Down for Life


Jessica Romero ("Rascal")

was discovered at Manual Arts High School in South-Central Los Angeles. A dedicated drama teacher at the school had set up interviews with the filmmakers for about 40 potential Rascals, and although a few of her friends were chosen, Jessica was not. She was in line to buy a Gatorade from a vending machine when the casting director spotted her and pulled her into an interview. Jessica was 15 years old and active in gang life in South Central. Her gang connection stretches back three generations. Her grandmother was a gang member.

Once on camera, the filmmakers knew immediately that Jessica was special. She was captivating onscreen, witty and intelligent, full of life, yet with the requisite toughness and attitude the role of Rascal requires. The story of her family's history of gang involvement was tragic, yet she opened up immediately. Her interview session was like a confessional and continued far longer than any of the other 400 candidates who had been put on tape up to that point. The filmmakers knew Jessica was their Rascal.

Danny Glover ("Mr. Shannon")

is an actor, producer and humanitarian, and has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. As an actor, his film credits range from the blockbuster LETHAL WEAPON franchise to smaller independent features, some of which Glover also produced. He co-starred in the critically acclaimed feature DREAMGIRLS directed by Bill Condon and in POOR BOY'S GAME for director Clement Virgo. He appeared in the hit feature SHOOTER for director Antoine Fuqua and recently starred in BE KIND, REWIND for director Michel Gondry. He has also been cast in a recurring role on the award-winning television drama series BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

Glover has also gained respect for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts, with a particular emphasis on advocacy for economic justice, and access to health care and education programs in the United States and Africa. For these efforts, Glover received a 2006 DGA Honor. Internationally, Glover has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998-2004, focusing on issues of poverty, disease, and economic development in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and currently serves as UNICEF Ambassador.

In 2004, Glover co-founded Louverture Films (, dedicated to the development and production of films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity. The New York-based company has a slate of progressive features and documentaries including the recently released BAMAKO, which premiered to superb reviews at the Cannes International Film Festival.

A native of San Francisco Glover trained at the Black Actors' Workshop of the American Conservatory Theater. It was his Broadway debut in Fugard's MASTER HAROLD…AND THE BOYS, which brought him to national recognition and led director Robert Benton to cast Glover in his first leading role in 1984's Oscar®-nominated Best Picture PLACES IN THE HEART. The following year, Glover starred in two more Best Picture nominees, Peter Weir's WITNESS and LETHAL WEAPON, and went on to star in three hugely successful LETHAL WEAPON sequels. Glover has also invested his talents in more personal projects, including the award-winning TO SLEEP WITH ANGER, which he executive produced and for which he won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor; BOPHA!; MANDERLAY; MISSING IN AMERICA; and the film version of Athol Fugard's play BOESMAN AND LENA. On the small screen, Glover won an Image Award and a Cable ACE Award and earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in the title role of the HBO movie MANDELA. He has also received Emmy nominations for his work in the acclaimed miniseries Lonesome Dove and the telefilm FREEDOM SONG. As a director, he earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for Showtime's JUST A DREAM.

Kate del Castillo ("Esther")

has long received critical acclaim for her acting abilities in her native country and around the world. Kate starred in the hit, LA MISMA LUNA, the story of an immigrant mother (Kate) who is trying to reunite with the son she left behind in Mexico. The film was distributed by Fox Search Light and The Weinstein Company. In Fall 2007, Kate had a powerful supporting role opposite Kevin Kline in the sex trafficking drama TRADE, where she plays the villain. In the feature film JULIA, she played a lead role opposite Tilda Swinton, directed by Erick Zonca, where she plays a schizophrenic. The film premiered at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival.

