The acclaimed film A Better Life is the story of an undocumented landscaper working hard in East LA to provide a brighter future for his son. Last weekend, it finally made its way down to OC theaters.
For rapper/actor Baby Jokes, the theme of the script could have easily applied to the trajectory of his own struggle. His role in A Better Life is that of a gangster named Marcelo Valdez who tempts the son of the film's main protagonist Carlos Galindo (Demián Bichir) into entering the gang life. Born Richard Cabral, Baby Jokes was subject of a recent profile in the Los Angeles Times where he talked about where life took him as a young man raised by a single mother. In March 2004, at the age of 20, he was facing 35 years to life in prison for attempted murder in connection to a gang-related shooting.
Staring down a possible future spent solely behind bars, Cabral took a plea deal and accepted a five year sentence. Released in 2006, he knew it was time for a change and went to Homeboy Industries where many others in similar situations seek a better life through Father Gregory Boyle's notable "Jobs not Jails" program in Los Angeles.
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It's also where acting as a career path was introduced, as the Frame Grab LA Times feature notes:
Cabral answered phones at the front desk, took Narcotics Anonymous classes and worked in the bakery for close to two years. When Central Casting came to Homeboy looking for extras for a "CSI: Miami" episode, Cabral raised his hand. He then landed his first speaking part, one line in TNT's "Southland." "Right there, I was hooked," says Cabral, sipping coffee in the Homegirl Café adjacent to Homeboy Industries. "The pay was pretty good. I got an agent." From there Cabral began studying acting, taking classes and spending time at the Samuel French book store soaking up technique from legendary acting coaches.
The acting bug has brought Cabral to the moment of his big-screen debut. Life on the Streets, his first solo album as Baby Jokes was also just released last week. Film and television auditions continue as the actor hopes he can expand the roles being offered beyond portraying a gangbanger. When that happens for Cabral, it will be a moment when art imitates life, a better life.
A Better Life is now playing at: Krikorian Buena Park Metroplex, Edwards Westpark 8 in Irvine, AMC 30 at the Block, Century Stadium 25 in Orange, Century Huntington Beach and Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26