Wilmer Valderrama is widely known from That 70’s Show and we can’t wait to see him in the upcoming film version of CHiPs. But, Valderrama is also appearing on a one-hour comedy for Fox called The Emancipation of Ernesto, which he also co-executive produces. And then there’s the faux-documentary style scripted comedy, Baby Dolls that was picked up by MTV.
Valderrama even has a clothing entrepreneur with his Calavena line.
With all this going on, is it any surprise the ambitious actor returns for season three by voicing the title role of Manny Garcia, the town’s cheerful handyman who helps others with his eccentric team of trusty tools on Playhouse Disney’s animated series Handy Manny?
Not really…which becomes clear after speaking with the talented actor.
SheKnows caught up with Wilmer to learn more about being Manny and life after That ’70s Show.
SheKnows: When you arrived to LA from Venezuela at age 13 I read that you didn’t speak a word of English. How did you incorporate this into your role as Manny? (The show implements a language curriculum to help viewers comprehend Spanish words and phrases)
Wilmer Valderrama: I didn’t know how to count to three and that was probably the scariest experience of any young teenager. I was 13 to 14 years old and I really didn’t know how to count to three but at some point I stayed driven and I really didn’t want to be part of the stereotype – I wanted to be different. One of the neatest thing about Handy Manny and myself is that I wanted to stay drive and that’s one of the things that I love about the character. He’s so willing to learn from others and if he has something to add to the community he will always do it and there’s so many elements to it that definitely compare.
I love how bilingual the show is without the sense of preaching, without really trying to beat anything over the head, no cultural differences; it’s more about the understanding of the difference between others and how we’re all alike at the same time. For me, that’s special.
It’s more of a subliminal message than hitting over the head. The Spanish that we use on the show – if we can teach a word or a phrase or half a sentence here it’s half the battle for us. That’s really all we want to do is have a neat show with a sense of a multi-cultural society where everyone is equal and everyone helps each other equally as much as the other. I think that’s what the show is all about.
SheKnows: How do you prepare differently for a role such as a voiceover compared to your film role like Ponch in CHiPs?
Wilmer Valderrama: There are two different types of performing: one, the difference between performing a voiceover show where you carry a voiceline or on a show like ’70s or being part of CHiPs next year, it’s a different type of preparation. Development of the character and the character the breakdown is pretty much the same because you’re breaking down a character but the way you perform them both are very different.
The other characters are doing actions – climbing, sitting down, walking around, doing things – in this you have to learn how to perform standing up in one spot close to a microphone. That kind of stuff is very different than any type of acting – TV, stage, movie acting – they’re all different levels of performing.
Voiceovers especially for young kids that’s a pre-schooler show, you really have to enunciate your sentences, you really have to make sure your point gets across. You have to break it down: you really have to make sure that the sentences and the messages are incredibly dead on to what we need the kids to hear. It’s a different type of preparation that’s for sure.
SheKnows: What is Manny’s best trait?
Wilmer Valderrama: It’s his willingness to help others. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or if it’s his own birthday, he’ll always find a way to do his job. It’s a beautiful tribute to basically him and who he is and I think most importantly, how pro-active he is. He’s very proactive, he’s very open-minded and he’s very patient with his tools and the mistakes that others make as well as the mistakes he makes himself. It’s a really neat thing to see a character on television especially a role model like Handy Manny for kids where he’s understanding of others and he stays driven to what he believes is right. I think that’s neat.
SheKnows: What iconic moment can we expect from this next season?
Wilmer Valderrama: How controversial is Manny Garcia going to get? (laughs). While we’re going to launch the third season, definitely look out for the toys – there will be a different level of toys you have never seen – the technology that we’re putting into these toys is like NASA! I recorded the voices for all of the toys, too. Aside from that, we’re going to introduce a new character and that’ll be really fun.
SheKnows: With everything you have going on in your career, how are you able to multi-task while remaining so driven?
Wilmer Valderrama: I have a great team of managers, attorneys and publicists to make sure my calendar is sufficient to keep up with everything. I’m very much like a workaholic. I think all of us are given an opportunity and what we have today may not be here tomorrow. I try to squeeze in as much as I can.