In addition, Kate has completed production on the dark comedy BAD GUYS, as well as THE BLACK PIMPERNEL, set in Chile during the fall of the Allende regime, and Gregory Nava's BORDERTOWN, in which she has a cameo appearance as Antonio Bandera's wife. Kate received various accolades for her critically acclaimed performance as a Bolivian prostitute who falls in love with a professor in the film AMERICAN VISA. She was nominated for Best Actress at the Ariel Awards, Mexico's equivalent to the Academy Awards, and in November 2007 won the Best Actress prize at the Huelva Ibero-American International Film Festival in Spain. She also won the Araucaria de Oro Award as Best Actress at the Parana Brazilian Film and Latino Film Festival. In the United States, the movie premiered as part of the "Latin Series" at the 2006 AFI Film Festival to a sold out crowd.

Kate made her crossover debut on the small screen in PBS's Golden Globe nominated series American Family. She has starred in more than nine Mexican telenovelas, most notably the very popular and highly successful Ramona and La Mentira. Previous television credits include Muchachitas , El Derecho De Nacer, Imerpio De Crystal, Alguna Vez Tendremos Alas, Azul, Magica Juventud, and Bajo La Misma Piel.

On stage, Kate has toured extensively and appeared in the Los Angeles and Mexican Productions of "Love Letters," "Celos Dije" and "Una Pareja Con Angel." Other theater credits include "Madre Solo Hay Una," "Juegos Profanos," "1999 DC," and "Donde Comen 2," "Duermen 3." Kate recently published her first novel called Tuya, based on her own screenplay. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

Laz Alonso ("Officer Barber")

was born and raised in Washington DC and always knew he wanted to be a successful actor. He attended and graduated from the prestigious Howard University School of Business with a BBA in Marketing. After college, he worked on Wall Street as an investment banker. He eventually started his own marketing business with some partners. Owning and operating his own successful business freed up Laz's time to finally explore his passion for acting. Laz began taking classes in the evening to hone his craft, and it didn't take him long to begin landing roles in commercials and videos.

Starring roles in AVATAR, MIRACLE AT ST ANNA, FAST AND FURIOUS and STOMP THE YARD, came to Laz as result of his amazing range. He also credits his acting ability to life experiences, bringing this to the table for his characters. In DOWN FOR LIFE, Laz plays Office Alonso, a dedicated, bi-lingual cop who tries to stem the gang violence. Laz is well known to many for the Sony Screen Gems box office hit STOMP THE YARD. In the movie Laz plays "Zeke" leader of the Mu Gamma Xi fraternity. Laz starred in the 2007 release CAPTIVITY, shot on location in Moscow, directed by Roland Joffe, playing Detective Desantos, on the path of a serial killer that strikes once a year. Most recently he completed a co-starring role in James Cameron's thriller, AVATAR, starring opposite Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana. Other roles include THIS CHRISTMAS starring opposite Regina King, and the 2005 hit directed by Sam Mendes; JARHEAD, opposite Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx, Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard. Laz's past TV credits include guest-starring roles on "The Unit," "Bones," "CSI: Miami," "The Practice," "Navy: NCIS," and "Eyes." When Laz isn't acting, he works on his other passion, music. Having studied classical piano for seven years, he feels he has been blessed with an ear for music.

Emily Rios ("Vanessa")

beat the odds—just like Rascal in DOWN FOR LIFE. Growing up in El Monte, she lived on dangerous turf. "When I was young, I thought it was normal to go to sleep to the sounds of sirens. People on my block were in the biggest gang in the city." Emily persevered, and in 2005, she landed the starring role in QUINCEANERA, a Sundance winner. Subsequent roles on hit TV shows "House," The Closer," and "ER," kept Emily's visibility high. She has been moving forward ever since. Recently working with Director Taylor Hackford, and award-winning actors Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci on LOVE RANCH, and in PETE SMALLS IS DEAD, with Rosie Perez, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, 2009 was Emily's year, capped off with the DOWN FOR LIFE, where her heartbreaking portrayal of Vanessa will no doubt earn her more kudos and offers; it is her humility and talent that opened the doors, and self awareness that keeps the work flowing. "In Latino culture, the quinceañera's a big thing -- it's when a girl becomes a woman. But I think age is just a number -- you become a woman with the responsibilities you take on and the decisions you make. I started realizing that every day is a gift -- you have every day to be thankful you're alive. To this day, I'm still pinching myself."

