Cornerstone Theater Company


Jesse Gamboa: Aspiring Actor, Dedicated Father

Photos by James Cheeks III

Whenever I visit Homeboy Industries or Homegirl Cafe, employees ask me about Jesse Gamboa’s progress in Cornerstone’s production of Café Vida. I can tell that he’s a well-respected member of the Homeboy community and his co-workers are stoked about his involvement in the play. He has a radiant personality and it’s no surprise that he works at the front desk at Homeboy. I first met Jesse at the callbacks for Café Vida and I singled him out for an interview because he seemed really personable and down-to-earth. He was confident about his audition and I knew that he would stand out amongst his peers. Jesse was offered the role of Eddie and here are some of his thoughts about working with Cornerstone and Homeboy Industries.

How did you get involved with Homeboy Industries?
My first involvement with Homeboy Industries was, I was ready to change my life.  Being in a gang and selling drugs, and being in prison. I decided that it was time for a change and I knew Father Greg Boyle at Homeboy Industries, but I never wanted to go change.  So I went to Homeboy Industries and I talked to Father Greg and I asked him for a job and he said, “No.” So I was surprised he said no and I came back in and he gave me a job on the graffiti removal crew and that’s when my life started to change towards becoming a productive citizen.

What thoughts went through your head when you heard that you got the role for Eddie?
At first, I was [like] “Who, me?” You know I was excited. I wasn’t sure if I was good or not, but I guess the director ended up seeing something in me that he liked and I was happy that he liked what he saw.

What similarities do you see between yourself and Eddie? Eddie is a guy who came from the same neighborhoods I came from. He lived the same life. I actually feel sorry for Eddie. I relate to him in so many ways and I was Eddie at one time. So I can relate to Eddie in a lot of different ways.

What are some of the best things you’ve experienced so far in working with Cornerstone?
The people here are great. I feel that I belong here. People here are really nice.  They’re willing to teach and give advice and I think that’s really good.

How are friends and family reacting to hearing about you being in this play? 
My mom’s really excited and she wants me to make sure that she has front row center stage [seats].  She’s really excited. Friends are really excited, you know they can’t wait for it to come on so they can come out and support the whole thing. And it’s really good.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the movies or some kind of spotlight.” – Jesse Gamboa

What are some of the things that you hope people who come to the play will take home with them? First of all, I think it’s important for people to know the story of Homeboy Industries and the change that people go through at Homeboys. What they become, how they change and how they learn to be just regular people and not homeboys and homegirls. They learn about life and responsibilities.

What do you hunger for in life? What do you really want for yourself and your future?  What’s that big hunger inside? For me, my life right now revolves around my kids. And anything I can do to make life easier for them and get them into college. That’s all I want right now is for my kids to have an education. Be good kids, be good teenagers and then eventually be good parents and have a good life.

Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the world about your experience with Homeboy or Café Vida?
If there’s anybody out there listening – I would like to be an actor, a writer, someone who gives advice. Also I would just like to just thank Cornerstone for giving me an opportunity to do this play and for believing in me and trusting in me to be an actor in this play.

 BUY TICKETS to Café Vida.

STAFF_JamesCheeks_SMJames Cheeks III is Cornerstone’s Communication Associate.