There is a scene in the hit series “All American” in which actor Damon Sims, a star baseball player, takes a visit to Bringston University, a top school he rejected. Sims, played by Peyton Alex Smith, is confronted by a cocky player. Worry seeped into the player’s eyes at the plate as he realized he bit more than he could chew with Sims pitching. After a bad outing at the plate, the batter is introduced as Santiago Reyes. He was played by none other than former Las Positas college student Derek Rivera.
Rivera’s love for acting and his pure talent have propelled the once Las Positas Hawk to the rising star he is today. The technical process of being in auditions and seeing how the industry works behind the scenes were all important aspects Rivera learned during his time at Las Positas.
However, Rivera’s love for acting started in Tracy, on the stage of West High School’s theater. Rivera, who originally wanted an easy credit for theater, never thought his love for acting would grow this far. Now Rivera is in the spotlight as his professional career shines a light on what he learned in his past.
Rivera’s first walk on the boards came in high school in “Baker Street Irregulars.” Rivera’s ascent to Hollywood actor started when Tracy’s West High’s theater class took a chance on him, casting him as a fat bubbly cop in the school’s play.
“I was a baseball player originally… Long story short, I took drama for the free credits, and something clicked inside me. Now I’m here,” Rivera said.
The role was the exact opposite of who he was, which is why he loved it so much and decided to stay with acting.
“It’s not who I am. I’m a small guy who was shy. The teacher just let me be goofy with it and have fun” said Rivera.
After his final curtain call at West High School, Rivera wanted to continue acting and enrolled in the Las Positas College theater program. Rivera credits the theater program for preparing him for the industry. Learning the ins and outs of acting and behind the scenes helped him immensely. Rivera was especially appreciative of the guidance provided by Titian Lish, who coordinates the college theater program.
“She was tough, but she gave me a lot of freedom and taught me how to grow in acting,” he said.
Lish has created a program that helps young actors and crew like Rivera. Lish said that Rivera was always dedicated to the art of theater.
“Derek was a dedicated, patient and focused acting student. He was clear in his goals of performance, and he showed great aptitude and talent,” Lish said.
After Las Positas, Rivera moved to San Lorenzo to take care of his grandfather and to pursue his dream of acting. He said his grandpa was his biggest supporter.
. Rivera said that when he made his television debut on Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” he and his grandpa waited and watched the episode he was in. Rivera played a background character in the popular drama, a role he considered a big stepping stone for him. This was Rivera’s very first television experience. Rivera has also appeared in the CW Show “All American,” playing Santiago Reyes in a few episodes.
However, Rivera’s biggest role to date has been playing the male lead in the TV movie “Do You Trust Your Boyfriend?”
“I had a lot of small roles and student films to be where I am,” he said.
Rivera said he spent time during the pandemic working hard to get on screen. The pandemic took a toll on the industry, and he took his shot. Rivera had noticed the surplus of roles the industry had during COVID-19. Rivera pushed hard in auditions and networked with his agent to get parts.This dedication allowed him to start being the lead in on screen.
Rivera currently has no projects on the horizon, but hopes what he’s done so far in his career can inspire anyone. Rivera, who was once a young shy boy from the valley, has blossomed into a confident actor ready for more opportunities.
“If I can do it, I hope some kid out there from Tracy looks at me and says, ‘I can do it too.’ I really hope to be light for everyone chasing dreams,” Rivera said.
CJ Flores is a writer for The Express. Follow him @Cj_mcanfores