Snoop Dogg ("Mr. Hightower")

is a rare exception in the turbulent world of Hip-Hop. In a genre where big names come and go just as fast as hit records, Snoop Dogg has managed to stay tremendously relevant throughout his 16-plus years in the game. From music to movies, video games to clothing lines and now his own hit TV show (E!'s reality series "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood"), Snoop Dogg is an all-out pop culture icon and household name.

While his longevity can easily be credited to his musical creativity, the various personalities contained within the character we know as Snoop Dogg have also been seen in recent albums including "The Jamaican Episode," "Cali Iz Active," and "Welcome to the Church, Ego Trippin,'" deftly takes the listener on a ride through Snoop's many faces. The sonically assorted, yet thematically cohesive offerings shuns present day notions of albums and instead craft a work that marries Snoop's many musical influences together with his array of personas.

What has rarely been witnessed throughout Snoop's years in the record business is his home life. The wildly popular "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood" emerging as one of the season's top programs, "It was important for me to give the audience another side of me," explains Snoop. "It can't be all gangsta, all the time." His most recent project has been not only acting in the film DOWN FOR LIFE but also serving as an executive producer and producing the soundtrack album.

Elizabeth Pena ("Mrs. Castro")

has always kept herself busy with one project after another, and she continues to remain one of Hollywood's busiest actresses. Elizabeth Pena switches from television to film with ease; recently starring in the Sundance selected film HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS SPENT THEIR SUMMER, as is the daughter/mother of three generations of women all searching for love and sex during a long, hot summer in a small town.

Pena garnered rave reviews for the CBS telefilm SUBURBAN MADNESS, based on the true story of a woman, Clara Harris, who runs over and kills her cheating husband with her Mercedes. Pena appeared in TRANSAMERICA, as psychiatrist to a transgendered Felicity Huffman. She was in THE LOST CITY, Andy Garcia's directorial debut, shot on location in the Dominican Republic. Elizabeth has also appeared in DOWN IN THE VALLEY with Edward Norton and David Morse. The list goes on; Pena starred in the indies KEEP YOUR DISTANCE opposite Gil Bellows and Stacey Keach, and SUENO, a film starring John Leguizamo, in which she plays one of two women that Leguizamo falls in love with.Pena is also the voice of 'rosa Santos' on PBS Kids' cartoon THE MISADVENTURES OF MAYA Y MIGUEL. She also lent her voice as the seductive hero/villain 'Mirage' in Pixar's blockbuster hit THE INCREDIBLES.

For three seasons, Elizabeth starred in Showtime's award winning drama RESURRECTION BLVD. which detailed the trials and tribulations of a close-knit family with a young boxing hopeful in its midst. Born in New Jersey and raised in New York, Peña grew up with an appreciation and passion for the arts. "My Father is playwright, actor, director, and novelist," says Peña, whose parents created and run the off-Broadway Latin American Theatre Ensemble. "By the time I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to become an actress, and I did just that." Starring in John Sayles Award-winning LONESTAR, Pena received an Independent Spirit Award and a Bravo Award for Best Actress in a Film. Stepping out of her traditional tough exterior, Elizabeth received rave reviews as an innocent school teacher in this American remake of Ang Lee's EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN. Whether comedy or drama, she's up for the part. "I usually seem to have to cry at some point, but I do love comedy," she says. "As long as I've got good material, it doesn't matter. Acting is acting."

Whitney Gamble ("Aisha")

was born and raised in Savannah Georgia. She always had a passion for the stage whether dancing, playing piano, or reciting Shakespeare. She graduated from Windsor Forest High school in 2007. She moved to Los Angeles mid-senior year to pursue acting and modeling.