter. They’re passing along his Hispanic heritage to their daughter through music, teaching her Spanish and helping her make an ofrenda, a traditional display of objects to remember loved ones who have died. Gonzalez says he wants his daughter to feel the richness of their culture.
When people meet Gonzalez, they often think he’s really a doctor. He was even one of the TV doctors included in the American Medical Association’s tribute to the medical school class of 2020.
Early in his career, his mentors, including producer David Damien Figueroa and actress Alma Martinez, inspired him to use his platform for good. He supports causes he believes in, including Farm Worker Justice and the Casa Hogar Sion orphanage in Tijuana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been advocating for safer working conditions, masks, and better pay for farm workers.
Gonzalez says he gravitates toward organizations where he feels can make a real difference.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “To actually be able to make changes, it’s really lifesaving I think during a time when we all feel so helpless.”